There’s only one way to describe the season, because the Rangers went for it and came up five wins short.
It was a failure.
This was supposed to be the Rangers season. They had 113 points in the regular season and the team seemed to get better and better, as the winter became spring.
They were supposed to make that final step.
But instead of Ryan McDonagh raising the Stanley Cup within the next two weeks, the Blueshirts now go home and wonder what went wrong.
“We were right there,” said goalie Henrik Lundqvist. “It was a tight game and if we get a bounce and a big play at the right time, it would have been a different score. It was a tight game, but we came up short. We worked long and hard to be in this position. To come up short, it’s tough.”
At age 33, Lundqvist only has a few years left in his prime. The window is starting to close. He’s still The King, but will he be at the top of his game in two years or even next year, as age creeps up? You are seeing David Wright starting to fail in Queens at a similar age. Could Lundqvist be next?
If he doesn’t win a Cup, Lundqvist will join Tony Esposito and Eddie Giacomin as the best goalies ever to not have their names engraved on Stanley. That would be a complete and utter shame. He has been nothing short of brilliant the minute he came over from Sweden in 2005. But without a championship, No. 30 will also be known as a goalie who couldn’t win one.
There’s still time left, but not this year.
Credit Jon Cooper, the Tampa Bay coach for that. He stayed one step ahead of Alain Vigneault in this series, and his game plan in Game 7 was the difference. By having his defense surround Ben Bishop, every time the Rangers had the puck, it was impossible for the Blurshirts to set up on their offense.
But that also took some of the power out of the Lightning, who sacrificed their high powered scoring for the sake of keeping the Rangers off the board.
In the end it was Lundqvist who blinked.
And they have three and a half long months to reflect on the year.
“We did a lot of good things,” said center Derek Stepan. “For the majority of the playoffs, we played really good hockey. We got to this series and give Tampa credit. It’s a good hockey team. We just weren’t able to beat them to four. That’s all it comes down to. We get it to a Game 7 on home ice and it just wasn’t there for us tonight.”
The core is still intact, however. Outside of losing Martin St. Louis to retirement or free agency, the Rangers will have pretty much the same team back next season.
Glen Sather gave up over the past few years in draft picks and prospects for St. Louis and Keith Yandle, but, the Blueshirts went out and found the depth in free agents and lower round picks. Sather did it this season and will look to do next year as well.
So as this May now turns into June and the failures on the diamonds in the Bronx and Queens come to the forefront, the Rangers will have to wait until September see if three times is a charm for Vigneault.
But after going to the final last season and winning the President’s Trophy this year, there’s just one goal.
And if the Rangers do not win the Stanley Cup next year, it’s going to be considered a failure for this team.
Just like this year.
There’s no other way to describe it.