NEW YORK, NY - MAY 23: Marian Gaborik #10 of the New York Rangers celebrates with teammates after scoring a third period goal in Game Five of the Eastern Conference Final during the 2012 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Madison Square Garden on May 23, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Paul Bereswill/Getty Images)
This is one of those moments that really shows you the magnitude of sports. As you read this sentence -- assuming you're reading it before the game starts -- you're emotions are whatever they are (confident? Nervous?) but the season is still alive. In a few hours that may or may not be true. But in this moment right now Game 6 is an unknown.
But that's not the point.
Here's the point: This team isn't ready to have their season end tonight. This team isn't waving the white flag. In fact, Game 5 -- the biggest loss of the season -- was the team's best overall effort this postseason. This is a team built to find their was through these kinds of waters. This is a team that has always found it's way to the light. This is a team that's never given up.
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The team looked like they got their legs back under them Wednesday night. And aside from two goals Henrik Lundqvist stops 99% of the time, this series might be 3-2 in the other direction.
I was impressed with the New York Rangers fight in Game 5. It's remarkably hard for a team to come back from down 3-0 in the first ten minutes of a critical playoff game. That didn't stop the Rangers, and thanks to efforts from the usual suspects -- Ryan Callahan, Chris Kreider, Marian Gaborik, Ryan McDonagh -- the Rangerw closed the gap.
It came at a cost, however. It takes so much, both physically and mentally, for a team to come back from a 3-0 deficit that once the game is tied it's tough to take that next step. The New Jersey Devils ended up exploiting that and winning the game, but it proved something.
No Devils' lead is safe.
The Rangers will use that mentality tonight when they take the ice in the biggest game of the season. A win, and they force a Game 7 in New York. A loss, well, they go back to New York if that happens too. Only the season will be over.
The Rangers are going to make sure that doesn't happen tonight, even if there was no guarantee. This team is ready. They're prepared. They know what they have to do.
One of the biggest mental advantages of being a top seed is you know your game works. You know your style of play is successful. And when you're this deep into the playoffs, you know you're doing something right. That's what the Rangers have right now. Oh, the Devils feel the same way, sure. But this Rangers team has, without a doubt, faced more adversity than any other team in the league these playoffs.
Tonight the Rangers put it to the test.