NYR Playoffs

The Lido Shuffle

“He said one more job ought to get it/One last shot ‘fore we quit it/One more for the road”
- Boz Scaggs

Chris Kreider As usual, I found myself ready to hang up my skates, hang up my Ranger jersey until the start of the 2013-14 season. I found it difficult to believe that a team that has seriously looked overmatched and borderline unprofessional would ever come back to tie a 3-game deficit, let alone come back at all.

I only had one wish: that the Garden Faithful would give the boys in blue a send off in a loss.

I had a discussion with a friend about it.  He had mixed feelings about the idea (and he’s not a Ranger fan at all).  He wasn’t sure if he could take another team celebrating on his team’s home ice. I guess I could understand that one.  But it’s not a Cup game.  It’s not like the Bruins would have paraded the cup up and down the ice.

I felt cheated last year because we couldn’t give the Rangers a send off in their season last year.

So last night, I had a few posts in my head, mostly about what went wrong, about Brad Richards’ healthy scratch, about how Rick Nash was “supposed” to be the difference maker (clearly there is an operative term in there), etc etc.  But I also wanted to talk about how the shortened season was doomed from the get go.  Nobody on the team seemed to get in a groove.  And how Henrik Lundqvist managed to nab a Vezina nomination, because I didn’t think he had as close to a dominating season as usual.

Just found themselves behind the 8-ball quite a bit.

I’ve been saying all along that I was comfortable with how this series ended. Win or lose, I had an eerie calm that the chips may fall where they will, and I’d be okay with it.  I don’t have an emotional dislike of Boston, after what they’ve been through this year as a city, it might be nice to see the Bruins give them a feel-good story.  But as far as a rivalry, Original Six or no, I continue to be fine with however the series goes.

Yet, like another Boston/New York series, oh about nine years ago in the fall, when a certain team came from three games down, and managed to win a game in extra innings when the odds were against them.  Then went on a roll to win the ultimate championship.

Of course that was baseball, and Boston Red Sox coming from behind, but it was against the Yankees, so it was all good in my book (apologies to any Yankee fans reading this right now).

The Rangers could very well be ousted in the next game.  Yet, the fact they went out with a fight, and not a whimper, is what the fans needed.  Not some kind of moral victory, that “Well, they made it this far with a shitty ass power play, and with Brad Richards sucking and Rick Nash underperforming and Henrik not having some of his best moments, let’s cheer! YAY!”

No.  I was sorely mistaken.  That crowd needed a home game win.  Something to give them hope that this team was everything they thought last year, and more.

I’ll say that an overtime win was something that I needed to see.  For once, I got to see an overtime work in MY team’s favor.

The New York Rangers gave us something last night, they gave us one more for the road.

 

Gung Ho

And away we go, away we go to Game Seven.

And the Rangers are fuckin lucky they’re there.

But as my friend Glenn says above, better to play 7 than be out in 6. (And he speaks from experience, being an Isles fan).

I guess.

We didn’t just go through a full 82 games last year, but I went through two seven game series PLUS a disastrous ECF.  The way the Rangers played in the first two games, I didn’t think we’d see a game five, let alone seven.

Forgive me for sounding like the hockey version of the fan played by Randy Quaid in Major League II, but I do not have a good feeling about this game.

But that could work to my advantage.  It must mean that I don’t give a shit about the outcome.

Here’s the deal:  The Rangers have scored less than one goal in four of their games played.  Three of those games were losses (especially the game they scored zero, haha).  This leads me to believe that Henrik Lundqvist is otherworldly…but also that he cannot do it all on his own, contrary to popular belief.

We need to have some guys remember they were brought in to come through with the offense (see: Richards, Bradley; Nash, Rick).

We need to remember that having a man advantage is generally a GOOD thing for most teams.

But most of all, game seven need to be a regulation game, a regulation victory.  There needs to be no bullshit allowed.  And even if there is, who gives a shit, because I don’t have a good feeling about it anyway.  So there.

Perhaps I need to bring back this video from last year.

Perhaps my friend Metstradamus said it best today:
“While I hope for a few more weeks of this, I’m prepared for whatever happens.”

That about says it.

