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Monday, January 17, 2022

The Rangers Are Back!

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The excitement is back for NY Rangers fans at Madison Square Garden these days, the blue shirts have been playing solid hockey this season and are at the top of the NHL’s eastern conference for the first time since the Mark Messier era. Head coach John Tortorella has gotten the team on track for a serious Stanley Cup run.

It’s felt like an eternity for the NY Rangers’ fan base for since we’ve seen the captain raise the Stanley Cup (the last time was in June of 1994). The world’s most famous arena had been craving for a repeat of that dream season that saw an underdog team that was left for dead shock the NHL with a strong push to bring a title back to the city and end a 54 year drought. The 1994 championship banner sits high up in the Garden rafters all alone waiting for another thrilling playoff run. The Rangers have been through many up and down seasons after dismissing the Canucks in the ‘94 Stanley Cup Finals. Lots of former superstars as well as big name head coaches have come and gone through the organization with no success.

 But Tortorella’s  game plan has been a winning strategy for the Rangers this season, They lead the NHL with 60 points through 42 games and are on pace for the best season in franchise history. The 2011-2012 campaign started off in lightning fashion that saw the blue shirts show some visions of 1994, starting the season with six straight wins, and ultimately winning 11 out of 13 games. Just last week, the NHL announced that defenseman Dan Girardi, goalie Henrik Lundqvist, and right winger Marián Gáborík along with coach John Tortorella were named to the All-Star game on January 27, in Ottawa. The Rangers were also selected to play in this year’s winter classic game on January 2nd, which they played and beat division-rival Philadelphia flyers outdoors at Citizens Bank Park by a score of 3-2. 

 The 1994 team that won the cup, had stars like Messier, Richter, Leach, Beukeboom, and Graves. But the current Rangers team, says All-Star goalie Henrik Lundqvist, “we’re not a club that looks around for its stars to bail us out, because we don’t really have any. “The goalie which is the closest thing to a star for the Rangers believes the team is very confident this season and gets contributions from every player on the ice on a nightly basis. Lundqvist is good enough to boost any team’s confidence. He’s currently second in the league among goalies with a 1.89 goals-against average and a .939 save percentage. The Rangers now in their 3rd full season under head coach John Tortorella, have  reversed a 15 year trend of front-loading their lineup with older and washed out veterans and have instead built their roster around younger and faster skaters. None of the current eleven defenseman on the team are older than 28. That will hopefully be formula for success and a deep playoff run this spring.

I remember back on that hot June day in 1994 when the Rangers floated down the canyon of heroes after winning the Stanley Cups. Millions of Ranger’s fans including myself were lined up along Broadway absorbing the unbelievable Championship season we all had just witnessed. Mike Keenan the head coach along with general manager Neil Smith had put together a roster of assassins on the ice. The Rangers were in the midst of a long title drought until Smith acquired Messier and Graves through trades, drafted Richter and Leach, and Matteau through free agency. Seeing captain Mark Messier raise the Cup after the game seven win is a memory that will last a lifetime. With any luck, this season will provide the same for a new generation of Rangers fans.

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