Tuesday, May 13, 2014

And If This Is Where I Leave You...

A little less than one week ago, the New York Rangers were pummeled at home by the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 4 of their Best-of-Seven Eastern Conference Semi-Final Series.  The win in Game 4 gave the Penguins a 3-1 lead in the series.  It appeared to be all over but the handshake. 

Late in the regular season the Rangers traded their captain Ryan Callahan to the Tampa Bay Lightning for Martin St. Louis, coincidentally the Lightning's captain and a future Hall-of-Famer.  St. Louis made no secret of his desire to come to New York and perhaps his enthusiasm overwhelmed him more than just a little upon his arrival.  While not dreadful down the stretch of the regular season, he bore as little a resemblance to the player who has won the Hart Trophy two times as the NHL's Most Valuable Player as East St. Louis, Illinois bears to St. Louis, Missouri, which is to say none at all. 

The Rangers outlasted Philadelphia in a seven-game slugfest in the first round of the playoffs with little to no contribution on the scoresheet from St. Louis.  His drought continued through the first four games of the Pittsburgh series.  But just as fans and pundits alike were prepared to throw dirt on the Rangers and declare their season over, something tragic occurred.  And when it did, it did what real-life events tend to do to non-real-life events such as hockey playoffs, it put it in perspective. 

At or about the time the Rangers landed in Pittsburgh on Thursday to prepare for Friday night's fifth game, Martin St. Louis was informed that his mom - who was only sixty-three years young - had died suddenly.  St. Louis flew home to Montreal to be with his father, his sister and the rest of his grieving family.  His dad accepted his son's condolences and then told Martin to get on a plane back to Pittsburgh and play Friday night with his Rangers teammates in an effort to prolong their season.  St. Louis abided his father's wishes.  He flew back to Pittsburgh and rejoined his teammates.  Friday night, the Rangers played inspired hockey.  They defeated the Penguins 5-1 and in doing so forced Game Six at the Garden on Sunday. 

Shortly after 7:00 pm on Mother's Day, Martin St. Louis and the Rangers fought like hell to ward off elimination again.  Less than four minutes into the game, with his dad and his sister at the Garden cheering him on, St. Louis scored.  The Rangers never relinquished the lead.  Their 3-1 win knotted the series at three wins apiece and set the stage for tonight's "win or go home" game in Pittsburgh.

Whether the Rangers complete the comeback tonight I could not hope to know.  I know that they have never come back to win a Best-of-Seven series in which they trailed three games to one.  I know also that they have never defeated the Penguins in a play-off series.  Simply put, history would not appear to be on their side.  

I shall root for them tonight as I do every night.  And win or lose tonight, I shall wake up tomorrow as woke up today - a New York Rangers fan.  I am my father's son I suppose.  For while what happens on the ice is of paramount importance, sometimes what goes on off of the ice is pretty damn important too. 

A lesson Martin St. Louis has reminded all of us who root for the Broadway Blueshirts over the course of these past several days...


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