Family Ties

I went to my first ever Ranger game in 1989.  It was a Sunday afternoon game against the Pittsburgh Penguins.  I went with my dad.

Five years later, the Rangers won their first Stanley Cup in 54 years.

The year after that, I met my friend Rob, who posts as @NotGlenSather on Twitter.  Sometimes, it seems like yesterday that I bummed a cigarette off him at the grease trucks at Rutgers.  But it was 18 friggin years ago.

We lost touch for a few years.  But it was only telling that when we did reconnect, it was at Rangers Opening Night in 2000.

We managed, since 2000, to go to a game or run into each at a game once a year.  Then after 2011, I sat in his seats, but didn’t see him.  We also never attended a playoff game together.

That changed Monday.

I get a message from him this morning: I have an extra ticket to the game tonight.

I was hesitant.  In fact, when he did his playoff “lottery” for his tickets (where those of us who buy tickets from him during the season get playoff “rights” in a sense), I was secretly glad that I missed the first round.

Not because I don’t appreciate the first round.  It’s just that I have a HELLACIOUS record against the Capitals.  Not just any games, but specifically playoff games.  I’ve been two Rangers playoff games in my lifetime prior to Monday night – both losses to the team from our nation’s capitol.

I was apprehensive.  I don’t consider myself the most superstitious person, but when it comes to playoff hockey, I’ll do what I have to do in order to ensure a win.  If that means I have to sit in the bathroom and follow the game on Twitter, I’ll do it.  And NotGlen and I usually have a ritual to meet at Cafe 31 before every game we attend together.  But even NotGlen wanted to change things up.

Anything, I suppose, to ensure a win.

He asked me to pick the meeting place.  Foley’s on 33rd St was my first guess.  After splitting some nachos and beers, we headed to the Garden.

Funny thing was, NotGlen started to number what he did differently that day.  Instead of Cafe 31, he went to Foley’s.  Instead of carrying his jersey with him, he had it on when we met.  He even admitted to taking a different set of stairs at the train station.  I don’t have a ritual for games.  I just go.

So off we went.

The playoffs are really a night for star sighting.  It was also high comedy from two friends who have known each other forever.

NotGlen and I met after I bummed a cigarette off him.  I was a teenager.  I’m a firm believer in the family we choose.  We’re children of the ’80s.  We’re like brother and sister.

We grew up with ’80s icons like Michael J Fox, John McEnroe and even Tom Hanks.  They were all in attendance at the game.  Matt Harvey from the Mets was born in 1989.  I guess that technically makes him a child of the ’80s.

I don’t remember a lot of the game.  That’s because it was mostly a blur.  I also probably screamed some obscenities, but I also hid for the last 1:40 or so of the game.

I guess the superstitions started in the ’80s, when I became a Rangers fan.  Back then I was only going to about one game a year.  I would do things on game days, wear certain shirts or clothes.  I would always be disappointed if the Rangers lost.

The stakes are higher.  They went into Monday’s game down 2-0 in the series.  They are now tied 2-2, winning two critical home games.  Both not without its hiccups.

Since I had attended two losses in the playoffs, I didn’t want to see what would happen if I went.  NotGlen, well, his superstitions certainly surpass mine.  And I guess he wanted to throw caution to the wind, getting some good karma in the Garden once again.

And I’m so glad I went.

 

Every now and then, say, what the fuck. What the fuck brings you freedom. Opportunity makes your future.

The Rangers need a little bit of “what the fuck” on their team right now. Maybe, just maybe, our familial tie got us to that point.

Make Love, Not War

Mets 50th Anniversary CollectionI have what we deem as a “Christmas birthday.”  While everyone on planet Earth (okay, maybe just **here**) is prepping for the holidays and transition into the New Year, a day celebrating me is thrown in the mix there.

Being a sports fan, it’s never been out of the realm of possibility to get a sports-related gift to celebrate.  This year, the big “get” was the Mets 50th Anniversary DVD collection, which was kind of a family gift (my husband has had his eye on this sucker for a WHILE now).

I was super excited to see that in the collection, one of my favorite Mets videos, An Amazin’ Era (a chronicle of the first 25 seasons of the Mets), was available on the DVD set.  Super excited probably doesn’t get it – super-duper is more like it.  Of course, the DVD was extended to include the 1986 championship and the NL East run in 1988…something that was a “To Be Continued…” part of the original VHS.  And yes, I still have that thing somewhere.

