I’m not sure what to make of yesterday. Was it a Sign of a Special Season? Or was it simply a 3-2 win in January?
The only thing I’m certain of is that it was my first, and probably last, positive memory from Citizens Bank Park. The Rangers had every reason to concede two points when the Flyers went up 2-0, but they didn’t. They fought back, tied the game, or Mike Rupp tied the game I should say, Brad Richards put them ahead, and then Henrik Lundqvist told the referees, the NHL and NBC to go f*ck themselves when he stoned Danny Briere’s penalty shot attempt. It was a remarkable win in a remarkable setting. One that no Rangers fan will ever forget. (Unless you were my dad who loathes the Winter Classic and refused to watch or my brother who was flying over the Atlantic when Henrik said, “No.” Combined they will not miss a home game this season, but today, there were nowhere to be found. Bizarre.)
When a Rangers team gets off to as good a start as this one has, a natural comparison is made to the ’94 team. Through 37 games that season the Blueshirts record was 26-8-3; the ’12 club boasts a 24-9-4 mark. The ’94 Rangers had a memorable last second victory in Los Angeles when Mark Messier defeated Wayne Gretzky’s Kings in the waning moments of overtime; the ’12 Rangers pulled that very trick two weeks ago in Phoenix. The ’94 Rangers had their season defined by a penalty shot save by Mike Richter; the ’12 Rangers had their season defined by…
Not yet. It’s too damn early. In my heart of hearts I still think the Rangers are a year away from reaching their max. potential. That’s not to say they can’t win the Stanley Cup this year, though. The only team the Rangers cannot beat is the Canadiens in Montreal on a Saturday night. It’s just f*cking impossible. The Bruins, though? The Rangers match up with them very well. The Flyers? They’re soft and have suffered a recurrence of Niittymaki-Esche Syndrome. The Penguins? As long as 87 is out, the Rangers can take them. The Capitals? They melt come springtime. And out West? The Blackhawks are fatally flawed in net with Corey Crawford, and for very different reasons, the Canucks are equally screwed with Roberto Luongo in net. There is no dominant team in the NHL this season. If you needed any better illustration of that, look at the NHL standings this morning. The Rangers, who have played the entire season without their best defenseman, would have home-ice through the Stanley Cup Finals if the playoffs started today.
But they don’t. And that’s the point. The beauty that unfolded yesterday in that waste of a city will either be a chapter in a wonderful book the Rangers are writing, or it will simply read Rangers 3, Flyers 2 in a list of 82 fruitless games
The weather is too damn cold to know yet.