Friday, May 25, 2012


John Tortorella looks for answers that never came.  (Corey Sipkin/New York Daily News)

The New Jersey Devils are heading to the Stanley Cup Finals.  They just knocked off the New York Rangers in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals and will meet the Los Angeles Kings for the right to hoist Lord Stanley's chalice.

Many months ago, my colleague and friend Sean Kilkelly told our listeners on WGCH that the Rangers would be the ones to carry the Cup.  I wasn't sure at first, but as this feisty, gutty team worked their way through the season, I began to think he was the right.  By the playoffs, I felt like there was some kind of magic going on.  I was convinced they were going to win.  I certainly thought tonight that the Blueshirts might see the ghost of Game 6 past.  Down 2-0.  Game 6.  A must-win.  Conference finals.  In New Jersey.

Sound familiar?

The Rangers came back and tied it up.  Oh, it seemed like destiny.  The problem is that Mark Messier is simply a number on Paul Silverfarb's cell phone, and not the guy who scored a hat trick in 1994.  In 2012, Adam Henrique found an open net and stuffed home the game-winner.  Series over.

A team simply can not rally from down 2-0 to tie it and lose.  They can't battle back from 3-0, as they did in Game 5, and lose.  It's just not good.

How does one assess the Rangers' season?  Well, to me, it is a failure.  I'm sorry, but that's true.  This was a team that had a very legitimate chance to win it all.  And as a fan, I don't settle for making the playoffs, or making it to the conference finals.  I'm not satisfied with the Steelers having two Super Bowl losses.  It kills me.   The Yankees have 13 World Series defeats.  I personally lived through 1976, 1981, 2001, and 2003.  Ugh.

So by that same rationale, the Rangers losing tonight is, to me, a failure.  Now there is the question of Henrik Lundqvist's legacy.  "The King" won't be facing The Kings in the finals (oh the missed merchandising opportunities!).  It goes without saying that Lundqvist played his tail off this season - and nowhere more than in the playoffs.  He absolutely would have been the Conn Smythe winner the Rangers had won in the Finals. However, Game 5 was bowling shoe ugly, but he was certainly allowed to have a clunker.  The problem is, he picked a bad time to have it.

He can go win the Vezina Trophy.  It rings hollow.

Now before you jump me, I like Henrik - personally and professionally.  He is a great goalie - utterly brilliant.  He seems - SEEMS - like a nice guy.  But he has yet to have his "Mike Richter" moment.  He came close this year.  Oh.  So.  Close.  He was doing what I had long said goalies are supposed to do in the playoffs: put the team on his back.  Yet even though it appeared that King Henrik (I really don't like that nickname) was better than the grizzled veteran Martin Brodeur, one must say that Brodeur was better in Games 5 and 6.  I mean did you watch the save Brodeur made on Brad Richards tonight?  Stunning.

Lundqvist had a marvelous season.  It is not - repeat, NOT - his fault.  Nor am I putting this on the Rangers' defense, which stopped more shots than a bullet-proof vest.  This loss is on the offense.  Or lack thereof.  I think I saw Marian Gaborik's face in the post office.  He has vanished. 

Gary Bettman's cereal won't go down well tomorrow.  LA/New York would have been a blast.  LA/New Jersey might as well take place in Winnipeg.  The ratings would have been great with the Rangers involved.  Now?  Not so much.

Yes this one stings a lot tonight.  Badly.

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