Don’t Be So Quick To Count Them Out

If you’re a New York Rangers fan of a different vintage, you probably had a sense of deja vu last night, especially if you were among the thousands who invaded the Arena where the struggling Los Angeles Kings play.  It was the homecoming of a beloved goaltender who had led them to the promised land, and they weren’t going to let him forget them had long memories.

As THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER’s Josh Gross reported, it was indeed one of this season’s bright spots:

Returning to an arena that someday will feature (Jonathan) Quick’s No. 32 hanging from the rafters, the three-time Stanley Cup champion, owner of every single-season goaltending record in Kings history, started in his old haunt for the first time as a visitor, netminding the New York Rangers on Saturday.

Kings fans stood for Quick. They bowed. They honored him when a video commemorating his accomplishments in L.A. played midway through the first period.

For his part, Quick took it all in and acknowledged their love in the moment.

Afterwards, the Kings all-time leader in games (743), wins (370) and shutouts (57) was stoic as ever.

It was eerily similar to a scene that played out nearly a half century ago and a continent away that Ranger fans of that era still vividly remember, and their children (grandchildren?) are encouraged to learn about. Especially those smart enough to read the prolific and still-on point writing of longtime NEW YORK POST hockey scribe Larry Brooks, who DEFINITELY remembers, as he did on the anniversary of the event a couple of years back:

It was historic, unforgettable and unprecedented. Forty-six years ago today at the Garden, a night like no other.

“Eddie! Eddie! Eddie!”

It was spontaneous. There were no social media campaigns, no word of mouth. It was just 17,000-plus wounded souls in unison chanting for Eddie Giacomin, the goaltender who had been waived to the Red Wings two nights earlier, more than 17,000 rooting against their beloved Rangers and for the beloved goaltender wearing the strange all-red costume of his new team.

Giacomin never did win a Stanley Cup for those Rangers, nor did his teammates.  He was part of a purge that year that broke up a team that had gone deep in the playoffs during the earlier part of the 1970s, one that saw the likes of Hall of Famers like Brad Park and Jean Ratelle also sent away, and started an era of truly mediocre and often awful hockey that didn’t end for nearly 20 years, until the Rangers finally broke their 54-year Stanley Cup-less curse, which now has been followed up by a second drought that could reach 30 years.

But Giacomin did win as a visitor last night, giving Ranger fans mixed emotions.  Last night, with their own recent struggles front and center after a strong 18-4-1 start that has seen the team play at roughly a .500 clip since, the same sort of mixed emotions also played out, as the ASSOCIATED PRESS’ Joe Reedy reported:

Quinton Byfield scored the go-ahead goal late in the second period as the Los Angeles Kings defeated the New York Rangers 2-1 on Saturday night, spoiling Rangers’ goaltender Jonathan Quick’s return.

Kevin Fiala also scored for the Kings, who won for only the second time in 11 games. David Rittich stopped 22 shots.

Not that Quick was to blame for the Rangers’ latest loss:

Quick made 24 saves in his first game in Los Angeles since being traded by the Kings to the Columbus Blue Jackets on March 1 last season. Quick eventually wound up with Vegas and picked up a third Stanley Cup ring before signing with the Rangers during the offseason.

Quick these days is a definitive backup for the Rangers’ regular netminder Igor Shesterkin, and will likely play only a nominal role in any post-season run.

And as for the Kings, well, while they’ve had their own troubles the once-feeble Edmonton Oilers have rattled off 13 straight wins and have lapped them for the final definitive Western Conference playoff berth.  Were the season to have ended last night, they would have barely qualified for a Wild Card berth.

But for last night at least, Quick reminded the Rangers he’s still a talent worth having, and even in defeat he allowed the Kings to remind their fans that all they need is a chance.

Lest that fact of life have been forgotten, just ask the team that broke the single-season record for points last spring, the current Eastern Conference-leading Boston Bruins, how they fared in last year’s Stanley Cup playoffs. Florida Panthers fans sure remember, as well as the fact their team was still playing in June.

It’s a long, long way to this June, let alone April, as anyone enduring the lousy weather on both coasts last night can attest.  But at least for one night, past glories were rekindled, and hope on both sides was capable of being part of those mixed emotions.

So indeed, don’t be so Quick to count anyone out in the NHL.


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