What if I told you Dan Carcillo would have more goals than Rick Nash, the team would have to play a ridiculous 9 games in 15 nights, overcome a three-game losing streak against a club with two of the top five players in the world, and that a star player would suffer a tragic loss in the middle of a series? If I said all that a month ago, and then declared the Rangers would still find a way to make it to the Conference Finals, would you have believed me?
Of course not. No one — likely even the Rangers themselves — would've believed this story. Yet here they are, a mere four wins from the Stanley Cup finals, a place the organization hasn't been in twenty years. Here they are, led by a grieving Martin St. Louis, his story serving as an emotional rallying point, and Henrik Lundqvist, the reborn King, whose clutch saves down the stretch of game 7 secured the victory. Looking for more storylines going forward? How bout this one: if Montreal wins tonight, St. Louis will be playing next rounds' road games in his own backyard.
The Rangers were good in dispatching the now officially deposed kings of the hockey world — the Pittsburgh Penguins — in 7, but they can be better. Rest will help — the Blueshirts appeared to be a tired team at times against the Pens, most notably in games 2 and 3, and perhaps even the tail end of game 7, when the Rangers began to rely on Lundqvist a tad more than is ideal — as will, if he's up for the challenge, a fully operational Rick Nash, the sniper whose playoff-leading 52 shots on net are yet to produce a goal.
But, while maybe not playing their best, the Blueshirts got it done when it mattered most. In games 5 through 7, they surged early to seize the lead — the team that scored first won every game — and frustrated the mentally fragile Penguins, particularly captain Sidney Crosby, who exhibited composure more befitting of a 12-year-old peewee than a Stanley Cup champion and Olympic Gold Medalist. Mr. Crosby — and the entire Penguins organization — will have some soul searching to do this offseason, but that's a story for another day.
So now for the Blueshirts, it's a day of well earned rest, and then on to either Boston or Montreal in the Conference Finals. Seldom is the time a playoff run is bereft of storylines — every team has them — but when a club overcomes adversity as the Rangers have, one begins to wonder if maybe, just maybe, something special is going on.
Only time will tell.Tags: Henrik Lundqvist, Hockey, Martin St. Louis, New York, New York Rangers, NHL, Rick Nash, Sidney Crosby