The New York Rangers had to know just how close they were. The red eyes and the crushing disappointment in their dressing room following the Los Angeles Kings' Game 5 win suggested as much. It was the reaction of a team that realized they had just pushed the Kings to the edge.
The Kings were absolutely exhausted following their Stanley Cup-clinching victory; it showed in a more subdued celebration than 2012. If the Rangers had somehow extended the series and sent it back to Madison Square Garden, there’s no telling how the series would have ended.
Minutes after the game, Kings captain Dustin Brown managed to put into words how his team felt.
“I’m emotionally spent like I’ve never been before,” he said.
It makes for a difficult summer for the Rangers, who have to turn the page on an exciting but ultimately unsuccessful Stanley Cup bid. Here’s a look at what’s ahead this offseason for the Rangers.
What happened in 2013-14
Points: 96 (No. 12)
Goals per game: 2.61 (No. 18)
Goals against per game: 2.32 (No. 4)
Power play: 18.2 percent (No. 15)
Penalty kill: 85.3 (No. 3)
Corsi for percentage: 52.9 percent (No. 5)
Expectations for this season: In our ESPN.com NHL season preview of the Rangers, I picked them to finish second in the Metropolitan Division, as did Katie Strang. That part we got right. Nobody on our preseason panel, however, picked them to advance to the Stanley Cup finals.
Did they meet them? Considering the Bruins were the heavy favorites and teams like the Pittsburgh Penguins, Detroit Red Wings and Ottawa Senators other popular preseason Eastern Conference picks, it’s safe to say the Rangers exceeded expectations. Especially under a new coach.
Front office offseason priorities
1. Use a compliance buyout on Brad Richards. This won’t be easy but it’s more about math than performance. The Rangers simply can’t risk the penalty that will come with Richards' potential retirement because of the cap recapture rule.