Late Friday night/early Saturday morning, the 2013-14 NHL season was put to rest with Los Angeles Kings defenseman Alec Martinez’s double-OT goal against the New York Rangers. The extra time heroics also ended a tremendously entertaining and memorable Stanley Cup Playoffs even for those who label hockey a niche sport. There were the Finals participants Kings and Rangers roaring back from 3-0 and 3-1 series deficits against the Sharks and Penguins, respectively. Lest we forget Angry Ward’s Minnesota Wild gaining the second round (gamely falling to the defending Cup champs Black Hawks in 7) after their own seven-game series victory over the Avalanche. And there were the President’s Trophy (barf!) winning Boston Bruins who were no-shows in Games 6 and 7 versus the hated Canadiens. Things may have aligned correctly for the Rangers run to the Finals, but make no mistake about it, they dispatched two of the biggest cry-baby franchises in the Penguins and Canadiens on their own merit.
To regular Rangers fans of MTM one other thing ended the other night much to their delight despite the loss and serves as little consolation. I have poked and prodded you all about Henrik Lundqvist, his nickname, the “King of No Cups” picture, and his playoff failures. When I’m wrong, I say so–Sorry to you all! This guy would have been my vote for the Conn Smythe Trophy even in defeat but it’s hard to do so when, no fault of your own, your team goes down in five games. The King (can’t believe I just said that), as steely as he played in elimination games, was infinitely more unbelievable in the Finals as L.A. simply wore his teammates down in the first two periods of every game and dominated the third period like Godzilla on Tokyo. Lundqvist was the dunk-tank clown without the vitriol (he’s a class act) and formed, for the most part, a force field in front of the bulls eye that was the goal line directly under his multi-million dollar arse. Henry deserves every bit of those dollars playing in front of a team lacking a true shut down defensemen. What could the guy accomplish with a Chara-type in front of him? How about a “heavy” body or two on the forward lines? Not just big bodies but bigs that play a heavy, nasty game with attitude. The Rangers just seemed like a real good bunch of guys you want to have a beer with but none you would fear in a bar room scrap.
Despite the roster’s shortcomings, Lundqvist took this team on his back and almost singlehandedly pulled off one of the greatest feats in all of sports. The Stanley Cup Playoffs are not the same grind as it was back in the day with back-to-back games during the first two games in each city, but physically and emotionally draining just the same and “The King” showed lodes of heart. It’s up to Glen Sather to refine all the King’s horses and all the King’s men to get Henrik to the Finals again.