While it may be way too early to speculate towards certain things, the New York Giants’ surprising Super Bowl run produced a massive wave of good feelings (thank you, Flo Rida) throughout the entire New York Metropolitan Area, leading some Rangers fans to, at least subconsciously, think about what it would be like if another parade were to come down Broadway sometime around mid June.
Of course it’s way too early to think about such possibilities, but with that said, can the Rangers benefit in any way from the Giants’ championship season? Believe it or not, the teams aren’t as different as you might think.
In many ways, the Rangers’ success this season mirrors the Giants. Granted, the Giants’ great start saw them falter down the stretch to the point where it looked like they would miss the playoffs, but the fact remains that coming out of training camp, they were not expected to do much of anything, and it was almost an accomplishment that they even made the postseason.
In the Rangers case, the expectations were somewhat high – especially after the signing of Brad Richards – but most prognosticators didn’t look their way in the East, focusing on the fact that the Bruins returned mostly intact after winning the Cup, the Sabres were the offseason’s big spenders, and the Lightning had the same core in place for another season among others. You would be hard-pressed to find anyone, probably even many Rangers fans, who would have predicted that they would be atop the Eastern Conference on the morning of February 9.
The teams also play similar styles thanks to the types of personnel that they feature. Some of the Giants’ most unheralded players were under-the-radar guys like Dave Tollefson, Chase Blackburn and Henry Hynoski. Hmmm, who fits that mold on the Rangers? Names like Brandon Prust, Mike Rupp and John Mitchell come to mind.
The Giants also feature plenty of younger players who have only been in the league for two or three seasons, such as Hakeem Nicks on offense and Jason Pierre-Paul on defense. The Rangers certainly have their share of talented younger players well, such as Derek Stepan on offense and Ryan McDonagh on defense.
Then there’s the matter of the undrafted star that every team in the league had a chance at but never gave a second thought to offering up a contract. Let’s see…there’s an undrafted wide receiver out of Massachusetts by the name of Victor Cruz that went on to lead the team in receiving while putting up a Pro Bowl season.
The Rangers? Hmm…that undrafted defenseman out of the OHL by the name of Dan Girardi that went on to anchor the team’s blue line for the first half of the season while earning a spot in the All-Star Game.
How about a dynamic offensive player from the University of Michigan? The Giants have a receiver by the name of Mario Manningham, while the Rangers can counter with a rookie by the name of Carl Hagelin. Rumor has it both players are pretty talented with their feet as well.
Oh, and how a about fearless, unshakable leader? Eli Manning has never missed a start for the Giants going back to 2005 and has won two Super Bowls with game-winning fourth quarter drives while claiming two Super Bowl MVPs.
Henrik Lundqvist? All he’s done is carry the Rangers for an untold number of games since coming into the league in….2005. And while he can’t claim ownership of a Stanley Cup ring just yet, he does have a gold medal – a somewhat high-pressure situation, made even moreso by the fact that the entire nation of Sweden was counting on him to vanquish arch-rival Finland in 2006. While he was a rookie.
But the comparisons aren’t just limited to the players. One glance at the teams’ respective head coaches shows a very similar pattern as well between the Giants’ Tom Coughlin and the Rangers’ John Tortorella.
For one, both of their head coaching careers began in Florida (Coughlin with Jacksonville, Tortorella with Tampa Bay, not counting a brief interim stint with the Rangers). Both of them also had a championship under their belt entering 2012 (Coughlin in Super Bowl XLII, Tortorella with the Lightning in 2004). And both have had their ups and downs with not only their respective fanbases, but even their own players.
Yet despite this, both coaches seem to garner the utmost respect from the players they coach. Evidence of that comes from the locker room celebration following the Giants’ first win this season over New England in November in which Coughlin’s players basically created a mosh pit for him.
On the Rangers side, that respect was played out through all four episodes of 24/7 through the attention paid by the players to each speech given between periods right down to the round of applause from players at the conclusion.
(It should also be noted that, despite gruff exteriors, both men also have shown to carry themselves with extreme class off the ice – Coughlin with the Jay Fund Foundation for childhood cancer, and Tortorella for his friendship with Liam Traynor, also shown to a mass audience for the first time on 24/7)
There is also the factor that tends to happen from time to time when a civic area’s sports teams start to feed off each other. It happened here in 1994 when the Rangers and Knicks alternated home playoff games over a magical two-month span. It’s happened in Boston over the last decade as well.
And while it may be too early to start any sort of talk of a New York championship-filled 2012, the fact is that the Rangers and Super Bowl Champion Giants have a lot more in common than just the metropolitan area they call their own.