Originally posted on The Rangers Tribune  |  Last updated 4/12/12

The 2011-2012 regular season was a pure joy for the New York Rangers and their fans. The team was put in the spotlight from day one when they began the season in Europe, and then came HBO’s 24/7 followed by the Winter Classic, all while the Blueshirts were racking up the wins and ascending to the top of the Eastern Conference. As I discussed on this blog earlier in the week, the team and its fans have every right to be proud of what was accomplished during the regular season, and can consider the year a success overall because of that. 

But beginning tonight, the New York Rangers will have an opportunity to begin a journey that will make this already special season a bit more memorable. It’s time for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. 

Reaching the postseason is every team’s goal from the start of training camp in September, but 82 games later, only 16 lucky clubs make the cut. The Rangers not only made that cut, but they led the entire pack. This puts expectations on the Rangers that they may have never before experienced when they finished in the seventh or eighth spot in the Conference. Expectations, though, are nothing that will worry this tightly knit squad of players. They believe in themselves within that locker room, as they’ve made clear many times, and that’s all that matters. 

What needs to be considered here is that this year’s Ranger team has the ability to really do something special. You’ve heard it from the coach, Henrik Lundqvist has stated it numerous times, as have many of the players on the team. A Stanley Cup Championship may seem like it’s a distant dream at the moment, but you never know what could happen in any given seven-game series. The Rangers were able to beat out all odds and surprise during the season, so what’s to say they cannot do just that in the playoffs? Nothing. 

Team mentality has been extremely instrumental in the Rangers’ frequent success this season, and I think it will also play a huge role in the playoffs as well. Last year the team was excited just over the fact that they made it to the postseason. This year, however, making it there was a breeze. Sure, there’s excitement, but the focus of the club is much different than it was a year ago. These players realize that plenty of work is still to be done if they want to make this into an extra special season for the franchise, and that’s what they fully intend on doing. 

I'm excited. I haven't been (to the post-season) in a few years. Getting to come here to New York has been great, but this is exactly the reason why you want to go somewhere: to be in it and to have a chance to win a Stanley Cup. - Brad Richards

That says it right there. We, as fans, may be happy with how everything went down during the regular season and we may be excited about the groundwork that’s been laid out for the future of the team. That’s not the case for the players, though. As Richards said, they are in it to win it. NHL players don’t sign contracts to have great regular seasons – they do so in hopes of living the dream and capturing Lord Stanley’s mug. Now, more than ever, that is the focus and the goal within that New York Rangers locker room, which makes their chances of going out and doing it even greater. 

The Rangers have made it to the postseason in every year but one since the lockout, and for the very first time in all of those years, they are heading in with confidence. They are heading in with a swagger that only a first place hockey club could carry. They are heading in with the objective of winning the Stanley Cup and bringing it back to its rightful home here in New York. 

And it all begins in Game 1 of their to-be magical journey tonight at an electrified Madison Square Garden.

Let’s do this. 

 

* Rangers-Senators Series Preview:

- Three Key Match-Ups That Will Decide Rangers vs. Senators Series

- Looking at the Rangers' Checklist to Success in Series Against Senators

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