Rangers Find Spark Amidst Tragedy
If you would’ve told any Rangers’ fan that on June 1st, 2014, the Blueshirts would be awaiting the winner of the Western Conference Final to see where they will be traveling for game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final, they probably would’ve laughed at you. Rangers’ head coach, Alain Vigneault (when asked if he received a phone call in October that told him the Rangers would be in the Stanley Cup Final) reacted amusingly by saying “I’d ask what you were smoking.” The bench boss deserves a ton of credit for this season up to date. The team had a sub-par two and a half months to start their season, but the coach stayed with his system, and players bought in. The Rangers would pick up their game right around Christmas, but flashes of inconsistency still hung over them. So how are the Rangers competing for the Stanley Cup, 20 years after their unforgettable run in 1994?
March 5th, 2014, may have brought the jolt that every NYR fan has been dying to see out of this team since 94. The jolt came in the form of future Hall-of-Famer, Martin St. Louis, who has paired with Brad Richards to give the NYR the playoff leadership that has been desperately lacking in previous seasons. The Rangers didn’t see immediate payoff of the St. Louis trade, as Marty struggled to find the back of the net. The Rangers were playing great hockey leading up to the playoffs getting contributions from up and down their lineup, but the NYR defining moment of this season may have come off the ice. It was a moment that rallied this team together, and now they’re playing like a family, as well as a team with one purpose.
Martin St. Louis’ mother, France, passed away on May 8th, 2014. Marty had rushed to Montreal to be with his family when it happened, but Marty, did not stay. He returned in time for the NYR to play game 5 against the Pittsburgh Penguins, with the Rangers down 3-1 in the series, they needed a spark. Seeing Marty show up for game 5 was the emotional spark this team needed, and they rallied around their anguish-ridden teammate, and blew out Pittsburgh 5-1 in that fifth game.
The Rangers were playing with emotion, heart, guts, and determination. The Blueshirts wouldn’t stop there, they returned home for game 6 on Mother’s Day as fate would have it. As if by divine intervention, who gets the 1st goal of the game? MSL. The NYR fan base greeted St. Louis with chants of “Marty, Marty” to let him know that they were thinking about him. The Rangers took down the Pens to force a game 7 that seemed unlikely a few days prior.
[su_youtube url=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pQCisQdTu4A”]Game Seven Highlights – [/su_youtube]
Thanks to the play of Henrik Lundqvist, with as a good a performance to steal a game as you’ll ever see, NY took game 7. The Blueshirts were on to the next round to face the Montreal Canadiens after a series that seemed all but lost.
The Rangers would attend the funeral of France St. Louis as one team in Montreal on May 18th, 2014. The day before? The Rangers put a hurting on the Montreal Canadiens in a 7-2 rout in game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final. First goal of the game? Martin St. Louis. The Rangers showed that they weren’t only a team, but they were a family now.
The Rangers would take game 2 in Montreal as well, heading home with a 2-0 series lead. The Habs would take game 3 in overtime that basically set the stage for a tremendous game 4. Game 4 went into overtime, just like game 3, setting the stage for a hero to be crowned. That hero? Martin St. Louis.
The biggest goal of the season to date was scored by the guy that gave this team the massive emotional lift it so desperately craved for. There is nothing more dangerous than a team that comes together at the right time. The NYR did just that. They finished off the Canadiens in 6 by the score of 1-0 at MSG. The goal scorer in that game? Dominic Moore, who lost his wife, and took an 18-month sabbatical from the NHL.
[su_youtube url=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8mva9TSYlLk”]Game Seven Highlights – [/su_youtube]
Moore decided to sign with the team that drafted him, and whose story has touched so many of the NYR fan base. Dominic Moore and Martin St. Louis’ stories have rallied this team together, have rallied this fan base together, and their ability to play like nothing has happened, has given this team the emotional jolt that has them 4 wins away from the Holy Grail of Hockey.
So, yes NYR fans, this is real, on June 1st, 2014, your New York Rangers sit waiting to see who their opponent in the Stanley Cup Final will be.