A ‘1994’ chant does not have quite the same ring to it as the ‘1940’ one did. However, it has been almost a decade since the New York Rangers paraded through the streets of the Big Apple with the Stanley Cup. Last season, they were one overtime period away from being the Eastern Conference Champions, but were knocked out by their dreaded crosstown rivals, the New Jersey Devils. During that same time span, the Devils have made five trips to the finals and have hoisted Lord Stanley three times.
Management has been assembling the pieces for quite a while. They have had the goaltending with Henrik Lundqvist for some time. However, he was lacking a supporting cast until last year. The Rangers finished first in the conference, grabbing the number one seed and were in contention for the President’s Trophy, which is awarded to the team that accumulated the most points throughout the season.
Being a whisker away spurred a huge summertime trade which brought former Columbus Blue Jackets’ hot shot, Rick Nash to Broadway. It would have seemed that after the acquisitions of free agent prizes Marion Gaborik and Brad Richards, the puzzle was finally complete.
Ranger fans were ready for their team to steamroll through this 48-game lockout shortened season. Yet, the opposite happened. The Rangers struggled out of the gate and have been hot and cold for much of the stretch until the final 13. They went 9-3-1 and wrapped up a playoff spot in their next-to-last game.
Sure, they surged at the right time, but it begs the question why a team that should be dominating is not?
If the Rangers make a first round exit at the hand of the Washington Capitals, will it mean the end of the tenure of the team’s my way or the highway coach, John Tortotella.
Tortorella’s Billy-Goat Gruff style does not suit all players. It certainly didn’t work for Gaborik who was probably grateful when the call came that he was headed to Ohio.
During Tortorella’s time in NYC, the Blueshirts have had two first-round exits, missed the playoffs once and went to the Conference finals last year. Clearly, something is missing which was evident when the Rangers took the ice tonight for game one in yet another post-season match up against the Capitals. The two first round losses were at the hands of Alex Ovechkin and company.
The Rangers finally got that monkey off of their back last year when they eliminated the Capitals in seven games in the second round.
However, tonight it was the Capitals who came out flying. They inundated Lundqvist with shots, but when the chips settled on the ice at the end of the first period it was the Rangers who had the only goal on the board. Carl Hagelin drew first blood.
After that, it was all Capitals with the Southeast Division champs netting three unanswered goals. The Rangers play improved as the game went on, but simply were not getting the job done when it counted.
The Rangers thought they had come within one with four minutes left in regulation when a would-be shot by John Moore was ruled null and void. On the ice, it was never called a goal. Whether or not goaltender Braden Holtby and the Caps got lucky with the call was difficult to determine by replays.
Yet, the bottom line is the Rangers didn’t put together 60 minutes of consistent play again and the Capitals and their up and coming young goalie did.