For over a decade, the New York Rangers during the era of future hall of fame goalie Henrik Lundqvist have been as deserving as any NHL club.
On the date of June 13, 2016, a crueler fate for the entire New York Rangers organization couldn’t be imagined. Sidney Crosby and his Pittsburgh Penguins were newly crowned princes of the National Hockey League. Thanks to a six-game triumph over the San Jose Sharks, this had become reality.
Worse yet, one of the Rangers most bitter rivals accomplished the feat with organizational brashness that spit directly into the face of Rangerstown.
John Tortorella’s right-hand man — especially while with the Blueshirts — Mike Sullivan, had now won his first cup in his initial season with the enemy. The same man who Tortorella was fired over — as he wanted to keep Sullivan and the Rangers didn’t, ultimately leading to Tortorella’s firing — found a way to get it done with a hot, speedy team while obliterating the Rangers along the way.
Then there was Carl Hagelin. The kid who made a name for himself on Broadway turned a bad situation in Anaheim into gold in Pittsburgh. Rangers fans had to endure watching one of their own lift the cup with exhilaration in his eyes:
Like previously mentioned, nothing crueler could be conjured up.
Adding last spring’s misery onto the idea this New York version was primed to take a step back in 2016-17 didn’t allow fans to associate the new season with freshly planted roses and butterflies. Rather, the idea of an older Henrik Lundqvist and injury-riddled Ryan McDonagh remained at the forefront of the story.
But then the season began.
Depression quickly turned into hope. Hope eventually morphed into shock. Shock eventually wore off in favor of pride.
Not only are the 13-5 Rangers topping the Metropolitan Division, they’re currently tied with the Chicago Blackhawks for second in the entire NHL with 26 points. And, oh yeah, they lead the hockey land with 4.11 goals a game (0.71 goals clear of the second-ranked club).
Current enthusiasm has also paved way for an extremely interesting yet exciting thought: the New York Rangers are one of top organizations in all of hockey.
They deserve a Stanley Cup Championship.
Since the lockout, New York has qualified for the Stanley Cup Playoffs 10-of-11 seasons (including six straight). They’ve come out on the winning side of 10 playoff series during that span, once reaching the Stanley Cup Final. They’ve participated in a whopping 20 postseason rounds.
Only a few NHL franchises can compete with this springtime success.
The aforementioned Pens are one, participating in 23 total playoff rounds. The Detroit Red Wings are another, with a number of 22. The Chicago Blackhawks are sitting at a nice number of 21, the Los Angeles Kings are at 14, the Anaheim Ducks are at 18, and the Boston Bruins round out the group with 16 postseason rounds.
Of the seven teams, only the Rangers are Cup-less. Moreover, these six squads account for the last 10 cups. The only other squad to have captured a title were the Carolina Hurricanes during the first season back from the work stoppage (2016).
It’s hard to imagine, too (that New York is championship-less). Think of the jaw-dropping moments that have stuck out through the years.
From Derek Stepan’s OT thriller against the Caps in 2015 to the Martin St. Louis storyline during the magical and unexpected final run in 2014, Madison Square Garden in May and June has been one rocking spot on this Earth.
How have they not captured a Cup?
More than just moments, this team has been overly resilient. From two 3-1 deficits in two straight seasons to overcoming serious injuries, the DNA makeup of this team has always consisted of fight. They have never given up.
And now that 2016-17 is well on its way to looking like a winner, this nucleus can add on another “never give up” moment to the slate for this was supposed to be the season the beginning of the end had arrived.
The familiar Rangers we’ve been used to over the last 11 seasons are back. The same surprise we witnessed in 2005 with a little known goaltender and names such as Blair Betts, Jed Ortmeyer, and an old immortal who wore No. 68, has returned.
Speaking of that goaltender, who deserves a Cup more than he? All Lundqvist has done is win. He’s taken a franchise that missed the playoffs seven straight seasons while spending money like drunk sailors to the brink of ultimate greatness. The problem is, that true greatness hasn’t happened … yet.
The good news is, at 34-years of age, he still has that chance. With smart player acquisitions by Jeff Gorton this past summer (Jimmy Vesey, Mika Zibanejad, Brandon Pirri, and Nick Holden), coupled with springtime rest to much of the depleted vets along the blueline, Henrik, and this era of Rangertown still has that shot at Stanley Cup glory.
Sure, they deserve it. It doesn’t mean it’s owed to them.
The rest of the 2016-17 NHL season will go a long way in writing the history of the Lundqvist-led Rangers.