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Handy Dandy Playoff Notebook: It’s Now Or Never

  • I figured it would be best to save the next edition of the “Handy Dandy Playoff Notebook” for today, because I honestly believe that anyone who watched Game 4 had no interest in consuming any form of content associated with it the day/morning after.
  • It was one of the uglier games in recent memory, and despite that... the immediate feeling afterwards was one of annoyance as opposed to defeat or despair. I wanted to get some, seemingly level headed, thoughts regarding the game out, and I did so yesterday on Twitter. I won’t rehash, but will instead use two as a launching off point of sorts.
  • I was in college for the 2014 Stanley Cup run, and I remember how I was feeling after Game 4 as the Rangers trailed 3-1 heading into Pittsburgh. I then remember hearing the news about how Marty St. Louis’ mother passed away, and how there was a chance he wouldn’t play. It was just a case of bad vibes all around, and just a yucky feeling.
  • I remember feeling this sense of wanting the game to come and go, and not really caring too much about the fact that they’d likely lose, because the Game 5 synced up with the final day of classes at school, and the Bridge Street bar crawl. And I remember getting super drunk and watching Game 5 down the street from my dorm at The Shed, a bar that no longer exists, the Rangers winning and having a sense of belief.
  • Fast forward almost a decade! later, and the Rangers trail the series 3-1, with a must-win Game 5 taking place on home ice. A Rangers squad, which on paper at least, has more firepower and talent than the 2013-14 squad who almost won the whole thing. Make no mistake, that 13-14 team was deeper and had a better overall balance and composition, but in terms of individual gamebreakers who should be able to take over a game when needed, this roster got a little more.
  • Which leads me to say... I want to believe that this team isn’t going to go down without a fight. I say this as someone who attended Game 5 of the 2015 Eastern Conference Final vs. Tampa Bay and saw the Rangers get shutout, and someone who remembers shutting off my television in disgust after the final horn sounded on Game 7.
  • I also say this as someone who remembers watching Henrik Lundqvist skate to the bench in Game 5 vs. the Washington Capitals, and almost get off the ice before Chris Kreider injected life into the team by scoring to send the game to overtime.
  • Before you write it in the comments, I will state the obvious. Those teams had more experience, and were building toward something. Henrik Lundqvist was battled tested with a track record of pulling teams kicking and screaming, and willing them to victory.
  • This team, in its current configuration, is making their first run. Admittedly they are a bit ahead of schedule, and should be able to win a round. But if they do go down, it will be disappointing and should inspire some changes, but it won’t be the end of the world.
  • So I guess what I am saying is this. This series has been immensely frustrating given how things went in the regular season vs. Pittsburgh, and based on what should have happened. The games in New York were what they were, triple overtime in Game 1 and all, and the last two in Pittsburgh were ones to forget.
  • Game 3 was a winnable game that got away, and Game 4 was a disaster. But there’s an opportunity in Game 5, on home ice, for the Rangers to play their best game of the season. An opportunity for them to sow just a smidgen of doubt in the minds of the Penguins. A team with a core looking to make one last major go of it. And if the Rangers do win Game 5, the pressure will be squarely on the Penguins to take care of business in their own building, because anything can happen in a Game 7.
  • I love analyzing hockey, trying to predict what will happen, use data to try and make informed decisions. I underestimated this team, and what they might be able to do in the regular season. Yes... Igor and the success on special teams are responsible for a good portion of their success, but other things did go right. Things I may get into at a later point in time.
  • But if there’s one thing to takeaway from the Rangers’ return to the playoffs after five years, it is that they play the games for a reason. Once the puck drops weird shit happens. And the teams that can endure, adapt, and push forward go on to live and fight another day.
  • Tonight the Rangers just have to live up to their potential, and put it all out there, even though they are missing some players. They owe it to themselves to play like the team that fought hard in the regular season. If they play their best and lose, then that’s hockey. But at this time of year weird shit happens, and it would be great to see the Rangers grab a win in Game 5, and see how they respond in a Game 6 back in Pittsburgh.
  • So I guess... just win baby.