What a difference a year makes. What a difference a day makes. When Rangers fans awoke the day after Game 82 in Philadelphia last year the devastation of missing out the playoffs was brutal. The way that they missed both in terms of having a chance in a shootout to make it and having it be to the hated Flyers only made it worse. Yesterday the majority of Rangers fans woke up dreading having that feeling again and feeling helpless because the team had given away control of their own destiny.
This time the result was different. This time when fans woke up the day after Game 82 there was elation and anticipation of the upcoming playoff series with the Washington Capitals. They could do so because the team played to the identity they have formed over the course of the year as a team that outworks their opponents and has a mental toughness to it that never has them out of a game. The difference in the makeup and mentality of this team fro one year to the next is vast. Last year there was a team that you never knew what version was going to show up in any facet of the game and while this year the offense is still inconsistent the effort is there nearly every night and that can be the difference between missing by a point or making it by just two.
After taking care of all they could control yesterday that pensive nature of Rangers fans was tested waiting for four hours to have the puck drop between Tampa Bay and Carolina. Having been heartbroken many times before there was a decidedly cautious approach to hoping in terms of the result of the game last night. Tampa came in with nothing but pride to play for, but they got on top early and would not relinquish control of the game against the red hot Hurricanes.
Some will say the Rangers got lucky in getting the help they did from Tampa, and maybe they did, but luck is where skill meets opportunity and the Rangers while not having the most skill have put in the work to earn the opportunity. Now it will be up them to take advantage of it against the Capitals in round 1. I for one wouldn’t bet against them with the way they can fight with and for one another.