With Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs coming to us shortly from Verizon Center, we have to wonder whether the New York Rangers have the whereabouts to make it out of this game alive, let alone this series, against the Washington Capitals, a familiar playoff opponent.
Facing elimination trailing 1-0 late in the third period Friday night at Madison Square Garden, New York’s Chris Kreider knocked in a shot to send the game to overtime, where Rangers captain Ryan McDonagh scored off an incredible feed from Derek Stepan to extend the series at least one more game.
Many spirits have been renewed in New York’s corner, but the challenge tonight for the Rangers will be making it out of our nation’s capital to a home crowd in a winner-takes-all contest. New York has been on the ropes in this series since Joel Ward stunned the entire garden with a game-winning goal with 1.3 seconds remaining in Game 1.
The key for New York going into tonight is to not fall behind, but instead strike first. The Rangers have already shown they are capable of that back in Game 2 where Chris Kreider got the Blue Shirts on the board 38 seconds in. Dan Boyle struck later in the first period to go into first intermission with a 2-0 lead.
So far, Game 2 has been the Rangers’ best outing offensively. Otherwise, it has been the brilliant glove and stick work of Henrik Lundqvist keeping the games close in hopes that his team could take advantage of.
Unfortunately for Lundqvist and company, Capitals goalie Braden Holtby has been just as masterful, holding New York to seven goals this series as well as a shutout in Game 3. The Rangers have to be sure to take as many shots as they can early in order to find a way to get the puck past Holtby.
The 43 shots the Rangers took in Game 5 is a good example of this. It may have taken them longer than they had hoped to get on the board in that game, but they got the job done nevertheless. Take as many one-timers as you please.
Lastly, if the Rangers intend on continuing their run for the Stanley Cup this spring, they have to find a way to energize Rick Nash, who has been held to one goal this entire Stanley Cup Playoffs. Nash did a fine job in Game 3 of this series with seven shots, but all Nash needs to do is to bury the puck in the back of the net to give his team a boost.
If not, there have been plenty of Rangers defensemen that have helped out on offense, such as McDonagh, Keith Yandle and Dan Boyle, and their Game 5 effort in that aspect should not go unnoticed. The Rangers have been doing a great job recovering on defense when their defensemen came in to help the offense, but for this game they should proceed with caution before risking an open opportunity for Washington.
If Rick Nash especially can get something going tonight to help New York force a Game 7, then we will quite possibly see a well-balanced attack tonight in Washington.