In this 2016-17 New York Rangers obituary, we diagnose and reveal the straws that ultimately broke the camel’s back.
It was familiar and new, surprising and expected, disappointing yet seemingly inevitable. The New York Rangers season came to an end. Many teams and fans across the National Hockey League would consider the result successful.
For the Blueshirts and their faithful, it was a bust because it ended in defeat.
This time the Achilles heel was finishing games in which they were able to build leads. Rangerstown has seen it all and much of it twice, this mode of failure was reminiscent of the way the longest run of this century concluded.
Against the Los Angeles Kings in the 2013-14 Stanley Cup Final, they managed to lose the first two games on the road despite never trailing and holding two goals leads in both games, on three separate occasions in Game 2. When all was said and done that campaign ended on a third blown lead in an ultimately five-game series.
The first loss of the playoffs served as a sign of things to come with tying goals against in the waning moments. In the second game of the first round against the Montreal Canadiens, a goal against with 17 seconds remaining tied things up before the Habs momentum led to an overtime victory. That would ultimately be the story of the playoffs as it carried into the second round.
The Rangers let up a game-winning goal in the final five minutes of game one. In game two they blew three leads including a two-goal lead in the final 3:19 of an overtime loss. Finally, they let up another two goal lead and another goal in the final minute and a half before an overtime loss in game five. That proved to be a nail in the coffin, two nights later their season would end the same way 86 of their previous seasons have, with a loss.
The late blown leads were accompanied by the usual suspects of Rangers playoffs shortcomings: faceoffs, power plays and scoring. They lost the faceoff battle in eight of 12 games, good for 13-of-16 in the league for the postseason. Their paltry three powerplay goals were equal to the amount of scoring they did shorthanded, finishing somehow second to last with a 7.7 percent power play as the St. Louis Blues had to remind us that they are as miserable as anyone in the league.
Although scoring was strong in the final stat line it was aided by a stretch of five games against the Senators, games two through five in which they scored four or more goals each outing. They scored two goals or less in five of the twelve total playoff games.
A word on expectation, the aforementioned disappointment comes through a wide lens. In the age I will refer to as B.L., or before Lundqvist, the Rangers missed the playoffs seven straight seasons before Gary Bettman memorial lockout of 2004-05. The rest of the story we all know, they took Lundqvist in the now defunct seventh-round and the rest is history.
His 12 seasons between the pipes have been an era unto itself and a successful one at that. The team has played more playoff games than any other team and made the playoffs 11 of his 12 years with the only miss coming on the final day of the regular season. As the king approaches 40 (he is currently 35) the chances that this era will result in the ultimate prize, a fifth Stanley Cup banner hanging from the rafters in Madison Square Garden, gets less and less likely.
In that is the inherent disappointment and looming realization that with each passing year the Rangers and faithful must anticipate life after Henrik and last time they played without him they were incompetent.
For most teams, a second-round berth is encouraging, even exciting, for a team whose franchise lynchpin is this high in mileage and whose window is rapidly closing and subject to father time it is distressing and deflating.
Henrik Lundqvist is a once in a lifetime talent and due to circumstances, both controllable and uncontrollable, the lone gap in his illustrious resume remains vacant until 2018.
Here’s to next year.