It was a devastating end to a season that looked more than promising for the New York Rangers.
Having played two tough series leading up to the Eastern Conference Finals against the New Jersey Devils seemed to be working just fine for the Blueshirts as they started Game 1 against their rival Devils with a 3-0 shutout on home ice.
After losing Game 2 3-2 in regulation, the Rangers rallied back and defeated the Devils in Game 3 3-0 yet again.
Things looked very good for the Blueshirts going into Game 4, but the Devils took over and crushed the Rangers 4-1.
The Rangers needed to start big in Games 5 and 6, but after a three-goal deficit in Game 5 and a two-goal-one in Game 6, they did quite the opposite and wound up struggling to even the score.
Truth be told, the team that scored first usually won the game, and while the Rangers were able to come back and tie the score in both games, it just simply wasn't the right way to start things off and clearly wasn't enough to win the series.
So with the taste of the Stanley Cup still wet on their lips, they went home defeated, having to wait for a new chance in the coming year.
This season's team played better than any that I can remember in some time, and that is largely due to the development by the Rangers organization and the direction of head coach John Tortorella.
They had everything it took to go all the way but fell short by the rough start in their last two games.
What was interesting to see was how some players really stepped up and surprised during the postseason, while others failed to perform as expected.
I want to take a closer look at each player on the roster and their performance throughout the playoffs.
Artem Anisimov had his ups and down this season, but he was able to perform when it was asked (and sometimes demanded by Tortorella) of him, especially in the playoffs.
Overall, I thought he was pretty consistent throughout the postseason. He scored three goals and had seven assists, and according to a Daily News article by Pat Leonard from May 15, 2012, his teammates agree that he worked his tail out in the playoffs.
“Artie’s been very good, and he’s a smart player,” said teammate Brian Boyle.
On a scale of one to 10, I would give Anisimov an eight, because when he needed to play well, he stepped up to the challenge.
Brian Boyle started the postseason especially strong, scoring a goal a piece in each of the first three games in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals against the Ottawa Senators.
He was the player to beat in the first round, and Ottawa hated him for getting away with picking on Senators superstar Erik Karlsson early in the series.
While the three goals he scored in the postseason only occurred during the first series, he also notched three assists in the playoffs and proved a strong presence on the ice.
He plays a tough defensive style game, following through on his checks and also a key player in winning faceoffs.
Boyle ranks fifth in the league with 149 faceoff wins.
I would give him a seven for his postseason effort.
Captain Ryan Callahan was a beaming example of what it takes to be a leader in both his regular season and postseason performance.
I think he played about as well as anybody could play, and on a scale of one to 10 would score an 11.
He was right in there blocking shots, creating plays, administering hard hits and scoring goals. He had six goals and four assists throughout the postseason.
Although some would argue that he had a late start with scoring goals, he excelled so strongly in other areas that I believe that fact should be overlooked.
Callahan's body took a beating with all the blocked shots, but he kept on ticking. Plus his positive attitude carried over to his teammates with his never give up mentality.
If there is anyone (with the exception of Lundqvist) that gave it their all in the playoffs for the Rangers, Callahan was that man.
Callahan lead the league with 82 hits and also recorded 31 blocked shots and a plus-two rating for the postseason.
While Dubinsky missed the entire second round of the playoffs against the Washington Capitals due to a high right ankle sprain injury that he sustained in Game 7 of first round of the playoffs, he was able to finish strong in the Eastern Conference Finals against the New Jersey Devils.
He returned to the lineup in Game 5 against the Devils, and in the nine games played in the postseason he registered two assists.
His future was questionable even before the playoffs began, as he was involved in many trade talks at the trade deadline back in February.
So his postseason performance was definitely going to be highly scrutinized by Tortorella (as well as other interested parties).
I thought in the brief time he did play, he was a strong force on the ice. It would have been nice to see him score some goals and up his offensive game a little, which was something he struggled with throughout the regular season.
Dubinsky's grade would therefore be a six.
Fedotenko had a strong overall postseason in my opinion. He scored two goals and five assists in the postseason.
For the amount of ice time he played and what he managed to do with it, I would give him a seven for a grade.
He has been on the winning side of the Stanley Cup series on two occasions in his career and was being heavily relied on by his coach and his teammates to be the veteran that could show them the way to glory.
His strong offensive presence in the playoffs was a huge leap from the end of the regular season, where he had his share of struggles.
Coach Tortorella obviously liked what he saw in Fedotenko as he was moved from the third line in the first round of the playoffs to the first line by the third round.
