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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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