I often take for granted that the Mets won a championship in my lifetime.  Sometimes though I imagine what life might be like if I didn’t have that year.  If watching the 1969 highlights is all we’d have for going all the way…but so many close calls, like the 1973, 1988 and even the late 90s.

Mark Messier 1994Then the night my husband and I watched the video, he fell asleep, and I was there in insomnia land.  Not only did I get to relive the Mets championship years, I got to see a retrospective on the New York Rangers 1993-94 Stanley Cup run.

I guess I’m a little more than fortunate when it comes to my teams.  Some fan bases have never seen a championship in their lifetime.  I’ve seen one for each of my teams.

I said last year that the team closest to a championship would have been the Rangers.  It’s only cruel and unusual punishment that they have not been able to drop the puck this year.

The Mets seem to be making some moves to ensure that in the future, championships will be dancing in our heads.

I suppose it is only fitting that when I look at the last time the Mets had “relevance,” it was 2006…life would be so much different if they were able to make it the World Series, let alone win it.  Yet, 2006 was a long time ago.

The same could be said for my third team, the Jets.  Two years in a row, they did not make it to the playoffs despite high expectations.  The two years PRIOR to that though, they made it as far as they could go without going the furthest, if that makes sense.

I’m trying to take the football victories where I can.   I can be happy for my friends and family who root for different teams.  My husband is a big Seahawks fan.  We even went to see them play the Jets in Seattle in November.  He was in Hawks Heaven…I’m typically found in Jets hell.

Today, though, I heard that while Mike Tannenbaum was let go, Rex Ryan is staying on  I really don’t know how to feel about it.  I know the buck stops there, but ultimately, how many times can changing the coaching staff really help?

My thought was…I was brought back so many good memories of having my teams winning in my lifetime.  This is a gift I not only cherish but also do not take for granted.

Yet, I don’t have the warm fuzzies with the Jets, except maybe the time from 2009 and 2010.  Some other years there, but I guess deep down I knew it just wasn’t their year.  I had such high expectations only to be dashed at the last moment.  I would then have higher hopes for the future, only to get pooped on later.

My point is wondering why I stick around.  Sometimes, especially after seasons like this, make me wonder why I just don’t go root for another team.  I wonder if things will ever change.  I doubt they will.  Yet, I don’t want to be that fan who gave up when it was so close.

I could only imagine what it was like for people like my dad, who stuck around with the Rangers though they didn’t win till he was a long-time fan and was even lecturing me on the prospect of the Rangers not making it past game six in the 1994 Eastern Conference final versus the Devils.  It became evident, watching the highlights, that the blueshirts were “going for it all” that year.  They wouldn’t have had a better chance after that season.

The Mets started to fall apart after 1986.  I sometimes wonder why I stick around with such inept management and even more inept finances.  Then I think there’s no way they can be that bad forever, right?

But I have the championships from those teams.

Then there’s the Jets.  There are certainly bigger Gang Green fans than I am, but we explain it all away when love a team, we make excuses but the reality is…we all want the same thing.

To survive the war together.

So when people ask me why I am a sports fan, it’s the prospect of winning it all…that’s one thing.  It’s the surviving of it together.  It’s the experience of it together.

I named my first Mets blog “My Summer Family,” after a line in the movie Fever Pitch, which is what Jimmy Fallon’s character says about his Red Sox family.  He later said that he wanted to be involved with something bigger than himself.  It’s why I’ve stuck around with the Mets, the Rangers and the Jets.  To experience that feeling again.  I’ve been fortunate to experience it with two of my teams.

I guess I have to believe there is some payoff at the end.  That during the wars, and the battles, we stick around for the love of the team.

The love of the team though trumps most of the wars and battles forged though.  It’s part of our life, it’s part of our culture.

It’s part of who we are.

It Gets Better

It really makes me angry when I hear people compare the New York Rangers 2011-12 team to the Mets of 2006.  Two teams I have a kinship with…two teams that have absolutely nothing to do with one another besides the fact that I root hard for them.

