The 2014 Stanley Cup Final is heading back to Los Angeles for Game 5 Friday night for one reason only.
Henrik Lundqvist was the best player on the ice for the New York Rangers.
If you watched Game 4 last night, you knew the Los Angeles Kings should have paraded the Stanley Cup around the fabled Madison Square Garden ice.
The Rangers played by far their worst game of the playoffs since Game 4 of the Conference Semifinals against the Pittsburgh Penguins. The myriad of turnovers and defensive miscues continued. Dan Girardi’s regression in this postseason has reached epic proportions. The power play is still powerless.
And the Rangers also received an assist from the hockey Gods. Twice. When have we ever seen a game in which two pucks stopped dead on the goal line? Especially one in the final minute of play?
And yet, the Rangers are still alive only because their all-world goaltender played like it at the most important time.
Lundqvist made 40 saves in a game in which his team was outshot 41-19. His play was the reason the Kings didn’t run away with at least eight goals.
One will not expect the Rangers to bring such a lackluster effort in Game 5. However, even if they bring their A-game, as they did in the first half of Games 1 and 2, the Kings will be hungrier and even more determined to finish off the series on home ice. As we’ve seen, the Rangers’ best efforts in the series openers were not good enough.
Therefore, if this series is to be extended back to the East Coast for a Game 6, Lundqvist must duplicate his Game 4 performance. Of course, a combination of the Rangers’ and Lundqvist’s A-game will win them the hockey game. But they will not be as fortunate as they were in Game 4 if neither scenario comes true.
A team with the championship pedigree and killer instinct like the Kings will exploit the Rangers’ weaknesses in such a spot.
But if Lundqvist is better than Jonathan Quick on this given night, and the Rangers limit their mistakes, this series will continue.
Then, you can channel your inner Al Michaels and start to believe in miracles.