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Hockey

It just had to be Pittsburgh, didn’t it? Then again, saying “it had to be” and following that with nearly any Eastern Conference playoff team – Washington, Philadelphia, Tampa Bay, Detroit, the other New York team – would carry the same air of inevitability. Sooner or later, one of these teams was going to fell the New York Rangers, who have been on the business end of a Sisyphean task for the last half-decade.

Almost mercifully, the window of realistic Stanley Cup contention seems to have closed definitively for this era of Rangers hockey, opening a new aperture full of uncertainty. For players like Dan Boyle and Keith Yandle, the future seems unlikely to include diagonal letters and the collective nonchalance of Madison Square Garden. Nothing left to do but clean out the locker and move on to new, gray pastures. For someone like Henrik Lundqvist, however, the boulder remains, and the mountain only gets taller and steeper with each passing revolution about the sun.

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Enforcer John Scott scores 2 goals in All-Star Game

AP Photo/Mark Humphrey

Election season kicks into full gear today with the Iowa caucuses, an occasion riddled with dispute, intrigue and the eternally raging debate of democracy’s precise place in this country. While the caucuses can be good indicators of a political party’s eventual Presidential candidate, they are by no means perfect, as peer pressure and community influence° can alter the outcome.

In this election season, it bears remembering that the purest form of democracy left in this nation, and possibly in the world, happens in sports. Leaving All-Star voting to the fans can cause some anomalies, not the least of which being that fans voted career enforcer John Scott to play in the NHL All-Star Game on Sunday. Unlike some of the new bosses we meet, who end up being same as the old boss, Scott did not disappoint the voters, nor did he leave any question about how deserving he was.

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The Stanley Cup is the greatest trophy in all of sports, and if you disagree, you’re wrong. It’s just a fact, you’re not allowed to have an opinion on this.

Part of what creates this aura around the Cup is that when you win it, you don’t keep it. You borrow it for awhile, and if you want to hang on to it, you have to win it again. As a player, you only get one day to hang out on your own with the Cup, so you better make it worth it.

One day doesn’t seem like a ton of time, because it isn’t. But I started thinking about this after the Blackhawks won the other night (third Cup in six years, dynasty, etc. etc. etc.). There are like, seven guys on that roster who have been around for all three. How do they keep coming up with things to do with the Cup? There is only so much you can do with a 35-pound trophy, only so many things you can eat out of the bowl on top, does it ever get boring? (The answer is obviously no, winning the Stanley Cup is never boring, it is always the most awesome thing to ever happen, STUPID question).

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The New York Rangers shake hands with the Tampa Bay Lightning after the Lighting defeated the Ranges by a score of 2-0 in Game Seven of the Eastern Conference Finals during the 2015 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Madison Square Garden on May 29, 2015 in New York City.

Elsa / Getty Images

You cannot win if you do not score. In any sport, under any circumstances, that is how it goes. You can have the greatest defensive scheme with the most possession ever, and the best you would ever manage without scoring is a draw. The New York Rangers will not be returning to the Stanley Cup Finals for the second consecutive year. Their All-Star, all-world, all-universe, all-Jill Pellegrini goaltender, Henrik Lundqvist, will again go into the offseason without a Cup to his name, or more appropriately without his name on the Cup, the one honor that eludes him and the one which allows anyone else into the conversation of best goalie of this generation. No, the Tampa Bay Lightning make their return to the Finals, over a decade since they won their only Cup, to face the Chicago Blackhawks, and not a tear is to be shed for New York. Sympathy is the devil there.

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KHank - hey girl you can score a goal on me anytime

Since I have no truly vested interest in the 2014-15 NHL playoffs (yes, the Bruins will be golfing this year), as the quarterfinals started I made my bracket. But not just any bracket, no: I made the Stanley Cup of Hotness Bracket, which is based entirely on which of these sixteen NHL teams has the hottest captain (it’s right over here, if you’d like to read a poorly-formatted blog where I wax poetic about Prince Charming, a.k.a. Jonathan Toews). Upon learning of my bracket, TwH’s own Rory Masterson, a noted Rangers fan, insisted I make another bracket based on goalies, knowing there’s no way Henrik Lundqvist could lose in a bracket based on attractiveness.

I’ll indulge you, Rory, but you have to let me talk about this shit on the blog.

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IMG_3243

History is not kind to losers. History will not remember the 2013-’14 New York Rangers. The names of the Los Angeles Kings will be etched into the Stanley Cup ring, and eventually that ring, and those players’ names, will find their way into an eternal resting spot in the Hockey Hall of Fame. These Rangers will not have that luxury. There might arise a Wikipedia page detailing their abysmal start, the mid-season trade of a beloved captain and their improbable run to the Stanley Cup Finals, but that’s the best anyone can hope for now. Poetic justice means nothing on the ice, and even if these Rangers deserved to win the Stanley Cup, or at least to suffer a slower death than the five games they got against the Kings, they found themselves in this reality, in this dimension, with nothing but a stream of black-and-white ticker tape and the memories of a wild season to welcome them to obsolescence.

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