An old English teacher of mine who I'm still very close with used to have a sign above his blackboard. That sign said: You Have To Want It.
The first day of class he asked why the human race loved sports so much. No one had a good answer, so he pointed at the sign and said, "What if we love sports so much because we have an inner nature to compete, to throw everything you have at everything the other guy has to see who's better? Sports fills a primal nature to compete, to be better, to be the best."
Why am I telling you all this? Because if there's one thing he taught me it was this: Sometimes in life you can't tell who is the most talented, or the favorite, or who is supposed to win; but you can always tell who wants it more. Always.
Join me after the jump.
The New York Rangers have to want it more tonight. The New Jersey Devils wanted Game 4 more and they took it. But we're at a stage in the game now where one game can easily swing a series. That's magnified when the winning team will be a single victory away from the Stanley Cup finals.
Which brings us here. Eight hours from the biggest game of the season (although to be fair, every game becomes the most important game of the season from here on) and just two wins from the Stanley Cup.
One of the special treats of this year's 24/7 on HBO was being able to see inside the Rangers' locker room. And on the top of the locker room, painted on the wall is this: "Everyone wants to win, not everyone wants to prepare to win."
Tonight, in front of what figures to be an incredible crowd Madison Square Garden, the Rangers need to want it more. They have wanted it more for most of these playoffs, although there have also been flops like Game 4 of this series and Game 6 against the Washington Capitals. Tonight can't be one of those nights.
And you shouldn't think tonight will be like that either. If nothing else this team has shown an ability to always come through when it matters most. This team has always shown off its resiliency. This team simply gets the job done.
Because they want it more.
Great teams usually do.