This Ranger team has the makings of a dynasty to come, and each year go far into the playoffs, and perhaps win it all.  This is nothing like 2006, for me, since I (like many other Mets fans) were waiting for the other shoe to drop…turns out, it was Bigfoot’s boot that dropped then.

But seriously — one year wonder versus the making of a strong unit.  Big difference.

But I’m here to say…it gets better, Ranger fans.  We had a lot of fun, and I don’t want to focus on the fact that we’re rooting for a meteor now…I want to focus on what we’re doing to move ahead and what we’re looking forward to, and what our best memories were for 2012.

Yes.  It gets better Ranger fans, and I’ll be talking about it with numerous fans tomorrow night on my dial-in show for Gal For All Seasons.  Be to sure listen or dial-in!

The Only Constant Is Change

Gabby the Ranger bear held this sign as a I ran the NYC Half in March. They both had a good run, but the sign is now retired!

I lost my job last September. I’ve not had a lot of luck finding a new one.

My lease is up next month. My management company hasn’t been cooperative in negotiating a new one (or rather one that’s not the cost of an elevator doorman building) so I may have to move.

Last weekend, I took a road trip to Toronto where my bus 5:45 am bus didn’t show up, and then to add injury to insult, I literally fell out of the shuttle van when I did return to Buffalo, and sprained my ankle.  Not good when you’re training for the NYC Marathon.  (I’ll be fine soon enough but HEY UNIVERSE LAY OFF THE FUN STUFF FOR A WHILE.)

I came back from the trip to watch the hockey playoffs at a sports bar, where I proceeded to drink so much in violent reaction that I had a violent reaction…right in front of the bar on the sidewalk. (I’m also swearing off drinking too…until the Mets give me good reason to).

My husband then announces he’s passing a kidney stone, but hey, he’s done it before and he’s prepared for the discomfort.

Perhaps it’s fitting that as I sit with an Ace bandage wrapped on my ankle, and my husband literally passes his stone during the Rangers game last night.

This also happened during the same week that my blender sputtered and sparked, shorting out my entire wall, while I made my morning smoothie this week, then my ear buds shorted and only one side works (#FirstWorldProblems).

Perhaps you can tell that it hasn’t exactly been my year (week or month, really, either).

To recap, I’m unemployed, I’m losing my apartment lease, I can’t run when I’m officially training for the NYC Marathon because of a freak accident in a fucked up road trip, and then the Rangers lose a hard fought and gritty playoffs to the Devils.

If there is a hockey god, I hope there’s a punch line to this cruel, cruel joke.

Someone once told me that “the point of sports is to WIN.” That’s not true. It’s to “entertain.”  You can only ROOT for your team to win. And hope they do. Some fans aren’t as lucky. Some are.

And yes, I believe a Yankee fan once told me that thing above.

One of the bright spots or distractions for my shitty ass life this year has been the Rangers. This has been odd for a few reasons. I freely admit that I gave up on hockey a few years ago. Then ironically, the Mets brought me back…in 2007.

The first game I attended was Rangers vs Devils as the Garden in December 2007. If I remember correctly, Brendan Shanahan scored an OT goal for the winner. I’d forgotten how much fun hockey could be.

I was, as they say, “back.”

But it hasn’t been an easy time. While the Rangers have been consistently growing, the Mets continued to insist they could pull my heart out of my ass, the Jets came within one game of the Super Bowl two years in a row only to miss the playoffs entirely last year, and even the Rangers didn’t make the playoffs one year in that span.

They say the only constant in life is change. Well, the only constant in my life is sports heartbreak.

But I wouldn’t want it any other way.

I started Gal For All Seasons this year as a distraction. I wanted to write about more than just baseball and Mets. I figured one of my teams might give me something positive to write about, and boy did it ever. I don’t remember exactly *when* I started to feel like this would be a fun time for the Rangers but I do know that I felt it.

I even said on a podcast that I felt like anything less than an Eastern Conference Final visit would be a failure.

Well, be careful what you wish for.

And there were a few miracles along the way.

When MSG and Time Warner weren’t playing nice, I changed my cable provider. SO I COULD WATCH HOCKEY. Five, six years ago that shit wasn’t happening.  I just dealt with not watching.

