Here are my stories from The Journal News and Lohud.com:
By Rick Carpiniello
Great teams usually have something special among them.
Especially hockey teams. If player 20 doesn’t do his job, it might not matter what player 1 does.
And when it’s special, when there’s a bond, there often are stories behind the individuals that make up the group.
The Rangers have had their share. Two of them happened to score what, so far, are the biggest goals of the season: Martin St. Louis’ overtime winner in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference final, and Dominic Moore’s game winner in the 1-0 clincher in Game 6 on Thursday.
You know their stories by now.
Moore lost his wife, Katie, to cancer in January 2013 and sat out the entire shortened season before signing with his original team, the Rangers. St. Louis came at the trade deadline in a difficult (for both sides) trade for Rangers captain Ryan Callahan, and, with the Rangers trailing favored Pittsburgh 3-1 in the second round, found out that his mother, France, had passed away.
“There’s been quite a few story lines this year, and those two are obviously big ones,” Brad Richards, a close friend of St. Louis’ from their Cup days in Tampa 10 years ago, said. “I think as you go through runs … there always seem to be little things that you can grab and build on, and that’s what makes it so special to win a Stanley Cup.”
Hockey crazy: Area fans revel in Rangers’ playoff run
Moore’s line, with Brian Boyle and Derek Dorsett, has been the Rangers’ engine since December, providing depth, energy, some offense, tons of defense, and wearing down opponents with important shifts — none bigger than the one before Moore’s 0-0 tie-snapping goal with 1:53 left in the second period Thursday.
Moore also stepped in for Derick Brassard when he missed Game 3, and for Derek Stepan when he missed Game 4.
“Like any player on the team, you want to do your job,” Moore said. “You take pride in doing your job and doing it well. And obviously in big games like this, every little bit counts.”
It’s impossible, though, to actually count what the player means to the team, and vice versa.
“I just feel tremendously proud to be a part of this team,” Moore said. “I owe a lot to my teammates for helping me get through this last year and a half, and I feel tremendously proud to be part of this team, especially amidst the circumstances of going to the Stanley Cup final.
“There’s always ups and downs this time of year. Obviously, we’ve had some things individually that we’ve shared together — Marty’s mother passing away was something we rallied around, and Marty showed leadership, so we all rallied around him.”
St. Louis’ season was difficult before he lost his mom. His own general manager, Tampa Bay’s Steve Yzerman, snubbed St. Louis for the Canadian Olympic team. St. Louis eventually was selected as an injury replacement, and won a gold medal, but there was a rift. He requested a trade, and wanted to come to New York, close to his Greenwich, Conn., home.
Ten years after winning the Cup, he’s back in the final, a leader who became a central figure through tragedy.
“It means a lot,” St. Louis said. “Obviously it’s been a tough year for me. This makes it pretty cool. Being somewhere for 13, 14 years and changing teams, and to get a chance to play in the Stanley Cup final with these teammates of mine, who have been nothing but great through my tough time in the past few weeks — it makes it even more special.
“I am proud to be a Ranger and do it alongside these great teammates.”
You can see that pride in Richards’ eyes when he talks about St. Louis.
“The stars have to align,” Richards said about his two teammates, “and it’s great that those guys have the feeling that someone’s watching over them and helping them out.”
HANDS OFF THE PRINCE OF WALES TROPHY:
The Rangers won the Prince of Wales Trophy Thursday night. They treated it like a skunk.
NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly presented the award, which goes to the Eastern Conference playoff champ, to alternate captains Brad Richards, Marc Staal and Dan Girardi after their clinching 1-0 win over Montreal.
Staal and Girardi, having never done this before, looked to Richards — who won the Stanley Cup 10 years earlier with Tampa Bay — for advice. Most teams’ captains won’t touch the conference trophies, due to superstition and the belief that those aren’t the trophies for which teams play.
“That just happened, when we were on the ice,” Staal said. “I asked (Richards), ‘Do we want to touch it?’ He said no. So I said, ‘OK.’ So I went over, shook (Daly’s) hand, took a picture and went off the ice.”
“Marty (St. Louis) and I have been there and (with Daniel Carcillo, the only other Ranger with a ring, suspended), no one else was dressed that’s been there,” Richards said. “We won it without touching it, and it was instructed (by Tampa Bay captain Dave Andreychuk, who did not touch it) that way when we won. … It wasn’t much debate: ‘We’re not doing it,’ and that’s where we went with it.”
For what it’s worth, in 1994, Mark Messier did pick up the trophy, pose for a photo, then put it down. That night, though, before the second overtime, Stephane Matteau had broken a skate lace and went back to the locker room. When he emerged, the trophy was blocking his way. Matteau touched it for good luck and went out for the second OT. And, well, you know what happened next.
Limited Cup final tickets: Tickets for the Cup final will go on sale Monday at noon. Extremely limited tickets will be available on Ticketmaster via NYRangers.com and Ticketmaster charge-by-phone, 866-858-0008.
Fans will be eligible to purchase a maximum of two tickets total for all games at the Garden, the team said. All ticket orders are subject to service charges. People with disabilities should call the Garden’s Disabled Services Department at 212-465-6034 for tickets.
Notch for Vigneault: Alain Vigneault joined a club you might have guessed would be more exclusive. Four of the last six coaches to get the Rangers to the Cup final did so in his first season: Frank Boucher (1940), Fred Shero (1979), Mike Keenan (1994) and Vigneault (2014).
No news on Carcillo: Winger Daniel Carcillo had the appeal of his 10-game suspension heard by NHL commissioner Gary Bettman Friday morning, though no decision came down. It could take a few days.
Carcillo was automatically suspended 10 games for abusing linesman Scott Driscoll in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference final. He has already served three games, which is the minimum for any category of abuse of officials.
Defenseman John Moore will miss Game 1 of the Cup final, serving the second of his two-game suspension for a head shot against Montreal’s Dale Weise in Game 5. He missed the clincher of the conference final Thursday. It is expected that Raphael Diaz would step in for Moore again in Game 1.
Any player who plays a game in the final gets his name engraved on the Cup if his team wins.
Photo by Getty Images.