Before we get into the game I have a series of things I want to talk about. Little odds and ends but I think they're important.
- First of all, I want you all to remember the Rangers were 101 seconds from having their season end after Game 5. Think about that for a minute. If Chris Kreider isn't a hero then the season ends there. That's some friggin' hill to climb. So impressive. So awesome.
- As far as it looks like the Rangers have gone, it's almost overwhelming to realize they're only halfway there. Eight wins down, eight to go. The Stanley Cup really is a marathon.
- I want to quote myself from after Game 5, because I think I did a really good job encapsulating the moment:
- But the funny thing about playoff hockey is death is always a bounce away. And in an elimination game that edge is even sharper, because for the Rangers the prize might have been another game to survive but the punishment was death. And when the lines are painted so clearly on the ground, and the options are so black and white, simplicity takes over as both sides look for a goal only one team will be allowed to find. And my God is it exciting, in the moment, to dance with death. And horrifying. And heart stopping. And exhilarating. It's the difference between the corridors outside Madison Square Garden exploding as you leave the game or walking through the halls in eerie silence, your footsteps and a thousand others making the only noise as they echo off the high walls.
And it was LOUD after the game. It was a special moment.
- This is ... amazing.
5/13/13: Henrik 35 saves, Rangers win Game 7 5/13/14: Henrik 35 saves, Rangers win Game 7 5/13/15: Henrik 35 saves, Rangers win Game 7— Andrew Shapiro (@AndrewShapiro10) May 14, 2015
- Final pre-recap note: There are two fans who sit in front of me every game. They're just as crazy as I am, so it's fun. One of them got into a car accident on Tuesday and got a concussion. She went to the game last night anyway because they'd been at all the games -- including Game 5 -- and she needed to keep going because it was good luck. Thank God she did.
- And I know the Rangers are the Presidents' Trophy winners, so there is a level of expectation for them to do this, but they're the first team in NHL history to come back from 3-1 series deficits in back to back years. Some of that is self-inflicted wounds, but it also shows the stones this team has. The core is the same from last year and they got it done again. Just wow.
- As for the game itself, this is some team, man. Down 1-0, the Rangers fight back to tie the game. Somehow survive those first seven minutes of overtime that tested the capacity of me heart and found a way to win to advance. I would never recommend it, but if you happen to move on thanks to an overtime Game 7 goal, it's one of the most exhilarating feelings in the world. Not many words.
- Give Derek Stepan a ton of credit for the game winning goal -- and not just because he scored it. But he went to the right area of the ice and he didn't rush his shot. He waited just long enough to see where Braden Holtby was going, and let it go. Some play. Some series for him, too.
- Henrik Lundqvist? I don't know what more you can say about him. I really don't think we can appreciate just how much of a monster he is when it matters because it's almost impossible to wrap your mind around what he does every time he skates between the pipes. The statistics are insane. And while Holtby played the series of his life and was sensational, Lundqvist shut the door. Because that's what he does. Just a generational goaltender. Once in a lifetime talent.
- Kevin Hayes becomes the first rookie since 1939 to score a goal in a Game 7 for the Rangers. And good for him, too, because I thought he had a much better series than his offensive numbers indicated up to that point.
- And that pass from J.T. Miller? That kid is going to be special. My word what a smart play from someone who has been jerked around a little from Alain Vigneault. When Vigneault moved him up to the first line he didn't look out place at all. That's enormous in terms of flexibility.
- Keith Yandle came a Kreider goal away from being the goat for this series. And you know what? He stepped up big on the Game 5 game-winner and he was directly involved in the Stepan game-winner last night. Give the man credit, he stepped up when he had to.
- Kreider was a beast. So was Carl Hagelin and Dominc Moore. I loved Ryan McDonagh, Dan Girardi and Marc Staal too. I didn't notice Kevin Klein (this is good) until overtime when the Rangers were pinned for two minutes and I noticed Klein the entire time (that was bad).
- I'll eat a little crow on Vigneault, but I still stand by what I wrote after Game 4. He made some adjustments and the Rangers won. Benched Martin St. Louis and moved Miller up.
- Maybe playing against his old team that spurred him in the first place will get St. Louis going?
I'll end how I started last night:
I LOVE THIS HOCKEY TEAM! Keep marching, boys! 8 to go— Joe Fortunato (@BlueshirtBanter) May 14, 2015