Now that a few days have passed and the intensely negative emotions from a way too early postseason exit have blissfully eased, it’s time to briefly look back at another lost season for the New York Rangers. With high hopes of a long playoff run right from the start of the 2007-08 season, the Rangers, on paper, appeared to have a nice combination of veteran leadership and talented youngsters to go along with superior netminding. There was also no question that the coaching staff was well qualified to take them all the way.
But the chemistry wasn’t perfect almost immediately and Rangers fans had a sense as far back as late last year that their beloved Blueshirts were in for a difficult struggle. With inept offense and a solid, yet inconsistent defense, the Rangers displayed an uncanny knack for prolonged good spells followed by poor ones. The entire season was a giant roller coaster ride and it took a lot of effort just to qualify for a reasonable postseason position.
With the regular season finished, the Blueshirts were in decent shape, but the sustained run for the last 20 or so games just to get the fifth spot in the conference, obviously took a toll on them. A first round success versus the Devils was a positive sign, but the Devils were even more offensively challenged, and in retrospect, proved to be a poor barometer for just how much more the Rangers needed to get to the finals.
In the end, they lasted just five games in round two against the upstart Penguins, who have a young core of talent that is to be envied. Yes, the Rangers could have advanced had everything broken their way. Several bounces went against them and a few officiating gaffes didn’t help, but after analyzing what transpired, it came down to the fact that the Rangers were just not good enough.
Unfortunately, most fans will dwell on the unpenalized high stick to Chris Drury in the final game or the game-winning overtime goal that again went in off a fortunate carom. But how does one account for their first game collapse when they had an early three goal lead? And what happened to Henrik Lundqvist? He was fabulous in Games Two, Four and especially in Five, but was far from that in the first and third contests.
Did anybody see Brendan Shanahan? He must have been playing on one leg because he was invisible in the Penguins series. Finally, if the team has to rely on Sean Avery to win, then they are not championship material yet, pure and simple.
The off-season will be interesting, no doubt. Aside from Jaromir Jagr, who played by far his best in the postseason, every other member of the team has to question whether they gave everything they had, because it didn’t show up on the ice. Will Jagr be back? Is he worth another couple of years after admitting he doesn’t have the strength to play at full speed for an entire regular season? Is Shanahan ready to hang up his skates?
These questions and many more will be answered soon enough. But for now, Rangers fans, try to enjoy what’s left of another wonderful season in the NHL, even if it doesn’t include your team.
And always remember what that now famous sign said, held up by a no doubt lifelong fan at the Garden in 1994 – “Now I Can Die In Peace.”