Even Steven.

If I’ve attempted to demonstrate anything in this sports musings, it’s that I’m a passionate fan more than I am a die hard of one team per se.  In many true die hards’ minds, that qualifies me as something short of praise or even friendship-worthy.  I don’t obsess over every single win and loss, I sure don’t obsess about the fourth or fifth starter on one team, and much as I may be emotional about every win and loss I don’t usually consider it a jumping off point for mass depression should something go wrong.

So when the New York Rangers laid a big fat goose egg on Wednesday night in being shut out at home by the Florida Panthers in the opening game of their Eastern Conference final, I wasn’t quite as emotional as the kind of New York fan the NEW YORK POST’s Mike Vaccaro wrote so passionately about earlier this week:

These are edicts and bylaws that predate us by decades. We know that New York will never provide the kind of united front that other cities can. We know that for every Giants fan who celebrates, there is a Jets fan who agitates. We know that for every Yankees fan who revels in the team’s near-daily highs, there’s a Mets fan who reviles their seemingly twice-daily lows. 

And local anthropologists report that there are actual living, breathing Nets fans who walk among us, too.

So, no: We aren’t about to see a surge of Islanders fans abandon lifetimes of fear and loathing for the Rangers. We aren’t expecting a swell of Devils fans to lay down their red-tinted vestments and suddenly invest in the blue. Unlike the other participants in the NHL’s final four, there will be dissidents. Dallas, Edmonton and South Florida don’t have that.

But this is about as close as it gets.

And when the Rangers host the Panthers on Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden — kicking off a best-of-seven Eastern Conference final that will yield one-half of the field for the Stanley Cup Final — they will hear New York in Sunrise, Fla., and in Alberta and in North Texas. They will hear the pleas of a famished sporting city, one that’s been wandering since February of 2012, searching for a champion in one of the four major sports.

So this is a series that I’m viewing with passion on both sides of the aislem and while I’m arguably going to be content regardless of the outcome, I vacillate back and forth between passions.  Which means I want it to go on as long as possible, because who among us doesn’t want maximum pleasure to be sustained?

Which is why I was both exhilirated and relieved with what I saw late last night that the PALM BEACH POST’s Colby Guy was professionally obligated to objectively report:

 Only one team had ever come back to win a Stanley Cup series after losing the first two games at home in the conference finals. The New York Rangers had no intention of attempting to become the second.

Barclay Goodrow scored the winning goal with 5:59 remaining in overtime, and the Rangers defeated the Florida Panthers Friday night in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference final, 2-1. The series is now tied at a game apiece as the teams head to Sunrise for Game 3 Sunday at 3 p.m.

The loss snapped an 11-game playoff overtime winning streak for the Panthers, spanning from when they were eliminated in Game 6 of the first round of the 2016 playoffs by the New York Islanders.

Rangers coach Peter Laviolette, who saw his team shut out for only the second time this season in the series opener, was happy for Goodrow, who usually contributes in other ways.

“To see him score a goal like that tonight is awesome because his role doesn’t always consist of that,” Laviolette said. “It’s not always in the offensive zone. It’s not on the power play, but when you see somebody who does so many other things that helps a team be successful, you’re really happy for a guy like that when he can make a huge impact in the game tonight offensively.”

And as the SOUTH FLORIDA SUN-SENTINEL’s Dave Hyde, perhaps the region’s closest equivlent to Vaccaro, more parochially penned:

For once, there was no magic at the end. No hometown hero. For once, the story was on the other side as the puck went from New York Rangers’ center Vinny Trocheck to winger Barclay Goodrow to the back of the Florida Panthers net in overtime.

Just like that, the Rangers took Game 2, 2-1.

Just like that, a good night of hockey became a good series.

It was familiar hockey for th(e) Panthers(.)  This was the eighth overtime playoff game for the Panthers in the past two years. Their record in those previous seven games?

They were 7-0.  Make it 7-1.

It’s tough, tight hockey, just as you’d expect in an Eastern Conference final. Game 1 was a 1-0 game until the final few minutes. Game 2 was tied at 1-1 for hours. You get the low-scoring way this series is going?

And with perhaps one exception wholly unrelated to hockey, that’s about as desirable a result between forces from New York and South Florida going at it as this not-quite-die hard fan can expect.

Call me a hypocrite.  Call me a fair-weather fan.  Call me whatever you damn please.

Just don’t call me when any of the next three to five games are on, OK?



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