In a blink of an eye, it was all over.
Adam Henrique’s series-winning goal to give his Devils team a ride to the Stanley Cup Final will be an image burned in my mind for years, especially if the Rangers do not win a Stanley Cup with their current group of core players. They had it in the palm of their hands, and in an instant, it was taken away. The dejected look on all the Rangers’ faces as they began to form the handshake line, knowing their season was actually over, was harrowing. Henrik Lundqvist’s eyes were filled with sadness, as he did everything within the fiber of his being to will his team to the Stanley Cup Final.
It just wasn’t enough. But I digress…
The 2011-12 season had an air of magic with it all season long. Fans all over thought it was destiny, and it still may be the Ranger’s final quest is to hoist the Cup in a few years, leading the way. Instead, we saw accelerated player development, an outstanding goaltending performance all season long and the renewed hope the New York Rangers are officially back in the mix as one of the upper-echelon teams for years to come with a solid foundation on which to build on.
The core players of Ryan Callahan, Brandon Dubinsky, Marc Staal and Dan Girardi all wore their emotions on their sweaters this season in an attempt to do great things and bring the city of New York a Cup. The sacrifice to do the greatest good for the team was something to admire, and will be for seasons to come as they all continue to develop. Brian Boyle and Brandon Prust, despite nagging injuries, played to the Rangers identity with their hearts, even if their bodies couldn’t hold up. Michael Del Zotto is here to stay, but after the loss of his grandmother in the playoffs, he’ll need to summon the courage to move on and rediscover his game for next year.
If you only take away one thing from the Rangers season in 2011-12, let it be this: they were the most resilient group of players we may ever seen. New York lost three games in a row in regulation ONCE all season long, the other occasions both regular season and players required extra time to decide it. No matter what the score, the Blueshirts were always in the game, fighting valiantly. That’s not a talent you’re born with, it’s a decision you make. The Rangers decided to never quit in any of the games they played.
Take it home with you that the New York Rangers have an exciting group of young players to look forward to next season in Ryan McDonagh, Carl Hagelin and Chris Kreider. Prospects Tim Erixon, Dylan McIlrath, Ryan Bourque and Christian Thomas will all vie for a place on the Rangers next season, and after John Tortorella’s break-up day press conference when he alluded to youth having to earn spots but nonetheless needed for next season is an encouraging we’ll see more baby Blueshirts grow in front of our eyes in 2012-13.