Column: Quiet quest for the Stanley Cup
Published: Friday, April 20, 2012
Updated: Thursday, April 19, 2012 22:04
In a city where there’s a lot going on, including the Giants’ Super Bowl win, the Jets making headlines left and right, the Knicks pushing for a playoff spot and the Yankees starting their season, the Rangers are quietly in the middle of what is widely considered to be their best shot in a long time at a run for Lord Stanley’s Cup.
It has been a very fortuitous season for the blue shirts despite competing with arguably the strongest division in the NHL. Under the offensive leadership of the NHL’s third leading goal scorer in Marian Gaborik and the potentially Vezina Trophy-winning goaltending play of Henrik Lundqvist, they found themselves atop the Eastern Conference standings at the end of the regular season for the first time since 1994. If you haven’t made the connection by now, that was also the year they last won the Stanley Cup.
So where does it go from here? Will history repeat itself? From what we’ve seen in the playoffs so far, it is a tough question.
New York is currently in a 2-2 deadlock in their series with eighth seeded Ottawa and have seen both their losses come in overtime-decided contests. Henrik Lundqvist has played like his usual self, especially in game 3 when he earned a shutout while posting an impressive 39 saves.
Even though both losses resulted from blown leads (2-1 in game 2; 2-0 in game 4), the momentum may still be in favor of the boys in blue. Even in their most recent loss at Ottawa, Rangers’ coach John Tortorella thought the team played well.
“Our guys weren’t gassed,” Tortorella said after the game, according to ESPN New York’s Mike Mazzeo. “I thought the third period was our best period.”
With the series even, play returns to the world’s most famous arena in Madison Square Garden on Saturday where the Rangers have protected home ice all season long with their record of 27-12-2. As I said before, the Rangers haven’t won it all since 1994 and the Rangers’ faithful are so thirsty for another cup they can taste it. It’s no doubt one of the toughest places to play right now and with a tied series and the momentum swing hanging in the balance of game 5, the Garden should be nothing less than chaotic.
And should the playoffs not work out for New York this time around, just as it hasn’t in the recent past, there is a contingency plan for future years of hockey in the city that never sleeps. Nine of the Rangers’ 11 top point-scorers this season are 27 years old or younger. That’s a scary thought if you consider what kind of skill level they’ll all be playing on as fully developed hockey players. So buckle up New York. It’s going to be a fun ride. The quest for the cup is in full swing right now, and it doesn’t look like it will be ending anytime soon.