“’Aye, verily this is the hound of a man that has died in a far land. If he were but in form and in action such as he was when Odysseus left him and went to Troy, thou wouldest soon be amazed at seeing his speed and his strength.
No creature that he started in the depths of the thick wood could escape him, and in tracking, too, he was keen of scent. But now he is in evil plight, and his master has perished far from his native land'” – Homer, The Odyssey, book 17, lines 314-319
On Tuesday night, another season of New York Rangers hockey came to an end. It was fairly unceremonious, at least as far as Rangers hockey goes; the aging goalie did what he could, abandoned by a similarly aging blue line and all the scoring talent of fake bands in prestige television shows, propped up as a way to make money for the protagonist, whomever s/he is and whatever their motivation. Entertainment is what it is, but hockey, also, is what it is. Both of these things, and neither of them, define the present-day Rangers.
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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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.
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.
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.