Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

New York Rangers: 13/14 East Conference Champions


New York Rangers are the Eastern Conference champions. The New York Rangers didn’t win the Stanley Cup this year. They didn’t get to lift the most famous trophy in pro sports this year so the season was a complete failure, right? I beg to differ with anyone who feels that way. The New York Rangers are the Eastern Conference Champions! That is a serious acquisition given this years fairly low expectations. The 2013/2014 New York Rangers went further than anyone could have predicted. If you were left wanting more as of course I was, you have every right. We all really wanted this team to at least have an opportunity to compete in the Stanley Cup Finals.

Once the tough and at times nasty series with the Montreal Canadiens was out of the way, New York Ranger fans felt the Stanley Cup was within reach. This time though ended in heartbreak for our favorite team but to call this season a failure or to say the team blew an opportunity. That’s an opinion and everyone has them the same as elbows. However,  this years team overachieved when you look back to November and December and even October when they were battling to get above .500. Having a hard time finding stable line combinations, and consistency from one game to the next. As one fan ignorantly tweeted the moment Alec Martinez caught up to the series clinching goal, driving to the net on a rush to find the easy rebound.

 The New York Rangers are the Eastern Conference champions

I truly feel bad for these types of fans who view this season as calamitous. Some don’t understand the experience we got to witness this season but that’s fine, eventually they will!  Many haven’t yet seen twenty years go by without even a finals appearance. They’ll soon understand how imperative this run was. When the New York Rangers were three and six to begin the season on that brutal nine game road trip, would the defeatists have said this was a waste of a season then? Early on when they were winning one and loosing one or two during the month of October. Who thought they’d be in the Stanley Cup Finals? The New York Rangers were having trouble figuring out how to play new coach Alain Vigneault‘s fast pace puck pursuit, transition game with man to man defensive zone coverages. In the early going the New York Rangers defenseman had trouble covering the net zone which is an “L shaped zone from the boards behind the net to the front of the net. On plays along the boards or faceoff circle which makes the net zone the responsibility of the weak side defenseman. Goals were being scored  due to lack of coverage on the weak side of the ice (the opposite side of the ice from where the puck is, which is the strong side). 

It wasn’t long before fans of the New York Rangers were calling for a coaching change.

After only a month or six weeks many already had enough of coach Alain Vigneault. Many were sick and tired of the Rangers missed defensive coverages and the opposition scoring first all the time. Rome wasn’t built overnight or in a day, a month, or a season. This team built its’ own Roman army in one half season, going from a consistently inconsistent team the first half to a solid north/south puck possession hockey club. The defense was having a hard time picking up the man to man defensive assignments and as a result Henrik Lundqvist first-rate scoring chances right in front of him. Blaming Henrik Lundqvist, even for his rough start to the season is wrong because he had guys outnumbering his defense right in front of him. Many of the goals scored against him were uncontested shots in the slot where weak side coverages were blown. Henrik Lundqvist should have been nominated for another Vezina Trophy and if he played like he did in the second half and the playoffs it would be all his for the second time in his career.

The National Hockey League must change its’ rules on reviewable plays

“This is one of the worst feelings I’ve ever had as a player,” Girardi Said” You work hard all year-long to get to this point and we gave ourselves a good position going into the third period. It’s just a tough one to swallow. I don’t know what to say.” Dan Girardi on NHL.com

The New York Rangers gave it their all and left it all out on the ice. They should have no regrets going forward. Except of course the terrible officiating in the National Hockey League. It’s a fast paced game and it’s impossible for a referee or linesman to make the right call every time. Too many calls in the Los Angeles Kings series and the playoffs in general went incorrectly against the New York Rangers. It’s a problem the NHL has to fix as soon as possible. Not just for the New York Rangers but for the entire league. Still in the finals the Los Angeles Kings were the better team and they deserved to win. Things would have had to go perfectly for the New York Rangers to beat them. There’s no reason to remain sour about how the officials called the games. Even had those calls gone the Rangers way, it’s still possible the Los Angeles Kings wins the series. They’re a big, skilled team that was able to suppress the New York Rangers speed.

New York Rangers Lose in 5 to the LA Kings

Marian Gaborik Finally Won a Cup but In LA not in NY As We All Hoped Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

Players like Justin Williams and Marian Gaborik killed the New York Rangers in this series offensively. Dwight King , Jordan Nolan, and Kyle Clifford were too big and strong in front of the net for even our best defenseman. They opened the crease for Jeff Carter, Marian Gaborik, and Dustin Brown to get to rebounds in front of the New York Rangers star Goaltender. Henrik Lundqvist did everything he could in the Stanley Cup Finals. Any other goaltender would not have been able to handle all the traffic in front and would have gone down in four straight games. The Los Angeles Kings were that good. They got timely scoring from all the players they expect it from.

Had the calls gone the New York Rangers way, could they have won the series?

With all the latest technology at its’ disposal, the high-definition, the slow motion replays, the many camera angles in the NHL review room. Especially in the playoffs these bang-bang plays should always be looked at, no goal should be overlooked. The National Football league reviews every touchdown scored. Why cant the National Hockey League take human error out of goals scored during the playoffs?  Penalties called on the ice are a tough argument as far as replay goes because there needs to be some human aspect to the officiating. Considering how the season ended and how it began, the New York Rangers players should hold their heads high for their attainment this season.

Alain Vigneault got better results than John Tortarella with the same New York Rangers team Glen Sather built to fit the latter.

Alain Vigneault had a team built mainly around John Tortorella with Players like Brandon Dubinsky, Ryan Callahan, Brandon Prust, Ruslan Fedotenko, John Mitchell, and Mike Rupp. Although this Rangers team looks much different than the 11/12 team, he still got the core Rangers where “Torts” never could. In five seasons as coach of the New York Rangers, the six game loss in the Eastern Conference Finals to the hated New Jersey Devils was the best in his tenure as coach in New York. His “high stakes” grind em out and wear them down strategy is rapidly becoming obsolete hockey. He played defensive minded hockey for sixty minutes and hoped the opposition made a mistake and all scoring was off the forecheck. Although John Tortorella is gone, this years New York Rangers team still embodied many traits of a “Torts” run team.

The defenseman and defensive minded forwards like Brian Boyle and Dominic Moore blocked a ton of shots and hit everyone they could. Two way forwards like Derek Stepan and Carl Hagelin played enormous roles on the penalty kill. The New York Rangers were ranked third among the sixteen playoff teams with an 85.4% success rate with Ulf Samuelsson running the shorthanded units. Alain Vigneault and Ulf Samuelsson got the New York Rangers penalty kill to third in the league during the regular season as well with an identical 85.3% kill rate. That is the best penalty kill percentage since 11/12 team had an 86.2% success rate under Torts and John Sullivan which was ranked fifth in the league. That year in the playoffs though, the John Sullivan led Penalty Kill was a pathetic 75% success or failure rate. Which ever phrase you prefer as a description for the rate in which the Boston Bruins or Washington Capitals scored on their power play!

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Tags: 2014 NHL Playoffs Eastern Conference Champions New York Rangers Scotty Hockey