After a stellar regular season where Gaborik rallied in 41 goals and 35 assists, it was expected for him to continue this style of play into the postseason.
He played well, scoring five goals and six assists (one of which was scored in the triple-overtime marathon Game 3 against the Washington Capitals in the Eastern Conference semifinals), although, overall, Tortorella wanted to see more out of him on the power play.
The Blueshirts rely on players like Gaborik and Brad Richards, especially in situations like the playoffs, where they are expected to up their game and prove they are worth their larger-than-life salaries.
Overall, Gaborik was a strong contender, and I would give him an eight as a grade for his postseason efforts.
Hagelin suffered a tough bout in the first round of the playoffs against the Ottawa Senators, with his "illegal elbow" hit to the head of Sens captain Daniel Alfredsson in Game 2 of the series.
While this gave Chris Kreider his chance to shine, it meant three games without the speed and finesse of Carl Hagelin.
He returned and added somewhat to their momentum but was only able to register three assists.
I think much more was expected of this rookie and it was utterly surprising to see him with a minus-three rating in the playoffs, given how excellently he played during the regular season, (earning him a spot on the coveted top line).
Hagelin never quite regained his glory from the regular season. Perhaps the suspension and the fact that it was his first postseason to date could have affected his play, which is why I will give him a five for his playoff performance.
Given some time and experience, I think we can expect a lot more from him in the years to come.
It goes without saying that NHL newbie Chris Kreider exceeded all expectations when he was called in to replace Carl Hagelin during his three-game suspension in the first round of the playoffs.
He literally entered the league at a most crucial point in the postseason and made a name for himself almost immediately.
While hesitant at first, he quickly found his confidence scoring five goals and two assists in 18 playoff games.
Given his ability to adapt so easily to the Rangers' system and the offensive thrust he provided for the team, Kreider earned himself a nine for his playoff performance, and it is hard to imagine how the Rangers would have fared without this great addition to their lineup.
Some may even argue that he played better than some veterans on the team.
John Mitchell was paired on the fourth line for the Rangers alongside Mike Rupp and Brandon Prust, which generated some spunk for the Rangers.
While they weren't a big scoring line, what they lacked in goals they made up for in physicality.
This provided a boost for the other lines because they were all such a strong presence on the ice.
Mitchell also stood out in the playoffs for his strength on the faceoffs.
While we didn't see him the last few games due to Dubinsky's return, I think his efforts prior to in the postseason earned him a six overall for a grade.
Prust had a strong defensive postseason. As a fellow member of the fourth line, he was able to create energy when needed and a strong attacker at all times.
He plays with such force that you could almost feel the intensity of Prust's hits on the opposing team's players.
Prust also scored his first and only postseason goal against the New Jersey Devils in Game 5.
While he may not be a big goal scorer, that is not his purpose on the roster. He is strong player overall, and although his time on the ice isn't much, he makes the best of it. He is a player you can rely on, and that speaks volumes.
This earns him a seven for his overall efforts in the playoffs.
Richards seemed to finally live up to his potential towards the remainder of the regular season, and this carried into his performance in the postseason as well.
While he had some stronger games than others, I believe he filled his role as a veteran and as an alternate captain quite well in the playoffs.
He scored six goals and had nine assists in the 20 playoff games, as well as leading the league in faceoff wins with 217.
While he was strong overall for the first two rounds, he suffered offensively in the third round against the Devils, where both he and Gaborik failed to score a goal in the six games played.
If one were to judge him for the first two rounds, he would deserve a nine. Being that he failed to help on the offensive end during the Eastern Conference Finals knocked him down to an eight.
"Rupper," as he is known in the locker room, was solid throughout the postseason in his defensive play, as well as his calm and determination as a seasoned NHL player.
He added energy and grit to the fourth line, as was mentioned with Prust and Mitchell.
Also, when Kreider got demoted to the fourth line, Rupp was a role model for him on how to complete a check and follow through on a play.
Rupp has such a physically strong presence on the ice and yet, does not use his size to be a bully, but rather a protector.
He has experience winning the Stanley Cup (coincidentally scoring the winning goal when he played for the Devils during his debut season in 2002-2003).
While not expected to be a big scorer, what he lacks in goals, he makes up for in grit and follow-through. Tortorella is confident with him on the ice and that is a huge testament to his abilities.
Rupp gets a seven for his grade in the postseason.
Stepan scored one goal in the 20 games played, but recorded eight assists.
