It’s less than 24-hours since the Kings sent the Blackhawks to the 2014 postseason graveyard, but the pundits have already coronated the team from La La Land as the 2014 Stanley Cup Champs.
A quick glance around the national media websites indicates a very heavy Los Angeles bias. Kings in five. Kings in six. Kings in seven.
Ummm, guys? There’s sort of another team playing in the Stanley Cup Final.
And even the so-called experts who had the decency to acknowledge the Blueshirts as more than just a speed bump on the Los Angeles Freeway only give the team from New York a puncher’s chance if Henrik Lundqvist stands on his head.
While this might be frustrating for some Rangers fans, I’m reveling in it. Disrespect can be a very motivating factor in sports. Each time I hear that the Western Conference Finals was for the Stanley Cup, I feel more & more confident about the Blueshirts chances. And it sounds like the Rangers players are more than aware of their red-headed step child status in the Final.
Alain Vigneault (via Newsday)…
“We know not a lot of people are going to give us a chance. I like our chances…We’ve really rallied around ourselves.”
Brad Richards on how he feels about being the underdog (via New York Post)…
“Do I feel that or do you feel that way? I think when you get to the Stanley Cup final, you have a 50-50 chance to win it,” Richards said. “That’s just the way I’ve seen it my whole career. Since you get into the NHL, you know how hard it is to win. And, really, the underdog thing and the favorite thing, it really doesn’t mean anything in the locker room. You just have to go out and play.”
“I don’t think throughout this whole playoffs that a lot of people were picking us to do anything. We kept with it, we kept believing in our room that we could keep winning, and that’s what we’ve done. And that’s not going to change in our room.”
There really is nothing better than when your team employs an “us against the world” mentality. This team is going to be spitting nails by the time the puck drops if the Ranger hate continues. And don’t think for a second the Blueshirts are afraid of the Kings.
While the media has been clamoring about Los Angeles’ depth, what they fail to realize is that the Rangers have been rolling 12 forwards the entire year to much success.
When the Drew Doughty receives constant praise for his two-way game, what’s ignored is that Vigneault has four lines of speed that Kings defensemen such as Matt Greene, Robyn Regehr and Willie Mitchell can’t keep up with.
And while former Ranger Marian Gaborik is being drooled over, Rangers defensemen such as Ryan McDonagh, Dan Girardi and Marc Staal know that once you get physical with him, he runs and hides.
So here’s my message to the analysts, keep the disrespect coming. The Rangers have thrived on adversity all season. They’ve dealt with a new coaching staff, a brutal start to the season, the loss of loved ones, the exporting of their captain and a 3-1 postseason deficit. If you think a little criticism and doubt is going to derail this team, think again. This is the same team that’s 7-2 since being boo’d off their home ice after a debilitating Game 4 loss against the Penguins.
Vigneault has done a masterful of exploiting whatever hardship is thrown his team’s way, and you can be sure he’ll do the same here.
Oh yeah, the Rangers also have this going for them…