Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Last Time The Rangers Visited Philly: The Pain of Being a Fan

As a fan there are many bad things that come from rooting for a team in any sport.  In hockey other than just injuries the list includes: missing the playoffs; losing to a rival; being beaten by a backup goalie; having stars not show up for critical game.  For the Rangers fans in their teams’ last trip to Philly for Game 82 of the season last year all of those things happened.  To miss the playoffs is always a bad feeling, to miss it by one point is even worse, to miss it by losing to the Flyers worse yet to miss it by 1 point because you lost a shootout pitting your star goalie against Brian “Water Boy” Boucher is only exponentially compounds the anger and heartbreak.  
Ranger fans are normally optimists when it comes to their team, but it wouldn’t have only been purely Ranger fans who would have bet that if it was Lundqvist vs Boucher in a shootout to decide a playoff spot that the Rangers would be the victors.  We all know that wasn’t the case as Brian Boucher made the final save on Olli Jokinen to send the Flyers on what ended up being a run to the Stanley Cup Finals while the Rangers went home early.  With that save ended the most Jekyll and Hyde season I have witnessed in which a team could have an opening and closing stretch worthy of a Cup run, while having a middle worthy of a top 3 pick.

In that final game the focus after was on who Tortorella didn’t choose to shoot in the shootout that being Rangers scoring leader Marian Gaborik and how Lundqvist could be outdueled by Boucher.  What was lost for many in the days and weeks after was that without Henrik and his 46 saves in that game the Rangers never come close to a shootout.  Henrik did get beaten by Briere and Girouix in the shootout but he was stellar on that day despite the final outcome.  As for Gaborik, he was not only poor in shootouts but was virtually invisible the entire game managing only 2 shots in nearly 21 minutes.  In fact other than Shelley-Anisimov-Prust most of the team was invisible for the night as that should be 4th line was the Rangers best line by far, which as good as they were down the stretch should never be the case in a game where your season is literally on the line.  It is in the critical games that you expect your superstar players to step up and Gaborik did not accomplish that task.

Tomorrow the Rangers and their fans will seek to dull the sting and lessen the stain of that loss which cut so deep because of how many of the worst possible things a fan could see in this sport all happened in the same game to destroy the season.  As with any fan that bleeds the blood of their favorite team the idea of getting over the way last season ended is not really considered to be realistic, especially since many will believe that if the Rangers had gotten in they were capable of a run like that which the Flyers went on.  I don’t buy that if the Rangers got in they could have pushed it that far, but that is yet another thing that the Rangers and their fans will be competing with as they take the ice in Philly for the first time since April 11, 2010.