Knicks Fans Heartbroken While Rangers Continue Quest for Stanley Cup

In the end, even the seemingly invincible Jalen Brunson fell to injury as the Knicks ran out of gas and were defeated by the Indiana Pacers in Game 7. The Rangers continue their march toward what they hope is their first Stanley Cup in thirty years.

| 20 May 2024 | 12:55

Ultimately, the Knicks ran out of miracles on Sunday and now their thrilling season is over.

Meanwhile, the Rangers are alive and kicking. If the Blueshirts can defeat the Florida Panthers in the NHL’s Eastern Conference finals, the Rangers will advance to the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time in 10 years.

For the injury-depleted Knicks–five mainstays were sidelined by the end of the 130-109 game-seven loss to the Indiana Pacers–it was a case of what might have been. What if the team had been able to field its complete roster in game seven? Well, I’d bet on the Knicks moving on to face the arch-rival Boston Celtics in the next round.

The Knicks and their fans can take pride in seeing the team develop into an endearing group of overachievers that never gave up. It may all seem empty now, but the standing ovations to new stars Donte Divincenzo–who scored a personal best 39 points, and Josh Hart, who soldiered on despite an abdominal injury–were well deserved. Fans did not get a chance to give team MVP Jalen Brunson his standing “O” because nobody realized his second half exit was due to a fractured left hand.

The Rangers

The Rangers are not overachievers. This team is advancing right on schedule. The squad finished the regular season by amassing more points than any other team, guaranteeing the Rangers a home-ice advantage in any post-season series.

My take: If the Rangers play at their best level, they will win the Stanley Cup. No other team can match the Rangers in goal, as Igor Shesterkin has established himself as the best goaltender in the NHL. And if he falters, the Rangers can call on his back-up, the veteran, hall-of-fame bound Jonathan Quick, to save the day.

Further, the Rangers have the best power play in the league. Artemi Panerin and Chris Kreider are among the best scorers in the league. Kreider showed how clutch he is, too, when he scored a three-goal hat trick in the second period of the series-clinching game versus the Carolina Hurricanes.

The Rangers have the depth to send out fresh players on the power play and never lose any of their dominance. This is a very deep team.

And as any New Yorker knows, playing at Madison Square Garden is a brilliant advantage. The Garden may well be the loudest, most intimidating arena for a visiting squad.

The Rangers, however, have two serious question marks as they advance. 1) the health of star defenseman Adam Fox and 2) the Rangers’ curious problems throughout the season when the two teams on the ice are playing five skaters on five.

When the Rangers have a man advantage on the ice, they are positively lethal. But when they don’t, however, they are quite ordinary. This has been an ongoing challenge throughout the season.

What’s Next?

That teeth-gnashing sound you’ll hear this summer comes from heartbroken Knicks fans. Playing “what if” is unavoidable, but serious students of hoops also recognize that the Knicks have a ways to go before they can legitimately expect to challenge the likes of the Denver Nuggets, the Minnesota Timberwolves and the Boston Celtics.

The Knicks have a spirited roster but the players seem to work very hard to score points, which may explain why the team suffered so many injuries at the end.

The Knicks’ management has to figure out how to ease the burden on point guard Jalen Brunson, who emerged this season as one of the best players in the NBA. Brunson finished fifth in the NBA Most Valuable Player award voting. And most Knicks fan think he was way under regarded.

Still, the Knicks need to get bigger, meaner and more athletic before they take the next step. The word is out on the Knicks. Other teams will take them seriously every night next season.

The Knicks came up short in the biggest game of the season. Indiana shot 67.1 percent, an NBA record percentage for playoff game. But the dogged Knicks cut the Pacers’ lead to six points in the third quarter. Then the Knicks got sloppy and began to turn the ball over when the team could least afford mistakes. Within minutes, the Pacers had built their lead to 18 points. And, as they said in Goodfellas, dat was dat. The Knicks lost by 21, 130 to 109.

The Rangers are poised to win a championship this season. Can the Knicks become an elite team in 2024-25?

It’s going to be fun to find out.