The New York Rangers have succeeded this far with not going down quietly in this series against the Washington Capitals, and one would hope that a winner-takes-all contest at Madison Square Garden will bring the Rangers good fortune tonight and advance to the Eastern Finals against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
But from the Rangers viewpoint, they will not fall victim to any hopes to good fortune. If you ask anybody on that team, they will tell you it was effort and resilience that got them through Games 5 and 6, and they intend on using that to get past this deciding game.
When the Rangers have faced elimination in the last four seasons, they finished 13-3 with two of those losses coming in overtime. During their Stanley Cup run last year, they went 5-1, with that lone loss coming against the Los Angeles Kings in the finals. Facing elimination against the Capitals in that span, they are a perfect 5-0.
“So many guys have been through it before,” said Carl Hagelin, who made his postseason debut in 2012 and now has 65 playoff games to his credit. “Guys aren’t too tense. Guys aren’t too serious. I think guys are ready to play the game when the puck drops. That’s when we get intense.”
Game 6’s victory is a great indication for Game 7 for the Rangers. Many were concerned about Rick Nash’s lack of productivity this postseason. He was able to shake off that moniker in Game 6 with a third period goal to give the Rangers a 3-1 lead. Now that Nash has contributed to a goal this series, the team will not feel pressured to do a little bit more to compensate for Nash’s quiet stick. Defensemen such as Marc Staal and Ryan McDonagh will likely feel more comfortable sticking to their main role and protect goalie Henrik Lundqvist, who has allowed 11 goals in 187 save attempts this series.
The strategy tonight for New York should be the same as Game 6: get on the board early, take as many shots and one-timers as you can, maintain a lead the whole way through and stick to your role and help out when you can. Although the Caps have been 3 for 25 this postseason in power play opportunities, that should not be a statistic for the Rangers to fall back on and take some liberties. Lastly, if there was one person to keep an eye out for to give the Rangers a boost tonight, look no further than Chris Kreider. Don’t be surprised to see him help to draw first blood for the Blueshirts tonight.