I started a podcast based on this blog, but my hockey shows were one of the highest rated on my channel (**shameless plug**). I met a lot of new wonderful people. I started to embrace MSG as my second or third home, depending on what time of the season it was.

I even had a newfound respect for Martin Brodeur, whom I’m relentless in abusing, but in that he gets it, he gets the rivalry. Kind of like Larry Jones, who once thanked New York sports fans for reminding him of his name.

My friend Solly told me he didn’t want me to be sad (funny, how Devils fans were the people talking me down from the ledge). But I’m not. Well, not anymore.

I’m so excited about the years to come.

The only constant in life may be change. But Ranger fans take note: what’s going on here is something to be excited about, to be happy about. A young core to ride for a few years, who are the heart and soul of the team. A tough as nails coach. A legend in the making goalie.

Yes, this team may kill me someday. But I feel like real soon, I may die a happy woman.

Let’s not forget how much fun this ride was this year and let’s move forward to the next chapter!

STICK SALUTE!

I AM A RANGER!!!!

The Five Rangers Of Loss And Grief

Thus, the launch of 50+ retweets and several “favorited” and close to 800 followers now for me.  Thank you to the @thenyrangers twitter feed.

Let me just say, that was a tough tweet to write.  But when I started to see so many people still so upbeat and positive after the roller coaster of a game five…I was inspired.

Mostly, though, it was me.  I hate how people are comparing this to 1994 when this is nothing of the sort.  True, comparisons will happen but that’s just being lazy, in my opinion.  But I came to a few conclusions tonight.

One was that while the Mets torture leads me to post-traumatic Mets disorder, the Rangers are the Five Rangers of Loss and Grief.  Yet in the real scale of the Kubler-Ross schematic, I’m already at acceptance.  I’m at the acceptance level of whatever happens, happens.

If that means the Devils win, so be it.  I don’t have to like it, but I didn’t exactly set my sights that high.  I did say that they needed to make the Eastern Conference Finals, that would be enough.  I didn’t say anything about winning it, and maybe that was my flaw. My expectations might not have been high enough.

But I was inspired by the fans.

I don’t want to bring up 1994, because that was then, and this is now.  But I will say this: during the conference finals and the Cup finals that year, my dad and I picked up a lot of key phrases that we still use to this day.

Not. To. Worry.

No doubts.

JD from Section 518 was right: it’s not over yet.  But you know what?  No matter what the outcome of this series, I’m extremely proud of this team, and I’m excited about the future from this core.

I’m not in denial.  I’m not angry.  I’m not bargaining.  Not depressed.  But I’m at the acceptance level.  And I’m accepting any fate from Friday’s game.

Even to the point that I’m not going to the Mets game on Friday, just so I can watch Game Six.

Cause I’m not missing anything.  Even a loss.

I bleed Ranger blue.

That Was Yesterday

A lot can transpire in 18 years.  A newborn then can now not only possess a license but can vote and is graduating high school.  That same child’s parent may be wondering where the time has gone, as they give their child the keys to the family car or signs the first tuition check.  Someone may be planning their 20 year reunion from high school. A loved one may have passed away, you may be pulling six figures in a job where you were a lowly analyst 18 years ago.  You may be living in a different part of the country.  Or you may have just stayed put from where you grew up, but you don’t recall having a 36-inch waist 18 years ago.

Eighteen years ago, the New York Rangers ended their 54-year Stanley Cup drought by defeating the Vancouver Canucks in a heated seven-game series.  Prior to that, the Rangers defeated the rival New Jersey Devils, also in a heated seven-game series, in the Eastern Conference Finals, where the word “Matteau” is a dirty word to most Devils fans to this day, though they themselves have had success in winning three cups in response while the Rangers have won none.  In that time period, the rivalries shifted from Rangers/Flyers and Rangers/Isles to Rangers/Devils.

Tonight kicks off the Rangers and Devils duking it out in the Eastern Conference Finals again, where winner continues to the Stanley Cup finals, and the other team goes home to shave.

To this Ranger fan, the only thing that remains similar to that series 18 years ago is that Martin Brodeur is still the goalie for the Devils. And even he’s 18 years older.  And that’s about it.  The ownership has changed for the Rangers, the coaches have changed, the team has certainly changed.

