When maximum effort is given and the opponent is superior, failure - while not acceptable - is not shameful. The losers can go out with their heads held high, knowing they went to the wall.
As the final seconds of the Rangers' 3-1 loss ticked down, Henrik Lundqvist buried his head in his hands at the bench. It was a poignant, heart-wrenching sight to behold. Of all the players in the New York organization, Hank should have been the one Blueshirt to leave this loss proudly. But he didn't. The King took responsibility, and later acknowledged that his team "didn't reach our top level and, when you play a team like Boston it's going to be tough to beat them."
The Swede has a penchant for understatement. Lundqvist was perhaps the lone Ranger playing to his potential in Game 5, but his errors in the earlier games of the series helped seal the team's fate. No one in blue can say that they left it all on the ice, and that is the atrocious aspect of this loss.
Last year's team had its issues but, by and large, lack of effort was not the cause of its downfall. Mismanagement of personnel, lack of depth on the blueline and the underperformance of the well-paid concluded that campaign ahead of its time. When you take those factors and add in a seeming unwillingness to pay the price to win and you have the grounds for the end of the 2013 Rangers.
Many questions remain, not the least of which being why John Tortorella has a job? But that and the rest are questions that should be asked another time. Game 5 brought the sun down on season yesterday afternoon, so just a few Late Hits:
*Don't get me wrong, Boston was a superior opponent. The Bruins have skill, depth and great coaching. But they opened the door a number of times over the series and the Blueshirts wouldn't/couldn't walk through.
*Marian Gaborik had the excuse of a shoulder tear for his ineptness in crunch time last spring. Wonder what Rick Nash's explanation will be. Nash looked perfectly healthy, and completely out of his league.
*The Rangers essentially ice two fourth lines and neither one could match up to Boston's bottom bunch. Thornton, Colin's kid and the other NHL Dan from Welland are a stable, well-made unit that has found chemistry and a championship. (I refuse to call them the Merlot line, real men don't drink any f-ing merlot.) Neither Newbury, Haley and Dorsett nor Boyle, Pyatt and Zuccarello have any cohesion and they won't win a championship. At least not in this league.
*No idea why Dorsett decided to go with Thornton, it didn't particularly spark his team and he nearly got his ass kicked. But, I guess, at least he was willing to go with one of the toughest guys in the league. He just has to cut out the dumb penalties, he's lucky Torts likes him better than Sean Avery. Otherwise he'd already be looooooong gone.
*Speaking of, Del Zastrous.
*Thought Moore held up well against the physical pounding of the Boston forecheck. Kid has a good future ahead.
*Great to see Stepan stay in the game despite being blooded early and often. Sad not to see much of him offensively.
*Two games in a row Boyle stepped into the slot on the power play and the Rangers scored. It's about time he listened to most everyone and put his gargantuan body in front.
*Defended Cally just the other day, explaining how he is a very good third line winger and not someone who should be counted on to score. But when he has chances, he needs to bury them. And he didn't.
*PHW Three Stars:
3-Tuukka Rask - 28 saves.
2-Milan Lucic - no points.
1-Gregory Campbell - two assists.
Scotty Hockey Three Stars:
3-Campbell - Toughness and two tallies.
2-Rask - That third period blocker save on Cally's breakaway won the game.
1-Hank - Without the King this game was 4-0 Boston in the first period.