It has taken me three days to figure out how to put my thoughts on this past season and the way it ended into words…but here it goes.
Starting with the reaction of the hundreds of fans packing Hudson Station the moment Alex Killorn scored the opening goal and ending when I got on the E train outside of Madison Square Garden just before midnight, I witnessed all five stages of grief.
Was it really over? Did the Rangers really decide that putting in any type of effort was really too much for them in a game seven that would allow them to return to the Stanley Cup Final? It was incredibly hard to believe in that moment. This team had overcome so much since the start of the season.
It started when Derek Stepan, one of the most consistent performers over the last few years, broke his leg in training camp. Then it seemed like the defense couldn’t catch a break, or maybe caught too many breaks in their bones, muscles, and egos. Finally, come December, the ship seemed to take a right turn and everything was working out. We all know what happened next, Captain Murder took his first victim. McDonagh’s accidental lifting of the plastic guard allowing Brad Malone’s shot to hit Henrik Lunqdvist and it seemed right there that the season was over. The magic started very soon into Cam Talbot’s reign as starting goaltender. On the way to the President’s Trophy, the team seemed destined for victory.
The series against the Penguins wasn’t as easy as a five game victory would seem, but once again luck was on the Rangers’ side. Then Captain Murder struck a second time and shot a puck right at Zuccarello’s head. Many people wrote the team off again because they did not believe the Rangers could beat the Capitals without Zuccarello. The doubters seemed to be right as the Capitals were manhandling the Rangers into a 3-1 deficit. No problem. The luck of the Rangers and dominance of Lundqvist led to a series victory.
With all this luck, how could anything have gone wrong? Game one against the Lightning made it look like the series would end quickly and it would be time to get another shot at the Stanley Cup. As the series progressed, the Rangers showed their faults. I don’t want to pretend that I know more than I do because I watch games and know the rules, but I didn’t see a team that wanted to win. It hurt to watch games five and seven. My heart and soul were poured into this team, but none of theirs were on the ice.
That’s why when it ended, no one seemed to want to believe it.
There was yelling. There were people walking down 35th Street that looked like they were reading to start punching walls and kicking street signs. People were yelling at each other. Why shouldn’t everyone be angry? The team didn’t perform for the fans…or for themselves.
On top of that, there’s the anger caused by just glancing at social media. There are Rangers fans who are taking the loss so badly that they are saying whatever comes to mind. Then there are fans of the other teams who seem to pathetically get joy out of the loss. I honestly wish that I could get so much joy out of hating something. The reactions out of people who are fans of teams who didn’t even come close border on hilarious to me. These people take to social media so that they will get attention for their cheering of the loss. There are two ways that this call for attention works: first, acceptance from others who also get more joy out of hate than anything else and second, they want to get responses from fans of that team just in an attempt to knock them down. This is seen on all forms of social media whether Facebook statuses or going and finding the Rangers’ instagram account just to leave comments. Regardless, I think it all borders on pathetic.
This is the fun one. Throughout the season, I love mocking people for thinking they know more than general managers. Or maybe I mock them for believing that their whining and opinions will actually have some type of influence on the future of any NHL team.
Of course I believe 100% that keeping Stralman and not signing Boyle would have been hugely different (not even taking into consideration that he saved at least two goals off the goal line during the Conference Final).
Others are looking ahead to the off season. Fans are deciding what moves should be made to make the team better and find a way to get to the Cup next year. Sure, it can be fun, but there’s definitely a line. When you cross over from “I hope this gets done” to “this will happen because it’s the best and only option,” you truly overvalue yourself.
Most of us haven’t reached this point yet. Some people did right away though. Maybe because there was a sixty minute game that seemed to imply it would end the way it did. I’m not sure I have hit acceptance yet. It’s kind of funny, I still have a horse in the race. My other favorite team is very much alive with a chance to win their third Cup in five years. However, I wasn’t elated when the ‘Hawks were eating the Ducks alive early in their game seven. Instead, I wished that the Rangers put forth that kind of effort.
Eventually though, everyone should reach this point. Accept that the season ended and try to be excited for the future. This is a Glen Sather/Jeff Gorton world. You never know what the team will look like. Say whatever you want about the lack of first round picks and the lack of depth in the system…they are never afraid to make a trade and often, it’s one you won’t expect. Don’t try to predict anything. Sit back and watch the show and just hope that next spring, the season doesn’t end so soon.