I think that we all expected a little more from him when the Rangers' big wigs failed to produce big results.
Truth be told he had a stronger regular season and has a history of struggling during the postseason, being that he scored no goals in last season's playoffs and only during this season's run.
While eight assists is something to be proud of, even Stepan himself stated otherwise (via ESPN):
“I don’t think I was as sharp as I could’ve been in the conference finals.".
He performed much better in the first two rounds, but seemed to lose steam in the third round (where they really needed him to step things up), therefore, Stepan's grade would be a six.
Bickel ended the postseason on a bit of a low note as he was a healthy scratch in Games 3 and 6 against the Devils. In his place was Steve Eminger.
Many questioned why he was put into play instead of Eminger for most of the playoffs, being that Eminger has much more experience, but Tortorella likes the way he plays and given more experience in the years to come, he may prove to be a true playoff contender.
His play was a bit sporadic during this postseason; however, I believe we should have seen a little more out of him, which is why he gets a five.
In Game 6 of the first round he only played 1:59.
Bickel saw the most amount of shifts (11) in Game 4 against the Devils in the third round.
Michael Del Zotto scored two goals and eight assists with a minus-four rating for the postseason.
His highs were very high and his lows were very low throughout the playoffs, and overall, he failed to live up to what was expected of him.
Del Zotto is relied upon to provide much-needed depth for the Rangers.
Being that the top goal-scorers were slightly inconsistent, the pressure fell more on players like Del Zotto, and he wasn't able to produce when needed and was sometimes sloppy when it came to penalties.
This gives him a score of a six for the postseason. That being said, however, he did record 62 hits for fifth in the league, as well as 24 blocked shots.
Dan Girardi was a shining beacon of light for the Rangers during the postseason. He scored three goals and had nine assists and had plus-six rating.
He also was second in the league with 54 blocked shots in the playoffs, as well as 14th in the league with 52 hits.
Girardi is a phenomenal defenseman alongside his equally great defensive partner Ryan McDonaugh and is a huge assist to Rangers goaltender, Henrik Lundqvist.
He was rewarded for his excellence of play by averaging 26:51 minutes of ice time per game (also a league record).
Girardi played about as well as anyone could have expected and therefore, earns a grade of 10 out of of 10.
He has clearly bought into the Rangers' mentality and is an example of how great the results can be when one's efforts are applied. There is truly nothing bad that you can say about Girardi's postseason performance.
Ryan McDonaugh is yet another example of true excellence in the postseason.
He had 62 blocked shots and 39 hits and averaged 26:49 minutes per game making him No. 2 in postseason minutes.
He scored no goals but had four assists with a plus-two rating when on the ice.
Teamed up with Girardi, these two play their hearts out and are so exciting to watch.
McDonaugh is about as good as it gets for a defenseman and also earns himself a 10 out of 10 for his amazing efforts during the playoffs.
It almost makes it hard to believe that he is only in his second season in the NHL.
Staal was back to playing like his old self (pre-concussion) during the postseason.
Overall, he was about as strong as ever, blocking 39 shots and tallying 36 hits.
He scored three goals, had three assists and had 30 shots on goal throughout the playoffs.
The Rangers' defense is one area that excels beyond any other, and that is largely in part to the efforts of Marc Staal.
He earned a nine out of 10 for his performance in the postseason, and might I add it is good to see him playing at his full potential and exhilarating to watch how smart a player he is on the ice.
While Stralman is a defenseman, he upped his offensive game dramatically, scoring three goals and three assists in his first-ever playoff appearance (much to everyone's surprise).
He was the Rangers unexpected secret weapon this postseason, setting up some superb plays and proving an overall strong effort both defensively and offensively on his part.
Stralman recorded 26 shots on goal throughout the postseason and saw some consistent and increased ice time as a result.
I would give Stralman an eight as a grade.
Enough cannot really be said about Henrik Lundqvist and his truly unbelievable performance throughout the regular season and postseason.
The Rangers' team knows how important it is to have great goaltending, and King Henrik was clearly the deciding factor in many games during the playoffs.
Without him in net I shudder to think what would have happened, and it was heartbreaking to see the Rangers get shutdown by the Devils, because if anyone earned his place in the Stanley Cup, it was Lundqvist.
His save percentage throughout the playoffs was .931, and his goals against average were 1.82 making him sixth in the league with GAA.
Out of 20 games, he won 10 and lost 10, but played arguably the best hockey of his career.
Lundqvist earns himself a 15 out of 10 for his outstanding play in the postseason.