In September, as NHL training camps were getting underway, NHL prognosticators put out their 2013 - 2014 preseason rankings.
But perhaps the most telling ranking was the good folks in Las Vegas, who had the New York Rangers around 20/1 for Stanley Cup victory. Now, the naysayers and non-believers, have the opportunity to be silenced as the Blueshirts are one win away from their fifth Stanley Cup Finals appearance since 1940 and 20 years since the historic Cup victory of 1994.
Truth be told, most thought the Rangers were done after falling behind 3 - 1 to the Pittsburgh Penguins, now they hope to reverse roles against the Montreal Canadiens.
What makes this Blueshirts squad so unique? It's a good roster, but not a flashy one. Quite simply, the Rangers have made it this far for much of the same reason they succeeded in 1994 - team unity and contributions from up and down the lineup.
Former backup netminder Glen Healy told Sirius XM Home Ice last week that the 1994 Rangers were unified in their hatred of former head coach Mike Keenan. This is not the case for the 2014 Rangers, as Head Coach Alain Vigneault is well respected by his players.
Today, oft-penalized forward Benoit Pouliot put it best to beat writers, there were times when he expected to be "glued" to the bench, but AV showed confidence in him and went right back to him.
This confidence has been exuded up and down the roster. Defender Ryan McDonagh has been playing more on the offensive side of the puck, while the grinders of Dom Moore, Brian Boyle and Derek Dorsett have played important minutes and made important offensive contributions.
The same goes for speedy winger Carl Hagelin, who is playing his best hockey as a New York Ranger.
All season, the Blueshirts have been a tight-knit locker room and while the deadline trade of Captain Ryan Callahan wasn't a popular one, the return of Martin St. Louis certainly was. "MSL" has been a tremendous veteran acquisition and it is highly unlikely the Rangers are in this position without him.
Yes, the unfortunate and tragic passing of his mother will contribute to the fairytale, but truth be told his presence has solidified the roster given a winning attitude that most of the Rangers have never experienced.
But before we start talking about championships, the Rangers have one more victory against a pesky Montreal team. The Blueshirts cannot allow the Habs to hang around or they will soon find themselves playing the role of the 2014 Penguins rather than the 2009 Penguins.
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