I saw a rather extensive argument develop under another post regarding the Rangers potential ability, or inability as some have argued, to win a game like the Flyers won the Philadelphia-Pittsburgh game last night, and I must say, it bothered me. There’s a lot some of us aren’t taking into account, and while skepticism keeps us grounded and reasonable – a paramount trademark of the New York sports-fan – I feel in this instance it is unjustified, and even unhealthy.
There is no denying our objective capability of scoring 3 or 4 goals unanswered in a game, but generally, and especially lately when we are facing a deficit, we have been struggling (to say the least) in finding the net and converting our chances. In other words, I totally understand why so many of us would think that, should an opponent get up on us by a few, we wouldn’t win. But as Rangers fans, we can't think that we're losing 99 out of 100 times (as one contributor wrote) if we're down 3 goals early when we're in the Playoffs. It's different now. I was at the last Bruins game, as well as the Caps one. I saw our clunker against Chicago (although that was absent Henrik) and the other ones that we dropped because we went down early and couldn't find the net – despite the fact that we generally began to control the pace of the games in the 2nd and 3rd, nearly monopolizing real scoring opportunities. I've seen the way they've acted with early multi-goal deficits – especially lately, but given that it's the Stanley Cup Playoffs that we're talking about here, I wouldn't diminish the likelihood of 2nd and 3rd period fire coming from all four of our forward lines. Let me explain after the jump.
Look at the Winter Classic. Until now, that was the highest–pressure game the Rangers have had to play this year. Given the pride at stake in that game, contributing to that is all of the hype (especially HBO related), I would call that one a must-win. At least I’d bet the players saw it that way. Other than that, there have been zero must-wins for us, as we had no nail-biters to dictate whether or not we’d have a playoff spot. Every game matters – I think our team realizes that better than any of us ever will – but as far as individual games that had serious impact as an individual game itself, there have been none but the one in open air.
Why does this console me? Because when the lights are on and the cameras are rolling in a game that holds such an overwhelming amount of significance (which undoubtedly the first game in a playoff series does, especially at home), our team steps up to the plate in a very, very big way. I don't just mean Marian Gaborik, and I don't just mean Ryan Callahan – I mean absolutely everyone. Freaking Mike Rupp was the one who got it done for us in the Winter Classic. Enough said. High pressure moments in the playoffs may bring out the best in NHL superstars, but it brings out even more – an intangible amount more – in teams that have a lot of character and passion. Our boys, led by Captain Clutch himself, backed by the ever-assertive, passion-bleeding John Tortorella, and supported by the ultra-dependable Henrik Lundqvist, have no shortage when it comes to fervor and drive. This is what would separate us from the Senators, or any other team that we face, when we're under the spotlight. Nobody cares like we do. Nobody wants it as bad. Nobody is going to take it from us. Nobody.
So, I admire our drive to be level–headed as fans; I appreciate skepticism that keeps us grounded, but to say that the god damn Flyers are more capable than us, especially in the fashion of pulling themselves and each other up from the ice and getting back to work, is an under-thought sentiment, and it will do us no good as fans to believe that. It will do the Garden Faithful no good if they stop pumping energy from the seats to the ice for lack of faith in the face of such adversity as the Flyers faced last night. We have a team that is more than capable in this right circumstance, and a team that we have dominated accomplished this last night against a team that is a hell of a lot better than Ottowa. If anything, the Flyers' comeback win should be a confidence boost for us, because we're better than them – especially when it comes to our character and drive. They're a good team, it hurts me to say it, but last time I checked they wear orange and we bleed blue, and that still counts as something to us – right?
The Garden will be electric. The stakes have not been higher all year. To say that we will not be able to step up to the plate in a way that the Flyers did is absolutely foolish. If we – god forbid – face an early 3-goal deficit, I’ll be scared shitless – but that is a hell of a lot different than scared hopeless, or even confidence-less. Our fan base needs to understand this – because we’ll have a big part in this dreadful, hypothetical scenario. The Garden Faithful need to be the electricity that jolts our team back to life. We owe that to our boys.
I hope I proved my point. Now, I’m off to find a decent bar in Worcester, Mass to watch this game at.