Wendell Cruz | USA TODAY Sports

The Rangers finally played a “real” goalie and a “real” team. And they ran them off the ice.

The Stanley Cup feels within reach now. And not just because its keepers are carrying it around town at the moment. Wednesday’s 6-2 romp over the Lightning to open the Eastern Conference finals was a sea change. Yes, the two-time reigning champions were coming off a long layoff. No matter. The Rangers dominated them in a stirring performance. That was no fluke or product of circumstance. A postseason that began as house money and shifted to a magic run is now a full-out quest for a title.

Which brings us to a challenging question. One that has not received much consideration yet, but soon will if the wins keep coming. If the Rangers lift the Cup, what does it do for the man who owns them?

We think of Jim Dolan as a bad owner. For very good reason. And what he has done — and more importantly has not — done with the Knicks will always outweigh his work with the Rangers. But we must state the obvious: Dolan fired team president John Davidson and general manager Jeff Gorton last year in stunning fashion after failing to make the playoffs. Head coach David Quinn quickly followed after Chris Drury was promoted to GM, and he then hired Gerard Gallant as coach.

Dolan took heat for his moves. Even if they went down with a heavy behind-the-scenes assist from Glen Sather, it still felt abrupt and knee-jerk; Dolan’s worst tendencies with the Knicks now spilling over. But Dolan reportedly thought the Rangers should strive for more, and fast. And now here they are a year later. Nine wins down, seven to go. More than halfway home to ending the region’s 11-year championship drought.


It’s undeniable: Dolan’s moves paid off. In fact, if the Rangers win it all, you could argue he made the best leadership decision by a local owner since the Giants hired Tom Coughlin. Which is wild because, again, we’re talking about Dolan. But that is where this thing is amazingly headed. And if he is going to take the credit for the litany of embarrassments during his Madison Square Garden tenure, he deserves it for the glory as well.

James Kratch can be reached at [email protected]

James Kratch is the managing editor of ESNY. He previously worked as a Rutgers and Giants (and Mike Francesa) beat reporter for NJ Advance Media.