. Nothing more really needs to be said. Tonight, one team goes home a winner and on to the next round and the other just goes home, period.
, it's where heroes are made and reputations burnished. Legends are made and broken. Bit players step up and are remembered forever. Who will be the Rangers' next Stephane Matteau or Artemi Panarin?
- New York has a history in these contests, going 11-6 overall. But the team is 10-2 in their last 12, starting with Game 7 against New Jersey and Vancouver in 1994 to 2014 against Pittsburgh and 2015 versus Washington. We remember the pain of falling to Washington and Sergei Fedorov and Tampa Bay in 2015 as well as the exhilaration caused by Panarin's overtime game-winner last year against Pittsburgh and blow out of Carolina the following series.
The Rangers and Devils meet tonight at the Rock in Game 7. New York won Games 1 and 2, New Jersey took the next three before the Blueshirts extended the series Saturday. The winner travels to Carolina to face the Hurricanes on Wednesday.
Scratches: Harpur, Brodzinski, Hajek, Leschyshyn, Domingue
Devils lines (probable)
Scratches: L. Hughes, Sharangovich, Smith, Wood, Blackwood
A few thoughts:
1) Road warriors -
the road team has won four of the six games so far in this series. In the playoffs, the road team has won the clinching game in six of the seven series decided to date. New York went into New Jersey and won the first two games. Repeat that performance and the Rangers will be the team advancing.
2) See the bigger picture -
the weekend’s results just opened the playoffs. For the first time since 2019, Tampa Bay will not be in the Eastern Conference Finals. The President’s Trophy winner was bounced as was the defending Stanley Cup champion. Both conferences now have their top seed on the golf course. In the East, the winner of this series, if they get past Carolina, no easy task, will face Toronto or Florida, which mentally is a different hurdle than Tampa Bay. Maintain focus on this game but recognize the bigger picture.
3) Take the crowd out of the game -
New York can rally from a deficit, as we saw Saturday night. But as seen in the first games, if they can get a lead early, they can broadly impact those in attendance. The Rangers fans will be vociferous while the Devils fans may be somewhat on their hands. In addition, getting a lead shifts the pressure even more to New Jersey, who likely felt they were in control of the series after wins in Games 3-5.
4) Igor Shesterkin -
As I noted in my post-game blog after Saturday night, Rick Carpinello tweeted Friday that Igor might have to channel his inner Henrik Lundqvist in elimination games. He certainly did so, stopping 34 of 36 shots. Shesterkin was on his game, especially in the first to keep New Jersey at one goal and in the third, when the Devils made a charge to try and rally. Shesterkin being as good or even better is one key for Game 7. He gives the team a big edge psychologically and on the ice. This is especially so as it’s unclear if Devils’ coach Lindy Ruff will stick with Akira Schmid (he should), after some cracks in the armor were seen in Game 6, or go back to Vitek Vanecek.
5) Limit turnovers -
but it’s not just making sure New York cuts down on the giveaways, it’s also trying to avoid the egregious turnovers. Avoid the ones in dangerous areas, like at the top of the offensive blue line which leads to a breakaway the other way. Puck protection and possession are major keys, especially when facing a team with the counter attack speed of New Jersey.
I posted this Friday and like last year, will run this for every elimination game. Granted, we have had too many of these lately, but if New York is able to win a series when their backs were against the wall, then by all means, bring it on. Show me the heart they showed tonight and I can live with a loss, as painful as that would be.
I wrote this in 2014
when the team was down 3-1 to Pittsburgh as well as last year. What I said then certainly applies now, with some very small tweaks, as at the time, New York had never rallied from a 3-1 series deficit. Running this today and tomorrow and for however long the series lasts.
I am as optimistic as anyone, but would not be shocked if the series ends Monday. If it does, what I want to see is heart, passion and effort. Lose but lose with all of it left on the ice. Show some pride for the name on the front of the jersey. Don't just let New Jersey walk all over you, especially in your own building, stand up for yourselves as an athlete and member of the New York Rangers. It doesn't matter who plays and who sits, whoever is in the lineup needs to bring it. To quote Boomer Esiason and it's something I have said a lot, win one shift, then another, then another. Then win one period and another. Then win the game and head to Carolina for Game 1 of the next round.
Heart. It's the willingness to take a hit to move the puck or score a goal. Heart. It's what makes the name on the front of the jersey more than the one of the back. Heart. It's what New Yorkers love to see in their athletes. It's rising over trying circumstances. It's carrying a team or a teammate on your backs when needed. Heart. It can overcome talent when talent doesn't have or use it. Heart. It's what needs to be on display Monday when We Are All Rangers.
Tonight, win or lose, We Are All Rangers!!!