By: John Jastremski
Well, all feel-good rides must come to an end.
For the New York Rangers, the feel-good ride extended beyond anybody’s wildest dreams.
After all, the idea of the Rangers playing in the Eastern Conference Finals would have sounded comical back in October.
The Rangers exceeded expectations, grew as a team, flourished as a team, and inspired a fan base that was hungry for playoff hockey.
The Rangers brought a team to the postseason that didn’t exactly have a ton of playoff experience.
After the Eastern Conference Finals, they’ve now played 20 playoff games.
They won five elimination games and overcame a 3-1 first-round deficit and a 3-2 second-round deficit.
The Rangers provided a spring full of exhilarating moments.
They also learned a valuable lesson.
Don’t let the champs off the hook.
Despite all of the good vibes of the ‘21-‘22 Rangers season, the team was up 2-0 in the Eastern Conference Finals against the two time Stanley Cup Champion Tampa Bay Lightning.
In addition to their 2-0 series advantage, the Rangers held a 2-0 lead in Game 3.
The Rangers’ inability to close out the Lightning in Game 3 gave the two-time champs exactly the sort of jumpstart that they needed.
After Game 3, it was no secret. The Lightning were the sharper and more complete hockey team.
Tampa outplayed the Rangers in the final four games of the series and reminded the hockey world of their greatness.
A tough pill for Rangers fans to swallow, but if you’re looking for a silver lining, do yourself a favor. Take a listen to Tampa Bay Lightning Head Coach John Cooper after his team clinched the series in six.
Cooper made it clear to anyone listening that he thinks over the next few years, the Rangers will be in the position to be the last team standing.
With Igor Shesterkin in net, explosive young goal scorers, and some veteran experience mixed in, I wouldn’t bet against that prediction.
Nothing is a given in sports, next season the Rangers will have to go out and prove it again.
You don’t get many free years in sports, the Rangers most certainly won’t have one next year, but this year was pretty darn fun.
I could be wrong, but I think for this group of New York Rangers. They’ve only just begun…
You can listen to my podcast New York, New York on The Ringer Podcast Network every Sunday, Tuesday & Thursday on Spotify & Apple Podcasts. You can also watch me nightly on Geico Sportsnight right after Mets Postgame on SNY.