Triumph and heartbreak. For all the great things the Rangers accomplished during this run the players and fans are left with nothing but sadness to start the summer. Once we get through the first stages of dealing with the loss there are so many positive things to look back on about the 2021-2022 New York Rangers.
This was a team that overachieved all season and outperformed any and all expectations that fans and media outlets had. Many considered this team, even with their high end talent, to compete for a wild card spot or maybe finish third in the division. Until the final week of the season the Blueshirts were competing for first place in the division and were one of the best teams in the entire league.
Before the year there were questions about whether or not Igor Shesterkin could emerge as a top flight goalie in the NHL especially after signing his extension. Not only did Shesterkin respond but he did it with a near historic season as he finished as a Vezina and Hart trophy finalist and showed himself as one of the best goalies in the world.
Rangers fans also got to see a team that fans could truly be proud to root for and a team that showed that would not be pushed around by any team in the league. We saw that Chris Drury spared no expense at making this team tougher physically but they also got a lot tougher mentally this season. They adopted the personality of certain newcomers like their head coach Gerard Gallant, well known tough guy Ryan Reaves, and gritty vet Barclay Goodrow.
The club showed their mental toughness and resolve all regular season long as they led the NHL in come from behind wins. They doubled down on the “no quit” mentality during the postseason being able to battle back from back to back series deficits in rounds one and two.
This is a mentality that we hadn’t seen on Broadway from the likes of the “Black and Blueshirts” under John Tortorella. In prior years, granted during a rebuild, we saw these Rangers wilt when things would get tough and they just didn’t have ability to bounce back. That is one of the biggest signs of life and progress from the rebuild that this team now not only has the belief in their system but within themselves to be able to bounce back when things get tough.
That’s one thing that you just can’t quantify.
Being able to watch a lot of these young players grow before our eyes has been a real treat. Chris Drury and his staff deserve credit for the steps forward a lot of this young talent took this year under the Gerard Gallant’s tutelage. Gallant didn’t always make the best choices but when the team needed it he always seemed to know exactly what buttons to push to get the best from his players.
In a year that started with little to no expectations from anyone to be just two wins away from a Stanley Cup Final appearance is a massive accomplishment.
I have never been one for moral victories but you’d be naïve to believe that this isn’t a huge step in the right direction for a young club in the first year of their contention window. For any fan to believe that this club would waltz into their first postseason together and manage to win a Cup is just an insane thought to begin with. You never see that happen in the NHL. To win a Cup you need have scars from prior losses and if you don’t believe me just ask the Tampa Bay Lightning. They endured multiple tough postseason losses before finally breaking through two years ago. A loss in the Cup Final, multiple ECF losses, and of course who could forget the embarrassing sweep to Columbus where Tampa was at a crossroads and chose to stay the course instead of blowing the club up out of panic.
When you think about the fact that a gassed and inexperienced Rangers team had the two time defending Cup champs on the ropes before finally giving out, you have to have hope for the future.
The kids, especially Miller, Lafreniere, and Chytil, all took giant steps forward during this playoff run. You know you have a rock in Shesterkin in net and couple that with the likes of Fox, Panarin, Zibanejad, Miller, Chytil, and Lafreniere and the Rangers are building something that will be around for a long time to come.
There is an enormous shift between regular season hockey and playoff hockey and these young Rangers got an on the job lesson in the difference between the two and exactly what it takes to get the job done. While the ECF loss to Tampa will be sure to sting during the summer until the puck drops on the 22-23 season, there are plenty of positives to take away from this season and this postseason.
Fans should be extremely thankful for the steps this club took this year and take great solace in the fact of knowing this is one of the youngest teams in the league. Sure, they’ll be facing some cap issues moving forward but they already have most of the pieces in place for what will be a Cup contender for a very long time.
The New York Rangers will be back more driven, hungry, and ready for battle in 2022-2023 and will be ready to continue to show the rest of the league that there indeed is no quit in New York.