The New York Rangers won their first Eastern Conference Championship in 20 years this season and thus they advanced to the Stanley Cup Final. But in the Stanley Cup Final the Rangers were thwarted by the Los Angeles Kings in five games. For the Kings it was their second Stanley Cup Championship in three years and their experience was on center stage throughout their playoff run.
In their first round playoff series against the San Jose Sharks, the Kings lost the first three games of the series before they rallied to win the next four games. In the second round the Kings were down 3-2 in their best-of-seven series with the Anaheim Ducks before they rallied to win the last two games. In the Western Conference Finals the Kings were able to knock off the Chicago Blackhawks who were the defending Stanley Cup Champions.
The Rangers arrived at the Stanley Cup Final playing with house money as they knocked off their rival Philadelphia Flyers in the first round before erasing a 3-1 deficit to the Pittsburgh Penguins in the second round and finally taking care of the Montreal Canadiens in the Eastern Conference Finals. The band of brothers that play of 7th Avenue and 33rd Street in New York City appeared to be ready for anything that the Kings were going to throw at them in the Stanley Cup Final.
In each of the first two games the Rangers had two-goal leads only to squander them. Instead of the Rangers coming home to Madison Square Garden with the series tied at 1-1 or even possibly up 2-0, they were down 0-2. And when Kings goalie Jonathan Quick stymied the Rangers offense in Game 3 and Los Angeles went up 3-0 in the series, things looked bleak for the Blueshirts.
Yes the Rangers were eliminated in five games, but three of those losses were in overtime.
The Rangers were not the same team this season that in the past solely relied on goaltender Henrik Lundqvist to lead them to victory as they had more offense and tremendous heart. But they just ran into a Kings team that had been there and done that which was the difference in the series as they were never fazed.
Last year when Rangers general manager Glen Sather fired head coach John Tortorella in favor of former Vancouver Canucks head coach Alain Vigneault it was a move that turned heads. Tortorella was a fiery and passionate head coach that the people of New York City could relate to while Vigneault is calm and placid like the suburbs. But the Rangers would have not been able to reach the Stanley Cup Final this season if Tortorella was still running the show due to the fact that the players appeared to tune him out.
Now the Rangers head into next season looking to do something that they have not been able to do since 1933 which is make consecutive appearances in the Stanley Cup Final. In those days there were only nine teams in the National Hockey League while the Rangers currently play in the Metropolitan Division that alone is home to eight teams. In the Eastern Conference the Rangers will once again have to deal with Canadiens, Penguins, and the Boston Bruins in order to get back to playing for hockey’s holy grail.
More than likely the Rangers will have the majority of their roster back for next season and Sather will also have roughly $17 million in cap space to work with and you can expect him to keep forward Mats Zuccarello around who will hit free agency this summer as a free agent.
The Rangers are hopeful that this playoff run is the beginning of some extended success as they don’t want to fall back into the pack.