I have a friend at work who is a huge Rangers fan. Yesterday he made a point to me that I hadn't thought of. He said that it didn't matter how you got there, and that being down 3-1 to the Kings was exactly the same as when the team was down 3-1 to the Penguins.
I disagreed slightly. I claimed the Rangers were actually more dead in the water after the Penguins beat the Rangers in Game 4. Back in the Second Round the Rangers won Game 1 before losing the next three. Both home games were a disaster, with Game 4 against the Penguins remaining one of the worst games the Rangers have played this year. This year, I argued, the Rangers lost three in a row before getting a win. Although there are very similar parallels to the Rangers not playing a good Game 4, maybe the Rangers can take some of that win with them.
In the Second Round the Rangers won (handily, may I add) Game 5 on the road to force a Game 6 at home. That's the strategy tonight as well. Bring the boys home.
It has to be a strange feeling to know The Stanley Cup is following you around in case you die. The Rangers will not have an opportunity to earn The Cup unless they force a Game 7. Until then, Lord Stanley will watch every game waiting. Maybe he'll be hoisted, maybe he wont.
Some of you have disagreed with me over this point, but I really do think all the pressure is on Los Angeles tonight. The moment the Rangers went down 3-0 in this series they were not expected to win. Period. LA wants no part of this series heading back to a Game 6, and they know just how quickly a team can gain momentum, since they did it themselves in Round One against the San Jose Sharks.
The blueprint should be to never play like they did in the third period of Game 4 ever again. They need to keep pushing, they need to keep their foot on the gas and they need to play like there is no tomorrow. That's not to insinuate the team should be taking ridiculous risks, but sitting back is a dangerous game to play when a loss ends the season.
Henrik Lundqvist is the best player on the ice every game, which is an unimaginable blessing but also slightly a curse. I do believe when things get close the Rangers fall back on their heels because mentally they know he's behind them. That's a dangerous game to play. He lifted the team on his shoulders and saved them in Game 4. He cannot be expected to do that every night. He might be able to pull it off, but one mistake ends this season. So those risks can't be taken.
Players like Martin St. Louis and Brad Richards have thrived in this moment in the past. St. Louis has had a great playoffs and a fantastic Final in my book. Richards has been the exact opposite. Rick Nash is going to score tonight if Carl Hagelin can be believed. Maybe Chris Kreider gets one and then opens his own floodgates (he has been so, so good offensively, too). And you can't ignore the possibility of Ryan McDonagh doing something special either. Or Derick Brassard. or Benoit Pouliot. Or Mats Zuccarello.
There is a reason to have hope, is what I'm saying.
For now, however, it's one shift at a time. Go steal a road game. Do whatever it takes. Just find a way to win the game.
Because imagine what The Garden will be like for Game 6 if you do.