Prior to Game 3 of the Metropolitan Division Semifinals, the New York Rangers set the following goal: win one of two games in Philadelphia.
If you are a Ranger fan, this is a little disturbing.
The Rangers earned a convincing 4-1 Game 3 victory to take a 2-1 series lead. However, now that they achieved their “goal”, how hard will they play in Game 4? Will they play like the team that dominated the Philadelphia Flyers en route to a Game 1 victory, or the team that inexplicably quit playing after notching an early 2-0 lead in Game 2?
If we see the former, it could be the back-breaker for the Flyers. The Rangers must keep their foot on the gas pedal with an opportunity to take a commanding 3-1 series lead heading back to Madison Square Garden for Game 5.
If we see the latter, expect a seven-game series.
For the Rangers to avoid this, they need to continue to get contributions from their top players. Martin St. Louis and Derek Stepan have had a great series so far, but Rick Nash still needs to get going. Nash played a very assertive game in Game 3, and is on the verge of breaking out. If he gets going, the Rangers will have a huge advantage going forward.
And, as always, Henrik Lundqvist needs to be Henrik Lundqvist.
If we’ve seen one thing in this series, it is that the Flyers can lose their composure very quickly. The Rangers must limit the stupid penalties that nearly sabotaged their Game 3 performance. If they allow the Flyers to continue to take penalty after penalty while staying out of the box, this series may be all but over.
Should the Rangers not let up like they did in Game 2, this series may end in five. If not, their job will become that much harder.
And while they may still win the series even if they lose Game 4, will they be exhausted by the time the Division Finals start?
Game 4 is not a must-win for the Rangers. But it is most certainly a must-have.