Tuesday? For Rangers, it felt more like a Bluesday
Arthur StapleArthur Staple
Staple, with Newsday since 1997, has covered high school
Maybe we will look back on the day off between Games 3 and 4 of this Stanley Cup Final and see a beaten Rangers team.
Maybe this is it for the Rangers, few of whom Tuesday could hide the frustration of the past week of the final.
But maybe it's just a day to feel the sobering reality of a 3-0 series deficit, shake it off and be ready for one more crack at the Kings, who seem to have caulked all the cracks in their game from the first two contests.
"Excuse us if today we're not real cheery," Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said. "But tomorrow, I can tell you we're going to show up."
Of all the days of this two-month postseason run for the Rangers, none seemed as difficult as Tuesday. That's a hard statement to make, given that there was a day last month in Pittsburgh when the Rangers landed in that city with a 3-1 series hole only to find out Martin St. Louis' mother had passed away.
The Rangers rallied around St. Louis, who helped lift the team out of that 3-1 hole, up and over the Penguins and on to the Final. The emotions of so many days in this Rangers run have been strong, but positive; hearing members of the organization describe St. Louis eulogize his mother, France, on the day off between Games 1 and 2 of the conference finals in Montreal was a sobering sort of day, but of a different kind.
Tuesday was all about hockey and the emotions that come from being up or being down, way down, at the highest stage.
Dan Girardi put into words what all the Rangers must have stayed up late Monday thinking. "We never expected to be in this position at all," Girardi said. "I don't think there's a whole lot else to say."
There will be words said today, to be sure. Brad Richards, whose play has dipped dramatically in the Stanley Cup Final, will step up to speak. It may be one of the last things he does as a Ranger with a seemingly certain buyout looming in the next three weeks.
St. Louis, still only three months into his Rangers career but as much a centerpiece of the team as anyone, might say something. He has done so much in such a short space of time, there's every reason to think that he could be wearing the "C" when the 2014-15 season gets underway.
Henrik Lundqvist, who has reached another new milestone but is a game away from seeing another goaltender hoist the Stanley Cup once again, might speak up, too.
The time for verbal inspiration seems to be past, though. That seemed to be the honest reality on everyone's lips Tuesday, when the Rangers could not hide the disappointment any longer.
"Today is a tough day," Richards said. "I don't think there was a lot of sleep in here last night."
So maybe this is it for the Rangers, who had inspiration and luck and skill on their side for three rounds and met a team that's had just a bit more of all three of those things through three games.
If it ends Wednesday night, or even Friday, the hockey world at large will mostly forget the details of the Rangers' playoff days, the ups and downs and emotional moments that led them to the Stanley Cup Final.
It's important not to forget them, though, even hearing the players sound disappointed and deflated Tuesday. On Wednesday night, they will either have shaken it off to stay alive or feel the ultimate dejection: watching an opponent skate the Cup around the Garden.
"We definitely don't want to get swept in the Stanley Cup Final," Girardi said. "We don't want to lose it in front of our fans, either. You focus on one game and what you have to do to win that."