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“’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[1] 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.

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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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Courtesy of Yahoo! Sports

Courtesy of Yahoo! Sports

Like music, film and other leisurely activities, people often view sports as an escape from the mundane, a way of retaining what little creativity and spontaneity we have left from childhood. The most ardent sports fans truly treat the games they watch as heroic battles of life and death, although the overwhelming majority recognize the necessity to create a distinction between sport and life. We, the onlookers, use sports as the way out of reality, a way of succeeding and failing vicariously through people we’ve never met and whose personal lives we’ll never infiltrate, giggling stupidly when recounting an athlete’s greatest moments to his or her face, as if he wasn’t there, as if he wasn’t the one who did it. We only see those images; that’s what stays with us, courtesy of SportsCenter and size-90 font newspaper headlines. But what happens when the lives they lead bleed across the pages and into our collective subconscious, giving feeling to the emotionless robots who score, save, rebound and run for us?

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The 2013 Stanley Cup Finals will be remembered for a variety of reasons: it was the first final in twenty years to feature at least three overtime games,  it was the first final since 1979 to feature two of the Original Six franchises and it included perhaps the most improbable Stanley Cup-winning comeback in NHL history, a 17-second burst of offense that began with the Blackhawks pulling their immovable force of a goalie, Corey Crawford, and ended with a rebounded shot from Dave Bolland.

Really, it was an alignment of all the things that make postseason hockey a seemingly different sport from regular season hockey, one which people are more willing to ingest as a result of the excitement and fervor with which each team plays its games. No one leaves anything on the ice during the playoffs, or at least that is what fans are led to believe, and when a team has already played a legendary first-round series, with a legendary game 7, it is hard to continue putting out the effort to defeat team after team in route to a championship.

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