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.
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.
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?