New York Rangers fans are thanking their team and showing love for the tremendous spirit shown throughout the season on blogs and in the streets today clinching the Eastern Conference after a win over the Philadelphia Flyers, 5-3. First place has become a rare occurrence having only won two postseason series since 1998. This season has all the fixings of a Stanley Cup Championship.
Owner James Dolan made a prediction at a postgame news conference in January and proclaimed the Rangers were Cup contenders. “I think we’re pretty close to getting that back.” The Rangers are on their way.
Sitting in the No. 1 seed for the first time since 1994 when Mark Messier led the Blueshirts to the Championship 18 years ago, this will be their fifth venture to claim the most coveted trophy in sports. Leading the NHL standings with 109 points, the Rangers have assured home-ice advantage for all Easter conference games at least until the Stanley Cup finals.
The tumultuous win over the Atlantic division-rival Flyers is an indication of the fight in this New York team. Blowing a 4-0 lead, the heat was on to win at any cost. No brotherly love here. The Rangers have swept the series with the Flyers, including the 2-1 victory in the Winter Classic at Citizens Bank Park. “It feels good to beat them again, and complete the deal,” Gaborik said. “With the Winter Classic and all, we’ve been kind of linked together with them for a while.”
Vezina finaslist Henrik Lundqvist had his career-best 39th victory. Despite a puck hit to his hand/wrist in the third period, King Henry still made 13 saves on 14 shots. Handling the stick was tricky, but his conviction to win led the Rangers to a 5-3 win with 37 saves. He addressed the injury in a tweet this morning in good humor; Lundqvist tweeted: “To all goalies: Stop pucks with part of the arm that’s protected..I did not last night. Might have to tell a rookie to carry my bags today..”
Lundqvist has allowed two goals or fewer in 41 of his 60 starts, and when facing 30 or more saves, he is 11-5-1 with a 2.03 GAA, .942 save percentage posted two shutouts. As a three-time finalist, Hank is enjoying a career year, yet he faces tough competition in Los Angeles Kings goalie Jonathan Quick and Phoenix Coyotes Mike smith for the honor. To ensure his readiness and rest, he may sit out the remainder of the season until the playoffs begin. But Lundqvist is taking it all in stride tweeting after the game, “Really proud to clinch first spot in Eastern conference. It’s been a fun year so far, I hope the best is still to come..”
The deed is done and now it’s rest for much of the team. Marian Gaborik netted his 41st goal of the season, Captain Callahan with his 29th goal of the season and the consistency Coach Tortorella can count on. Being chased all season as the team to beat in the East, their philosophy all season was to take each game, one at a time.
The Rangers announced that tickets for the first two rounds of the 2012 Stanly Cup playoffs will go on sale Wednesday, April 4th at 12:00 EST. Limited tickets will be available on newyorkrangers.com, ticketmaster.com. A maximum of four tickets per person per game may be purchased to make tickets available to as many fans as possible.
Heidi has been a Rangers fan since the Gretzky years. While focusing on The Blue Line and hockey’s stalwart defenders, Heidi also connects with the human side of hockey. Follow her on Twitter, Facebook, or at her blog Don’t Cross My Blue Line.