While the Rangers lost to the New Jersey Devils in the Eastern Conference finals last season, you'd have to be a stubborn fan to say last season was a failure. In fact, there were many—and I repeat—many memorable moments that exemplified the success of the Blueshirts last year.
Unfortunately, I can't share every moment I thought was worthy of revisiting, but I can give my opinion of what I thought were the most everlasting plays from the 2011-2012 season. So, while next season will hopefully bring about even better moments, let's take a look back at last season's greatness.
While it was just a regular-season game against a Western Conference foe in the Phoenix Coyotes, this game had an incredible ending that no one can forget.
With time winding down in regulation, Richards wasn't satisfied with overtime. He had other plans in mind. As goaltender Mike Smith clutched the near-side post, Richards threw whatever power he had into a backhand shot from the faceoff circle, and it managed to slip past Smith in the far corner. Phoenix fans were in disbelief, and Ranger fans, both in attendance and at home, were also in disbelief.
The Rangers must have had a very enjoyable bus ride back to the team hotel afterward.
There is no better way to make a great first impression with New Yorkers than by doing your job, and doing it well.
That's what Chris Kreider did in Game 1 of New York's Eastern Conference semifinal series against the Washington Capitals. Upon receiving a breakout pass from Derek Stepan, Kreider fired a "wicked" slap shot that flew past Braden Holtby to give the Rangers a lead they would ride all the way to victory.
Kreider was than given a standing ovation by the Garden crowd as they chanted his name shortly after the goal. While his first goal was in the series against Ottawa, this goal truly signaled the beginning to the Kreider era.
Just part of the season-series sweep over the Flyers, the Winter Classic was won by the Rangers in thrilling, cinematic fashion.
With just under 20 seconds remaining, Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh was called for covering the puck in the crease, which in turn granted the Flyers with a penalty shot, with the shooter of their choosing. They chose to go with Danny Briere, but he failed to get the job done. Well, I like to think of it more as Henrik Lundqvist getting the job done.
Briere tried to squeeze a shot threw Lundqvist's five-hole, but the Swedish netminder wasn't having any of it. The Rangers came away victorious in the NHL's most important regular-season game, a very memorable one for all of those lucky enough to be in attendance.
Whether you're a Ranger fan or not, how could you not be happy for Henrik Lundqvist? The man has been the most consistent goaltender in the NHL his entire career, and he had never been rewarded for his stellar play in net until this past summer.
I felt pure excitement when Lundqvist's name was announced because I was so happy for the guy. He's given his all every year to make sure the Rangers remain competitive and make the playoffs, and he has finally been recognized by the league as the best goaltender in the NHL.
He was a bit too excited, though, as seen above.
While this is an unbelievable moment, hockey is a team game, and a full team effort will always take priority over an individual award. The moment you've all been waiting for and you knew was coming...
Pure excitement. The most succinct, yet effective way of describing this incredible ending to Game 5 of the Eastern Conference semifinals. After Capitals forward Joel Ward took a high-sticking penalty with just over 20 seconds remaining, Brad Richards found the back of the net to tie the game at two apiece.
Overtime would come, but it wouldn't last long. Just under two minutes into overtime, Marc Staal unleashed a laser from the blue line that found its way through everyone, including Capitals goalie Braden Holtby.
The kind of story you only see in movies came to life. This was a pivotal moment not only because of the low-to-high emotional swing, but because the Rangers ended up losing Game 6, and then ultimately eked out a Game 7 victory to take the series and advance.
There is no doubt that this was the most memorable, and important, moment of the year.