Sure, there are similarities.  But it’s NOT the same.

The Devils have won three cups since the last time these two teams faced off in the finals.  The storied guys that helped them on those runs with names like Scott Stevens and Ken Daneyko are long since retired.  The last cup was in 2003.  That was 10 years ago.  Eighteen years ago, the Devils were playing in the Swamp.  Now they play in a nice new arena called Prudential Center.

The Rangers have visited the Eastern Conference Finals one other time since then, and it was lackluster.  They’ve since had their storied guys not only retire, but their numbers are now enshrined.  Names like Richter, Messier, Leetch and Graves are now hanging from the rafters at the Garden, where the Rangers have stayed but the refurnishing of it makes it seem like a brand new arena.

The 1994 team was full of mercenaries and then there was Brian Leetch and Mike Richter, who came up with the team.  Neil Smith, then-GM, thought it prudent to trade away the future and try to recapture some of the Edmonton Oilers success.  This ultimately led to changes at the top, such as Glen Sather coming in and trying to do the same recipe.  Until he realized it no longer worked.

Apparently, there is some pact with Sather and James Dolan that we’re not privy to that will only happen if the Rangers make the “big” finals.  Because of that, Sather started to focus less on the free agent mercenaries and allowed the growth movement to start from within.  Guys like Lundqvist, Callahan, Girardi, sprinkled with guys like Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik.  It’s no longer Mike Keenan but John Tortorella.  Dave Checketts isn’t pissing off his talent, but it’s now

True, those guys in 1994 were very hard working.  But they were mostly established.  Messier had won several championships.  He was the Captain of all Captains.  Callahan wears his “C” with pride, but he believes in the team work ethic that clearly trickles to the rest of the team.

To think that this is some sort of “revenge” match-up, to think this is something of a “torch passing” of a fat overrated goalie to the future of goaltending, diminishes what this series is all about.  To call this is a revenge series is laughable because, I don’t know call me crazy, isn’t three cups in an eight year span one that says, “Hey, we’re not so bad either guys.”

These are two teams that have worked very hard to get to the finals, and will work harder to get to the next level.

To me, the differences are clear.  Yet most of all, 18 years ago was a long long time ago.  Nine years ago was long long time ago.  Then was then.  This is now.

Upping the Ante

Unwittingly, I made my life just a tad more difficult that it should.

Never mind that my sports teams forever torture me in way or another.  I guess it’s all about character building.  And let’s just say that if character were a quality that paid me a lot of money, I’d be a millionaire several times over.

Yet, I said in one of my videocasts that to me, if the Rangers didn’t make the Eastern Conference Finals, I’d consider the season a failure.

This was in Round One.

It didn’t look like, or at least maybe there was a slightest possibility, that the Devils would not make the finals.  I mean, weren’t the Flyers supposed to be this juggernaut of a team?

Marty must have lost a few pounds I guess.  Or the Flyers forgot he’s easily distracted by a good barbecue.  Or maybe he just didn’t take the cheesesteaks.

Son of beech.  Sheet.

So now?  I’ve upped the ante.  Simply because I don’t want to hear it.

The Rangers ARE the best team in the Eastern Conference.

Yeah, there I said it.

However, it doesn’t matter.  NOW is the time to prove it.  Two series of game sevens isn’t good, but then again, extra added rest usually doesn’t help in setting momentum or keeping it up after a few days off.  Just ask the Detroit Tigers in 2006 or the Los Angeles Kings in a few days.

The next few days are going to be interesting.  And if I was keeping people entertained on Twitter or on YouTube these past few days, just you wait to see how I react to this series.

If I remember my name, I’ll consider it a success.

My friend Rob told me last night that I have balls.  I won’t tell you why, but it’s for good reason.  But let’s just note that I’ve upped the ante.

I’m officially nonplussed about baseball right now.  My dad and I have said for years that baseball season starts when our team is out of the hockey playoffs and that hockey season starts when the baseball team is officially eliminated.  I have a Sunday afternoon game on the TV right now, and I couldn’t care less about it.  Sure, I like that the Mets are winning.

But hockey has upped the ante for me.  Officially, I’m all in.

Be sure to follow me on Twitter, @Coopz22.  If nothing else, it will make you laugh.