You probably saw a lot of talk the past couple of days from the Philadelphia Flyers about how Game 4 is a must win and how they need to risk everything to make sure they're not heading back to Madison Square Garden on Sunday in a 3-1 hole. You probably saw Claude Giroux's guarantee that the Flyers would win Game 4. You also probably saw the Rangers say, "hold up, we kind of have to win this game, too."
You'll see a lot of arguments about this, but I do fundamentally believe momentum plays a big role in the playoffs. Even if there aren't statistics that can prove it exists on an analytically level, the mentality of a room changes on a dime in the playoffs. Look no further than the Columbus Blue Jackets overtime win over the Penguins a couple of days ago. If Marc-Andre Fleury does anything other than what he did at the end of the game, Brandon Dubinsky doesn't tie the game, the Blue Jackets don't win in overtime and the series is 3-1 in favor of the Penguins heading back to Pittsburgh. Now the Penguins are questioning themselves while the Blue Jackets are puffing out their chests to prove they can win this series.
So yes, momentum does play a role in the playoffs. The Rangers took some momentum back with their enormous 4-1 Game 3 victory to give New York a 2-1 lead in the series. An edge that returned the advantage of home ice to the Rangers after letting the Flyers back into the series with a blown 2-0 lead at home in Game 2.
I talked about this after the Rangers' Game 2 loss, when you have your foot on the opponent's throat, you need to step on it. Plain and simple. In the playoffs if you let your opponent keep breathing they're dangerous. Sometimes even more dangerous if they start climbing out of a big hole. That's not to insinuate the Rangers have a death-grip on this series, far from it actually, but they can earn that with a win tonight.
The Rangers are finding some offense (mainly thanks to Derek Stepan, Rick Nash and Martin St. Louis), they look dangerous on the power play (when Benoit Pouliot doesn't negate them -- sorry I had to), the defense has some holes but hopefully will start tightening up (Ryan McDonagh getting a little more comfortable will help here, too) and Alain Vigneault can always lean on his ole' reliable bottom six if needed.
Then again, the Flyers are on the other side tweaking their power play, changing their goalie and guaranteeing a home win in Game 4. They're not just planning to lay down and die in Philadelphia. No team ever does in the spring.
The good news is the Rangers know that. And from everything they've been saying it's clear they know how much they need to win Game 4, too. Which is good. The Rangers have a nasty little habit of making things hard on themselves. Especially in the spring. So yes, this is a must win game for someone.
But the "who" might surprise you.