Last night was 18 years to the date when the Rangers and the Devils played in Game 5 of the 1994 Eastern Conference Finals. Last night was 18 years to the date that the New Jersey Devils came into Madison Square Garden and defeated the Rangers in a Game 5, leaving the Rangers fandom lamenting what could’ve been a memorable, historic Stanley Cup run. Last night was 18 years to the date that the Devils left MSG and went back across the Hudson with all the momentum, all the confidence and all the reason in the world to believe that they were going to the Stanley Cup Finals. That was 18 years ago…last night. It’s what happened 18 years ago today that I as a Rangers fan am banking on. 18 years ago today, the Messiah of the Rangers franchise, Captain Mark Messier, made the guarantee that not only Rangers fans, but hockey fans from every fandom still talk about. Mark Messier while talking to beat writers uttered the words that most coaches would hate to see, but as a fan I remember being pumped when I saw it in bold print on all of the NYC newspapers “We’ll Win Tonight.” It’s one thing to talk the talk, but Messier forever cemented his legend in hockey lore by putting up a Hat-Trick in a 4-2 Game 6 win in New Jersey. I’ve often spoken and written about Game 7 of the ’94 series being the greatest night in my fandom, but this Game 6 was a very close 2nd.
So, now the question is who is next? Which Rangers player is the next Messier, because that’s what we need. This situation, right here, right now is eerily similar to the series back in ’94, right down to the Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur. He was the Devils goalie back in ’94 just starting his Hall of Fame career, and now here he is at the cusp of ending his career with a chance to win the cup, but he to have a ghost that he has to shed. I believe, as amazing a career Martin Brodeur has had, he is somewhat haunted by that series back in ’94. He has only beaten the Rangers once in the playoffs (2006) and if it wasn’t for that loss in ’94, who knows what kind of dynasty the Devils could’ve built. But enough of the “what ifs” here’s where we are….the Rangers need a hero.
So who will it be? Captain Callahan played like a superhero in Game 5, it looked like he was going to will this team to a victory last night, but it just wasn’t meant to be. Will it be him? Maybe Gaborik who has all but disappeared completely in this series? How about Richards? A former Conn Smythe winner, it sure would be a great time to see that experience come out tomorrow night. Maybe it will be someone you don’t see coming? The budding speedster Kreider or a gritty SOB like Prust? One thing I know for sure is it can’t be Lundqvist, because he has gotten us here. He will be there when needed. I understand he let in one shit goal last night, but he’s been there for this team from the gate, so he will be there in Game 6. The Rangers need someone to put the puck in the net, and Lundqvist can’t do that.
Now I know that the Rangers are ahead of schedule and no one expected them to win the Eastern conference regular season, let alone make a serious Cup run, but now we are here and it’s the Devils; WE CAN’T LOSE TO THE DEVILS!! It is not allowed. The Rangers history used to be “1940!” and “54 Years!” but that was pre-’94. Now it’s “Remember ’94″ and “Believe” because they’ve done it before. We need to call on Graves, Richter, Leetch and the Messiah (not Jesus, Messier….well maybe a little Jesus too if that helps you) for our inspiration as fans. Go into “The Rock”, or into the bar, or into your living room on Friday night and where your jerseys, rub your lucky puck, or slaughter a goat, whatever it is you do, do it and believe. If you don’t believe, then you need to watch the vid and feel the shades of ’94, because I have to say…a loss on Friday will be devastating to this fandom. I want to hear you Rangers fans at “The Rock” on Friday, because the ghosts of ’94 need to be revived. LET’S GO RANGERS!
Jack Buck’s MNF Memories