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Rangers Vs. Penguins: Keep Marching, Boys!

Notes from the Rangers' win over the Penguins in Game 7

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

- I had almost talked myself into Game 7 being gravy. Dad and I talked about it the night before, how we were just proud they forced the series to go to the limit after everything they had been through as a unit. But the closer I got to the game the more I realized how badly I wanted it for so many reasons. It was Martin St. Louis putting his heart on the line, scoring on Mother's Day and telling the locker room how proud he was to be an F-ing Ranger. It was Henrik Lundqvist being fined $5,000 for squirting a water bottle while Sidney Crosby didn't get so much as a second look for a dangerous slew foot on Dan Girardi and a spear to the happy place against Dom Moore. It was Evgeni Malkin guaranteeing a Game 7 victory. It was the Penguins, their smugness, their fans smugness and everything else about that rivalry. It was a chance to complete a comeback after being down 3-1 for the first time in franchise history. It was a chance to beat the Penguins in the playoffs for the first time in franchise history. It was a lot of things.

- And yet, as the game went on there was that familiar pit of panic in my stomach. The Rangers sat back in the third and tried to lock things down -- a strategy I don't like at all, mind you. But they worked their asses off, blocked shots, kept the Penguins to the outside and had any mistakes they did make mopped up by their all-world goalie. And then the puck is in the corner with five seconds left, then it's behind the net with two seconds left and Oh. My. God. They're. Going. To. Win. This. Series.

- The moment that said the most to me was the way the team celebrated after they won. The team swarmed Lundqvist and the entire team embraced each other for nearly a minute. There weren't separate groups of guys hugging or celebrating, they did it as one. It was a perfect picture of a group of guys who looked each other in the eye after Game 4 and said "we're not done yet, we're not losing this series." Playing with very heavy hearts the next game, picking up more steam the game after that before becoming a locomotive of "LET'S GO WE CAN DO THIS!" and winning a Second Round Series against a hated rival after being down 3-1.

- I tweeted this last night, but I think it's appropriate to bring it up here again. The turning point in this series wan't the tragedy that struck Martin St. Louis and his family. The turning point was the rest of the team watching St. Louis come back and put his heart on the line when he didn't have to. That's leadership. And you know what? Had he of made the decision to not play in Game 5, no one would have said a word. Everyone would have understood. But he did it anyway. You can't teach heart. You really can't. And St. Louis has miles and miles of it.

- I thought two other factors played a major role in the comeback. The first is the return of Chris Kreider, who makes the Rangers more dangerous in about 20 different ways. The second is the Rangers found their legs after a brutal Second Round schedule forced them to play five games in seven nights. At least now they're going to get a nice, little breather.

- I don't want to be snarky after such a monumental win, but how many people who were crying about the Henrik Lundqvist contract (or crying about how he "doesn't have it anymore") earlier in the season still have those feelings now? I tweeted this after the game, too: That's why you pay Lundqvist. Very, very few players can drag a team to victory like that. That was about as good as I've ever seen him play, and that's really saying something. Best goaltender in the NHL. Period.

- Brian Boyle has become something of a playoff performer. That entire fourth line did Yeoman's Work this entire series (and have this entire playoffs, actually). Moore was remarkably effective at knocking Crosby off his game, and defending him well to boot. That line combined for the first goal of the game and then Moore and Boyle played significant defensive roles the rest of the way. That's a special group. It might be tougher to keep Brian Boyle this summer than you think. Especially since most seem to think he's garbage.

- The Rangers' power play outscored the Penguins' power play 2-1 3-1 in the series. That's amazing for so many different reasons.

- Ryan McDonagh, Dan Girardi, Marc Staal and Anton Stralman were a big part of this turnaround. So were Kevin Klein and John Moore. With a team like the Penguins, all six of your defenseman have to be ready. Crosby and Malkin were on the ice every shift (or at least it seemed that way) so you're going to see them eventually no matter which pairing your on.

- Give Alain Vigneault a lot of credit, too. I'm not saying this to start a fire, but I'm not sure many coaches (John Tortorella included) could have pulled off that comeback. What a masterful job by him.

- Our team will be one of the last four teams standing. I hope you're bursting with pride. I know I am.