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Maybe it makes sense that the New York Rangers began the 2013-14 season with a nine-game road trip, as few things came easy to this team. They fought through a lot of obstacles to make it to the 2014 Stanley Cup Final, yet the Los Angeles Kings finally represented a mountain they couldn’t climb.
Depending on the next steps this organization takes, this will either be a series they regret for years or one of those “learn how to lose before you learn how to win” moments.
Let’s take a look at the Rangers’ season as a whole and consider what it could mean for the future.
- Henrik Lundqvist finally made it to the championship round of a postseason as the Rangers reached their first Stanley Cup Final in 20 years. “King Henrik” really came through when the Rangers were on the brink of elimination, which should dispel most of the remaining notions about his inability to step up in big games. The Kings eventually ended his ridiculous run, yet he still impressed in defeat.
- New York came into the 2013-14 season with serious free agent questions to answer. Ultimately, they re-signed Lundqvist and also gave Dan Girardi a contract extension. After failing to reach a compromise with Ryan Callahan, they traded him and what became two first-round picks for Martin St. Louis, who enjoyed some big playoff moments after early struggles with his new team.
- Some might wonder if the Girardi extension will eventually haunt the Rangers. At least plenty of people on social media were hammering on the defensive-minded blueliner, to the point that there were jokes about the jokes.
- Even with the big questions answered, there are plenty of support players who need new deals. From RFAs including regular season scoring leader Mats Zuccarello and rising young forward Chris Kreider to underrated UFA blueliner Anton Stralman, GM Glen Sather has some decisions to make. (See the full list here.)
- The Rangers have to hope that Rick Nash’s playoff luck turns around in the future. Health could certainly be a factor in an up-and-mostly-down season (he was limited to 65 regular season games), yet at 29 with a pricey deal that runs though 2017-18, there’s also the worry that his best days are behind him.
- All things considered, Alain Vigneault’s first season as the Rangers’ head coach was a success. More and more, they’re playing his style of hockey, so there are reasons for optimism. That doesn’t mean it will be easy to avoid another 20-year drought between Stanley Cup Final appearances, however.
Breaking: the Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers don’t like each other.
The stakes might be higher for the Penguins than the Flyers – aside from those who still believe Philly has a shot at a playoff run – their rivalry rarely subsides.
With that in mind, it’s no surprise that Sunday featured at least one fight, with Cameron Gaunce squaring off against Brandon Manning in a pretty spirited bout.
Manning isn’t shy about fighting, by the way; this was his seventh bout of the season, according to Hockey Fights.
Higher on the radar for the Penguins is the situation for Conor Sheary, who has been absent from the ice since about midway through the first period. PHT will keep an eye out for updates on what could be yet another injury for the health-challenged Pens.
Life is difficult, complex and confusing. Good thing we have dog videos.
Forgive this video being one night late, but for those of us who watch cute animal clips, time is a furry circle. Or something like that.
Anyway, this golden retriever got a little “ice time” before the Washington Capitals’ game against the Arizona Coyotes on Saturday in what would end up being a 4-1 win for the Caps. It’s an excellent video featuring a top-notch, hilarious pooch.
Alternate joke: Now that is some puck retrieval.
Patrik Laine and Auston Matthews are locked with identical goals (34), assists (27) and points (61) on Sunday, which is remarkable since Laine has played in 67 games versus 75 for Matthews. He won’t get a chance to beef up his numbers on Sunday, either.
It looks like the high-scoring rookie is missing the Winnipeg Jets’ contest against the Vancouver Canucks because of an illness, according to TSN’s Sara Orlesky.
The Jets are almost assured to miss the playoffs, so seeing Laine lose a chance to bolster his Calder argument adds a little extra sadness to the night.
The NHL’s Department of Player Safety announced a Monday hearing for San Jose Sharks tough guy Micheal Haley for his “roughing/sucker punch” on Calle Jarnkrok of the Nashville Predators.
The league didn’t specify if Haley will face a telephone or in-person hearing on Monday afternoon. They did, interestingly, use the phrase “sucker punch” in that official announcement.
Haley received a match penalty during the game. Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer was highly upset about the hit that inspired Haley’s actions.
“When you run someone from behind in a game like that, you probably deserve to get a punch in the mouth,” DeBoer told reporters.
In other bad news for the Sharks, CSN Bay Area’s Kevin Kurz reports that Logan Couture‘s situation isn’t looking promising after he was hurt on Sunday.