|RANGERS ON DEMAND
|Renney Looks Ahead to 2008-09 ||Watch |
|Gomez on His First Season in New York ||Watch |
|Lundqvist on the World Championships ||Watch |
|Shanahan on How His Game Has Changed ||Watch |
|Jagr on His Pride in Being a Ranger ||Watch |
|Avery on His Recovery from Injury ||Watch |
|Dubinsky on the Rangers' Young Players ||Watch |
• PHOTO GALLERY: Tuesday at the Training Center
By Jim Cerny, newyorkrangers.com
While the sun was shining on a bright and beautiful day outside of the Madison Square Garden Training Center, inside the facility it felt much more somber, as the Rangers officially said goodbye to one another and to the 2007-08 season.
|Brandon Dubinsky is one of three Rangers players who will continue their 2007-08 hockey seasons at the World Championship tournament in Canada. |
• MORE PHOTOS
Each and every Rangers player was on hand Tuesday to meet with the coaching staff, take a physical, meet with the media, pack his belongings, and head into the off-season. And to a man, a clear sense of disappointment followed each player around the facility as the team came to grips with a second-round playoff loss to Pittsburgh, a much-too-quick ending to a season that had so many high points.
"It's not a good day," said center Scott Gomez. "We didn't meet our goals this season, and it's very disappointing."
Many of the players had faraway looks in their eyes as they discussed their five-game series loss to Pittsburgh that ended with Marian Hossa's overtime goal less than 48 hours earlier. There was some speculaton about what might have been for the Rangers had they been able to hold on to their 3-0 second period lead in Game 1, or if they had been able to win at least one of the first three games of the series instead of dropping into an 0-3 hole.
"The disappointing thing to me is that (the Stanley Cup) is so wide open this year," said goaltender Henrik Lundqvist
, who is a finalist for the Vezina Trophy for the third consecutive season. "I really believe that we were good enough to be in the (Stanley Cup) Finals, but that's not the case now."
While most of the players were beginning preparations for off-seasons which arrived far too early, Lundqvist, defenseman Fedor Tyutin and forward Brandon Dubinsky
all worked out on the ice with goaltending coach Benoit Allaire as the trio prepared to play in the World Championships currently being held in Nova Scotia and Quebec. Lundqvist, wearing a yellow and blue goalie mask instead of his familiar red and blue Rangers mask, will tend goal for Sweden; Dubinsky will make his international hockey debut for Team USA, and Tyutin will represent Russia on the blueline.
A fourth member of the 2007-08 Rangers, defenseman Michal Rozsival, will also play in the tournament for the Czech Republic.
"It's always an honor to represent your country," noted Lundqvist, who backstopped Sweden's gold medal run in the 2006 Winter Olympics. "I am excited to go and play for Sweden now."
Still, the sting of unattained goals lurked close to the surface for Lundqvist.
"It's always so disappointing when you know you had a chance, and I definitely think we had a good one," said Lundqvist. "But at the same time you know just how small the difference is, just small things that either send us on vacation or send us to the Stanley Cup."
Many Rangers expressed regret at falling short of what they had hoped to accomplish, not merely for the players' and coaches' sakes, but for the entire organization and its fans, too.
"At the end of the day, I am glad I came here," said Gomez, who signed with the Rangers as a free agent last July. "You are treated like gold by the organization, and the fans are the best. That makes losing like we did even more disappointing."
Captain Jaromir Jagr echoed Gomez's sentiments about the Rangers, saying, "It's an honor to play here for this organization."
One of the more uplifting sights inside the training facility was Sean Avery
's presence. The rugged winger was recently released from St. Vincent's Hospital after suffering a lacerated spleen in Game 3 against the Penguins.
Looking fit, and providing his trademark sarcastic sense of humor, Avery teased teammates and reporters alike, although he grew very serious when speaking about his recent ordeal.
"It was amazing how people in New York reacted," said Avery. "I received a lot of flowers and a lot of cards, just a ton of stuff from fans. That's New Yorkers. They really take a lot of pride in their team and they love their players and that's an amazing part of this city."
Along with the improved health of Avery, one of the positives many of the Rangers spoke of Tuesday regarding this past season was the growth and development of youngsters like center Dubinsky, defensemen Marc Staal
, Dan Girardi
, and Tyutin, and wingers Nigel Dawes and Ryan Callahan
All six of those players emerged as vital members of the 2007-08 squad, as well as key building blocks to future successes for the organization.
"It was very smart by management putting younger guys in the lineup the last few years," noted Jagr, who spent much of the season playing on a line centered by the 21 year-old Dubinsky. "These players have received a lot of valuable experience already."
One of those players -- the Alaskan-born Dubinsky -- said he did not know what do with himself after the World Championship tournament. He had called his father and suggested the two go play golf back home, but Mr. Dubinsky had to explain to his son that there was still too much snow on the ground for that to happen.
So the popular Dubinsky instead took to the role of spokesperson for the younger players on the team.
"We got a great experience this year, and a lot of games under our belt," said Dubinsky. "We're going to be confident coming back that we can contribute as we had, and even at a higher level."
But even the youthful enthusiasm of one like Dubinsky was tempered by the fact that there would be no hockey to be played until next September.
"We felt confident that we had a good enough team to really give it a shot to win the Cup this year, but things just did not work out that way," stated Dubinsky. "We're disappointed and we're upset, but now we can't dwell on the past, and we should be excited moving into the future here."