2012 NHL Playoffs: Rangers Vs. Capitals - How Important Is Home Ice Advantage?

WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 09: Brooks Laich #21 of the Washington Capitals battles for the puck against Dan Girardi #5 of the New York Rangers in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Semifinals during the 2012 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Verizon Center on May 9, 2012 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

After taking a 3-2 series lead on a magical night at Madison Square Garden, not too many New York Rangers fans were expecting the series against the Washington Capitals to come back to New York. But that's the case after the Capitals pulled off a season-saving Game 6 victory Wednesday night.

The Rangers looked completely out of sync in that game, and for a lot of reasons. The main two reasons, however, were the Rangers lack of effort to start the game and John Tortorella's inability to get the line matchups he wanted. Remember that the home team gets the last change, and that's been one of the Rangers' biggest strengths this year.

He often doesn't get credit for it, but Tortorella consistently makes fantastic reads and uses the last change to get a significant advantage on his opponent. He didn't have the ability to do that in Game 6, he will have a chance to do it in Game 7.

Join me after the jump for more.

In Game 7 Tortorella should have no problem getting Marian Gaborik, Brad Richards and Carl Hagelin away from the Capitals' best defenders. He'll also be able to match Ryan McDonagh, Dan Girardi and maybe even a suddenly back to normal Marc Staal up against Alex Ovechkin.

The difference this makes is huge. Especially since the Rangers' better players couldn't find their space in Game 6 since the Capitals were able to use the last change to shut them down.

With that being said, the Rangers were a great road team this season, so there's no reason for another team to able to shut them down solely because of last change. The reality of the situation is that the Capitals are a great defensive team and when that was piled on with their last change and the Rangers' lack of effort, it created the mess that was Game 6.

And while it would be crazy to simply blame the entire loss on the last change, it didn't help that the Rangers' offense couldn't pick corners when they did actually gets space.

That won't be the case on Saturday. But Tortorella also needs to help his cause a little here too. The Capitals, all series, have shown an inability to deal with Carl Hagelin and Chris Kreider's speed. Yet Hagelin is the only one of the two who has gotten significant minutes the past three games.

Kreider, who has been relegated to the fourth line, has looked good in his limited minutes, but apparently hasn't done enough to earn bigger minutes. I do expect that to change in Game 7, but we'll see what happens. Tortorella would be able to match Kreider up in more favorable situations.

Either way, the Rangers are hoping that the end result in a favorable one.

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