If you’re alive in New York, you’ve probably seen news about the New York Rangers (who are the best sports team in New York right now) and their incredible, improbable run to the Stanley Cup Final. At this point, you might even have friends who are caught up in the madness, or have been caught in it their whole lives and have ridiculous playoff beards, and want you to come watch games with them at the bar. Don’t politely decline because you don’t know what’s going on! Go with your friends, and take these free talking points we’re giving you, because we love you and we need to justify all the hockey tweets we’ve been launching lately.
WAIT, WHY IS IT AN IMPROBABLE RUN?
Beyond the fact that it’s impressive that any team makes it through three rounds of the NHL Playoffs, the Rangers got to the Final in particularly grueling fashion. They were down 3-1 in a best of 7 series against a heavily favored Pittsburgh Penguins team before ripping off three straight wins to take the series, and then won two straight games against the also favored Montreal Canadiens at their home arena, where the Rangers almost never win. Team of destiny stuff, we tell ya.
THEY LOOK MUCH BETTER THIS YEAR
Don’t be scared off if you don’t watch much hockey and have some trouble following. The Rangers play a much more offensive-minded (and watchable) game under coach Alain Vigneault than they did under Coach John Tortorella. There’s an emphasis on speed and puck possession that suits the Rangers’ roster better than Tortorella’s dump-and-chase style. To sound even smarter, talk about how impressive it is they found their way in Vigneault’s system halfway though the year, and how they’ve looked much better since they figured it out.
MARC STAAL DOES TOO
If the people you watch with are just getting into hockey now, they probably know about the Rangers’ twin tragedies of Martin. St. Louis’ mom dying during the series against the Penguins and Dominic Moore taking a year off from hockey as his wife battled cancer. Instead of focusing on off-ice issues that threaten to turn dead women into props in the hands of really bad sportswriters, talk about defenseman Marc Staal’s comeback from twin on-ice tragedies. Staal not only had a devastating concussion that kept him out of hockey for half a season after being hit by his own brother, he then worked his way back from that only to be hit in the eye by a puck last season. The former first round draft pick came back from that this year and after taking a little time to regain his footing, is skating on the Rangers’ second defense pair and playing solid, important minutes again.
SO HE’S THE ONE WITH THE GIANT VISOR ON HIS HELMET?
No, that’s Derek Stepan, who had his jaw broken by a hit in the last series against Montreal, and came back with it wired shut after a one-game absence. Hockey players man, they are fucking hardcore.
RICK NASH DOESN’T SUCK
When Rick Nash, who you might remember from our roundup of non-hipsters with beards, is on the ice, you might hear people grousing about how he can’t score and what a disgrace he is. Calmly point out that Rick Nash has taken the second-most shots in the playoffs with 65, but has only scored on 4.8% of them. That’s way off this season’s success rate of 10.1% and his career rate of 12.4%. It means he’s been snakebit, but he hasn’t let it affect his play everywhere else on the ice. You can hate a guy for loafing, but you can’t hit him for being unlucky. It’s a little contrarian, but drunk hockey fans love contrarians.
WHO SHOULD I HATE ON THE KINGS?
What, you mean besides all of them? There’s Marian Gaborik, an ex-Ranger who was run out of town on a rail for inconsistent play and has infuriatingly found his scoring touch for the Kings this post-season. There are also ex-Flyers Mike Richards and Jeff Carter, who even as ex-Flyers should be regarded as Flyer scum. Still, we think you should just hate the shit out of everyone on the Kings, just to be safe.
THERE’S ONE KING TO ROOT FOR, ACTUALLY
Wanna sound smart to those barflies before making them hate you for sticking up for Rick Nash? Just talk about how the Rangers’ hopes rest entirely on Henrik Lundqvist’s big Swedish shoulders. Nicknamed “The King, ” the most handsome goalie in hockey has raised his already impressive game to new heights this season, and even people picking the Rangers are saying that it all depends on his playing otherworldly hockey for four more games.
Sorry if any of that was complicated, but you want to sound smart while watching, not like you just read a Yahoo Answers on hockey, right? Right. And remember: LET’S GO RANGERS.
Follow Dave for string of hockey-related profanities at @DaveCoIon
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