Editorial: I was planning a Rangers Stanley Cup party

Season's over (AP/Kathy Willens)

Season’s over (AP/Kathy Willens)

I started this site back in the 2012 season. At that time, John Tortorella was coaching and I was sensing the Rangers were turning a corner. The dreams of a Stanley Cup began dancing in my head. I also realized that my opinions and thoughts on the team were becoming valued via Twitter. So I began wondering how to expand on both.

Back in 1994, these vehicles really didn’t exist for the average fan. Social media started to change the game as did new tools that could make building a website easy for someone like myslef with very little web design skills. FullTilt Rangers was born, but it was a far cry from how it looks and navigates today.

FullTilt Rangers 2012

FullTilt Rangers 2012

It was a basic blog page and I was just getting my feet wet. Still, the purpose was to build a site that a fan wanted to read. It was meant to reflect how the team played under Torts,  which is why I chose the poker term “Full Tilt”, because each player was “All In”.

I’ve been “All In” like many Rangers fans for a long time. Hockey can do that more than any other sport. It turns your like into love, your passion into obsession and the Rangers seem to do that times 10.

Our Blueshirts got far in 2012 by making their first Conference Final since 1997. Then in 2013, they got hit with a lockout and Rick Nash got nailed with a high dirty hit from Milan Lucic. Nash was never really the same and the Blueshirts were ousted in the 2nd round and Torts was fired.

Enter in Alain Vigneault and a brand new style of play. The Rangers went from a tough, defense first, shot blocking machine to one that was quick, skilled, and honestly more fun to watch. It was made extremely enjoyable with an improbable run to the Cup. Sadly, it ended with a dagger to my heart wielded by Alec Martinez.

Still, I knew we would be back. The Rangers were just too good.

Derek Stepan (Photo: Dave Reginek/Getty Images)

Derek Stepan (Photo: Dave Reginek/Getty Images)

This season, the Blueshirts started behind the 8 ball with a handful of injuries. Derek Stepan broke his leg in exhibition. Dan Boyle broke his hand in game 1 and Ryan McDonagh would soon separate his shoulder. Oh! The mumps…let’s not forget the mumps taking out Derick Brassard, Tanner Glass and Lee Stempniak.

The Rangers would hang tight and eventually persevere. AV and company would go on to capture their first Presidents’ Trophy since…yup, 1994. You know…that year that “will last lifetime”. I’ll admit it, I was feeling extremely confident in this group. This team was ready to win it all.

I don’t believe in jinxes, but I also don’t like to purchase tee shirts with the Rangers logo and the Stanley Cup on it unless they’ve won it. Still, I started envisioning throwing a huge BBQ celebration after their inevitable victory.

Of course, I shouldn’t be counting my chickens before they hatch, but this team just beat the Capitals down 3 games to 1 without Mats Zuccarello. They started showing a resiliency I witnessed in 2014 by the team that would beat us, the L.A. Kings. My guard was down, I really started believing.

I began filling up my Amazon cart with inflatable Stanley Cups and other Rangers party paraphernalia. I was thinking about who I would have over…it was going to happen this year. I knew it.

Then the doubts started to settle in after losing games 2 and 3 to the Lightning. That was followed by a dominant performance, a dud, and then another great showing. The series was going to game 7 and I had started hearing rumors that Mats Zuccarello was heading for a game 1 clearance in the Stanley Cup Final. The dream was taking hold of me again.

Ryan McDonagh (27) is helped off the ice   Ray Stubblebine

Ryan McDonagh (27) is helped off the ice in Nov. (Ray Stubblebine)

Game 7 began, and the Rangers looked a step behind. Ryan McDonagh was in discomfort and had to leave for the locker room without taking a shift. Seeing that, I understood why Matt Hunwick was dressed. The Rangers were in trouble and the game didn’t even start.

They played like warriors, but the obstacles were becoming too hard to overcome. Mats Zuccarello’s two-way play and power play expertise was sorely missed. Kevin Klein still looked a step behind after missing 6 weeks with a broken arm. Martin St. Louis continued playing like he was feeling all 39 of his years. Unconfirmed rumors of Marc Staal playing on a broken ankle came about. Ryan McDonagh was hit like a rag doll by stars, Alex Ovechkin and Steven Stamkos and never once drew a penalty. Yet, we learned after the season ended he played on a broken foot.

The Rangers were beaten by a better team….because they were healthier. This is not an excuse, it is a harsh reality. Just ask the Pittsburgh Penguins who we beat in the first round while they were missing 4-5 starters. It’s one thing to nurse bumps and bruises, it is entirely another thing to lose one of your best players. Matter of fact, had any one of the triplets been injured, I’d be writing about an Original 6 Stanley Cup Final.

During game 7, I tweeted out pictures of my vitals and I knew they were running high. Anxiety and stress were going to kill me. It was during the second period, with TB still holding the edge in play that I started preparing myself for the eventual loss.

When Alex Killorn slipped a slow low shot through Henrik Lundqvist’s legs I closed my eyes and welled up with tears. I knew that was the beginning of the end. When the clock counted down to 3 seconds I turned off the TV and sat in the dark for 20 minutes.

I heard my son tell his mom, “Is Dad OK? Can I go check on him?” It was then I remembered, I have bigger responsibilities. So, I left the den and tucked the kids in with a smile but I was devastated.

I still haven’t seen any videos of the handshake line.

Lundqvist shakes Bishop's hand (Getty)

Lundqvist shakes Bishop’s hand (Getty)

Saturday, I decided to slowly get back into being a “Rangers Blogger” by tweeting out a few thoughts. For the most part, I went dark and off the grid. This morning, I emptied out my Amazon cart and then my heart onto this website.

I have yet to sit back and give you all the analysis you deserve. It’s coming, I promise. This morning, I am writing from a fan’s perspective because it is what I truly am. Since I first donned my #28 Tomas Sandstrom jersey playing hockey in the streets as a kid, to sharing my thoughts and opinions with you here on FullTilt Rangers today. I am, and always will be a fan.

Unlike other Rangers blogs where they are aspiring to be journalists. Or they want to revolutionize the way we see the game through analytics. My goal is to continue to articulate the beauty and passion that the game of hockey brings. At the end of the season, no player gets a Pulitzer Prize or a Fields Medal in math. They hoist a giant Silver Cup that was donated by Lord Stanley of Preston because he loved the game.

This season was sadly bookended by injuries. The Rangers went out the way they came in – hurt. This season was also bookended by my love for the Rangers, and I too went out as I came in – still in love.


Anthony Scultore has been covering the New York Rangers and the NHL since 2014. His work also appears at... More about Anthony Scultore

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