This is what it comes down to.
For whatever reason we're here. The Rick Nash trade. The lockout. The end of the lockout and start of the shortened season. The slow start to the season. The Mike Rupp move (remember that?). The evolution of Derek Stepan. The mid-season struggles. The Ryane Clowe trade. The Marian Gaborik trade. The end-season tear. The Ryan Callahan overtime goal. The first five games of the playoffs.
And now this.
This afternoon the New York Rangers will take on the Washington Capitals in what could be the final game of their season. It's been a strange season (as you can see from the above) but they all are in their own way.
The Rangers put on a bit of a disappearing act in Washington on Friday, and now they're playing for their lives tonight at Madison Square Garden. A win gives the Rangers a chance to move onto the second round with a Game 7 victory in Washington Monday. A loss ends everything.
This series has been remarkably frustrating because the Rangers haven't been getting dominated, or blown out of games. The Rangers have been on the wrong side of two overtime decisions in Washington. Two games that could have gone either way.
New York should feel confident in its ability to force a Game 7, and even then confident enough to win that game. But for right now, that's looking too far into the future. You have to guarantee that game before you think about. And you do that by winning today.
The power play has to be better. The penalty kill has to be better. The offense has to be better and more consistent. Nash has to find the back of the net. The Rangers have to play with true desperation for 60 minutes, win the game and then do it again Monday.
The Rangers lines need to be better possessing the puck so the Capitals can't keep the Rangers hemmed into their own zone for an expended period of time. The Rangers need to keep the Capitals on their hels, not the other way around.
The Rangers have to be in control of the things they can control. Tonight, that's playing like there's no tomorrow.
Because there might not be.