In the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs, two themes have encapsulated the New York Rangers‘ deep run. One is rallying around a teammate, another is squandering opportunities. Right now, the latter theme is a storm cloud beginning to form over the team.
The Rangers, especially Henrik Lundqvist, did not bring their A-game in their Game 5 7-4 loss to the Montreal Canadiens. Now, they return home to Madison Square Garden up three games to two. It may only be Game 6, but it is absolutely imperative the Rangers treat it either as a Game 7, or as if they are the team trailing the series 3-2.
Why? Because returning to Montreal for a Game 7 creates too many variables for the Rangers, the vast majority of which will fall in Montreal’s favor.
Yes, the Rangers have rallied around Martin St. Louis to catapult themselves to the precipice of a Conference Championship. However, throughout this postseason, we have seen first hand that no series or game lead is safe. Just ask the San Jose Sharks and Pittsburgh Penguins.
Also, while a Game 6 loss would mean a third Game 7 in this postseason for the Rangers, how will they react entering such a game after blowing a 3-1 series lead?
The team will not come out as undisciplined or as lackadaisical as they did in Game 5. They will have their home crowd at their side, and Lundqvist can’t possibly come out flat a second straight game, can he? Plus, the crowd will be fired up by the return from suspension of supervillain and former Rangers hero Brandon Prust.
As long as the Rangers stay disciplined and play their game, they will be fine. Also, they must crash the net on Dustin Tokarski and take advantage of the myriad of rebounds he has given up in this series. In other words, as St. Louis stated after his winning goal in Game 4, the Rangers must finish the Canadiens.
All it takes is one solid performance at home, and the Rangers are on their way to the Stanley Cup Finals. If not, you are most certainly welcome to hit the panic button.