For the first time in nine seasons, the New York Rangers have clinched the somewhat infamous Presidents’ Trophy. The last time the Blueshirts won it was back during the 2014-15 season when they fell to the Tampa Bay Lightning in the 2015 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs Eastern Conference Finals. Fast forward to the current day and it is time to turn a new leaf. The Presidents’ Trophy was sealed after New York’s 4-0 victory last night over the Ottawa Senators. It was nothing flashy; no comeback was needed. Peter Laviolette stuck to his guns and provided a lineup destined for two points.

Sure, many hockey fans label the Presidents’ Trophy as a “kiss of death” that teams want to avoid. It seems crazy, right? Who would want to avoid being the best team in the National Hockey League? History has proven that winning the Presidents’ Trophy is not a sure shot at Lord Stanley’s Cup. In the last 30 years, only six teams have gone on to win both the President’s Trophy and hoist the Stanley Cup in the same season. One of those teams did it exactly 30 years ago in a place known as New York City. Is it fate? We would like to hope so.

Despite the prices, no venue tops Madison Square Garden. Evidently, watching a game at The World’s Most Famous Arena is unlike any other venue in the National Hockey League. Let us take you on a journey of how one crazed fan and beat writer spent his day preparing for the most-anticipated regular season game of the year.

First, a quick ride on New Jersey Transit to Madison Square Garden at 5 p.m. with two and a half hours to spare. There was nothing to do other than analyze how New York was going to respond after their shootout win over the New York Islanders on Saturday. Waiting for the doors to open, our correspondents social media feed was blowing up with the name Zack Ostapchuk. Apparently, Ostapchuk and Matt Rempe have had some history in the WHL. Ostapchuk would eventually not draw into the Sens lineup after a late arrival into New York. But even with the fighter Bokondji Imama in the lineup, Rempe was going to be a busy man.

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Next, the doors of Madison Square Garden opened. Like a kid on Christmas Day, there is this level of excitement that shoots through your body once you walk inside. The feeling is one of euphoria. Taking one lap around the concourse and then to find a seat. The iconic ceiling, the fresh sheet of ice, the sights and smells. This is “The Mecca” we all know and love. Visions to bring back childlike wonder. Just one more win and the fans would go home happy.

After the playing of The Who’s “Baba O’Riley” and an immaculate rendition of both national anthems from John Brancy, it was time for some hockey. Obviously, New York had all to play for. With everything on the line, New York had an infectious start to the contest. Testing Joonas Korpisalo early, New York got an important early goal at even strength thanks to Jack Roslovic. The speed between him and Chris Kreider is going to be noticeable come playoff time.

As Rangers fans would tell you, a one-goal lead is never enough to win in New York. After what seemed to be a quiet night for the power play, the penalty killers were busy. They were so busy that Adam Fox tallied his 17th of the year while short-handed. Kreider’s playmaking abilities were on full force, notching his second consecutive primary assist.

Finally, the two-goal lead in hockey might be the most dangerous. As the clock began to wind down, Blueshirt fans became restless. Yet, a point shot from Ryan Lindgren and a deflection from Artemi Panarin put everyone at ease. The Breadman’s 49th goal of the season made it 3-0 New York. The unselfish plays continued on well into the final frame. With a chance at 50, Panarin led an odd-man rush which resulted in Alexis Lafrenière‘s 28th goal in his breakout year.

That would be all she wrote as Igor Shesterkin picked up his fourth shutout this season at an important time. The top spot in the league now belongs to the New York Rangers.

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Who’s Next?

With the Rangers now having played all 82 games, it is time to sit back and let the chaos unfold. Four potential opponents remain for New York. The Rangers will very likely either face the Washington Capitals, Detroit Red Wings, or the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Philadelphia Flyers could still sneak in, but you need to research combinatorics for probably a month to develop an educated path for them to squeeze in. No matter who it is, The Garden Faithfull will be ready. It’s time for some playoff hockey.

Main photo: Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports

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