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Game 4 Loss Sets Up Rangers For Pivotal Game 5

Alright, Ranger fans.  Monday night sucked.  Our Blueshirts were flat-out beaten in game four.  But honestly, it may have been a good thing. @JoeBianchino

Bruce Bennett, Getty Images

Now before you write me off as the clueless homer that I may very well be, I’m aware that declaring any playoff loss – let alone one in which you were so thoroughly throttled – a good thing is an act of lunacy.  Well, I’m doing it anyway.

It’s no secret that, though the Rangers find themselves level, they’ve been outplayed in this series.  The Devils have looked the more talented side, and certainly the more aggressive – carrying play and winning races to loose pucks for the better part of the series’ elapsed 240 minutes of play.  In a bit of horrifying honesty: without the stellar – and unquestionably brilliant – play of Henrik Lundqvist, this series could already be over.  The Rangers have looked unsteady in their own zone, and as though the fatigue of a long, harsh playoff run has begun to take its toll.  They’ve looked in a funk.

Ok.  So I’m not exactly painting a hopeful picture, here.  But if you’re a Ranger fan driven to the bottle by this last paragraph – relax, there’s a reason to have hope.  Indeed, there’s a reason that I find myself steadfastly defiant in the face of an ugly defeat.  What is such a reason?  To put it simply, the Rangers may very well have needed such a loss to wake from the slump I so grimly described above.

Any learned hockey fan could tell you that the Rangers’ greatest strength – beside their goalie – is their compete level.  Their tireless work ethic.  Their hellacious will to win.  It’s a characteristic that has been wholly absent throughout the series and the main culprit behind their poor play.  Well, that absence ends with game five’s puck drop.  I expect the defeat suffered Monday night to be a wake up call – the harshest possible realization that this team has been going through the motions for portions of each of these games, and that a trip to the finals rests not on any X or O, but on their desire.  On their heart.

Such a strength has always been the largest driving force behind Ranger wins, and it’s at its most fervent when they band together in a moment of adversity…Or…when they’re pissed.  Having been out-played by the Devils in four games, having been blown out on Monday night, and having headed home tied ahead of pivotal game five, expect both to be in play  - the murderous eyes of Ryan Callahan in the dying minutes of game three are evidence enough of such.

I expect the Blueshirts’ best effort of the playoffs Wednesday night.  Flat out, they’ll come out swinging.  In this spot, I simply don’t think they’re capable of anything less.  So stand tall Ranger fans.  Remember what this team is.  Remember what they have been.  Remember what you have spent a year loving about this team.  Remember that heart and desire do not succumb to the mere weariness of fatigued legs.  Remember that in those dire situations – when down two in the third period, when facing elimination on the road – there’s always something left, something more, something that makes them stronger.  I know it seems out of place without Rocky or Rudy, and I couldn’t blame you for calling me a sentimental fool…

But I’ve seen it.  And you’ve seen it.  And with the looming memory of game four serving as the catalyst, I choose to believe that we’ll see it again…

And there’s that word.  Believe.  More of a mantra now than a word.  But d0n’t stop, Ranger fans.  Don’t ever stop.

Believe.

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