Over the last decade and a half, the New York Rangers have been an extremely successful and consistent NHL franchise.
While their rebuild post-Henrik Lundqvist lasted just a couple of seasons, the Rangers have been consistent at playing in the Stanley Cup playoff.
Unfortunately, their dream of hoisting Lord Stanley’s cup has been dashed by one team repeatedly over recent years.
The Tampa Bay Lightning has been able to get the better of the Blueshirts no matter the goalie or stars on either side over the last decade. In 2014-15, the Lightning knocked off the Rangers in seven games in the Eastern Conference Finals. If that memory still hurts the New York faithful, there was always the series that took place just four months ago, when the back-to-back cup champions blanketed the Ranger attack and won the Eastern Conference Finals in six games.
Although some of the names changed over the eight-year difference in postseason losses, the feeling of bitter disappointment rings true throughout the current roster.
“We know what they did to us last year. I know for myself it stuck in my head for the summer. I think working towards knowing that and keeping it in the back of your head and working towards that first night is always exciting.” K’Andre Mille told AMNY after practice Monday.
The Rangers have a chance to enact a little revenge on the Lightning when the two teams face off at Madison Square Garden to open the 2022-23 NHL season. There is some good news for the Rangers when they open up the season against their playoff rival. Tampa was a pedestrian 0-2-1 against New York in the regular season last year.
Still, the regular season success was little comfort for the team after their Game 6, season-ending loss in June.
“How we went out last year, I wouldn’t want it any other way on who we play first this year.” Miller later added.
K’Andre Miller is expected to make an even larger jump than his second season in which he became one of the brightest young defensemen in the NHL. Another defenseman on the team has a different approach to handling the pressure of facing a playoff rival on opening night.
“We want to win. It’s game one of 82. You want to put your best foot forward to start and get rolling early. We’re not really focused on the team, we just want to come away with a win.” Adam Fox said on Monday.
Fox’s sentiment was reiterated by the Rangers’ head coach.
“It doesn’t make a bit of difference,” Gallant said. “It was a great run last year and it ended with Tampa but that doesn’t make a difference.”
Whether the team thinks there is a difference or not in who they play to open the season, the aura of Tampa Bay and New York will only grow if the two teams play to their potential. The complete story won’t be told right away on Tuesday night, but it will give the Rangers a chance to announce themselves that last season’s surprising Stanley Cup playoff run was no fluke.