That thud you heard on Friday night was the Rangers' season coming to an end at star-packed Madison Square Garden. Their undefeated mark in Game 7s at home is now history. The aura of Lundqvist in elimination games is a thing of the past. As Tampa Bay captain Steven Stamkos said before the game on Friday when asked about the Rangers' penchant for winning Game 7s at home: “They have never played the Lightning.” Touche Steve, touche.
Tampa Bay was quicker, stronger and faster on Friday night and clearly outplayed the Rangers. The Lightning clearly deserve to be in the Stanley Cup Final.
Now we deal with the fallout of another Rangers season ending without the Stanley Cup being hoisted. Questions of how great Henrik Lundqvist really is? There have been some that have compared Lundqvist's career in New York to that of Patrick Ewing. I get it to an extent, but it is very difficult to compare hockey to basketball. Plus, Lundqvist is considered to be the greatest netminder in the world right now. There was never a point that Ewing was considered the best center when he was playing. There always seemed to be someone better then Patrick. Now, with that being said, the underlying point rings true. The Rangers need to get better and need to improve the talent level in the off-season. That falls on GM Glen Sather.
They will have to pay Derek Stepan and others who are restricted free agents. What do you do with Rick Nash? You are paying him to be a super-elite player, and he is good, he is just not that good. With the salary cap remaining flat, it might be time to see what you can get for Nash on the market. He gave you 42 goals in the regular season but only scored five goals in 19 postseason games. He is really good, but when the pressure is amped up he does not take his game to another level and that is the problem with Nash. I wanted him here and thought he was going to be that guy. The guy that was super-elite. The guy that would help bring the Stanley Cup back to Madison Square Garden. I have now come to the realization that he is not that guy and I don’t think he ever will be. If there is going to be a big change for the Rangers in the off-season, a major move should be centered around Nash.
I am not sure Sather would be willing to do that and I am not sure what the Rangers could get back. But one thing was very clear during the Tampa Series. The Rangers are not nearly explosive enough and they need more playmakers in order to try and reach their goal. It is going to be a long summer for the Rangers and questions will linger. What is McDonagh was completely healthy? What if Zuccarello did not suffer a concussion? The biggest question? Can they win paying Rick Nash what they are paying him if this is what he is in the postseason? I don’t think they can.
With the big paycheck come the big responsibility, Rick.