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Rangers in Another Game 7

For the second straight round, Madison Square Garden will host a game seven.  Two weeks ago the Rangers completed a series comeback against the Ottawa Senators, and Saturday night they’ll try to stay alive in the chase for Lord Stanley’s Cup with a win over the Capitals. @JoeBianchino

Bruce Bennett, Getty Images

…It really never can be easy, can it?  Rather than finish off a once demoralized Capital team in game six, the Blueshirts played one of their poorer games in recent memory and now find themselves in a do or die situation.  Game seven.  A nirvana moment for all sport fans – unless you’re a fan of a team involved.  If you are such a fan, then game seven is a cardiac function threatening combination of tension, suspense, and outright fear.  Do you know what flop-sweat is?  You’ll have an intimate familiarity with it soon.

Saturday night’s game seven represents the climax of an evenly matched series.  Only one game has been decided by more than one goal, with neither team able to claim a contest as one which they have dominated.  With their defensive styles and hot goaltenders keeping each game close, it seems only fitting that the series should be decided in a game seven.

If the Rangers are to avoid the gut punch that would be a second round, game seven exit, they’ll need to come out swinging.  Following a miraculous game five win, a fast start in game six could have finally killed whatever spirit the Capitals had left.  The Rangers, however, stumbled out of the gate in about the worst way possible.  They took a penalty just a minute into the game and failed to kill off the resulting power play.  From then on, the Capitals were emboldened and the Rangers were playing catch up – an equation that just doesn’t work for a team whose offensive output leaves about as much to be desired as Rocky V.

But in game seven, that offensive output doesn’t need to be Rocky I, or even Rocky IV.  It just needs to be Rocky Balboa – solid effort, could have been better, but certainly good enough.  And it has to be Richards and Gaborik to lead this charge.  Both have scored huge goals in this series, but the Rangers’ biggest scorers – specifically Gaborik – have not done enough.  Both stars need to battle tough in the corner, win pucks behind the net, and use their position to set up chances between the circles in game seven.  The Rangers as a whole have to return to a tactic that scored them an early, easy goal in game 5.  Shoot the puck…From everywhere.

When you get right down to it, though, the Rangers need to play with greater intensity.  In game six, they simply didn’t do the little things that they’ve counted on all season.  In game seven, they need to beat the Capitals to loose pucks, stay out of the penalty box, clog the middle of the ice defensively, block shots, win battles in the corners, make big hits, crash the net and disrupt the Rubik’s Cube that has been Braden Holtby, and overall just display the heart that has been their calling card.

All season we’ve seen it, we’ve praised it, we’ve relied on it.  We’ve seen it carry them through back to back elimination games against the Senators; through three overtimes; through a one goal deficit with seven seconds to go in pivotal game five, etc.  And it’s what – though it took a few days – has me beyond the gut punch that was the game six loss.  Because I refuse to believe that – though we didn’t see it in game six – we won’t see that metal Saturday night.  I choose to believe that when called upon, in that big situation, in that most dire of circumstance, a team like this will fight, they’ll claw, they’ll do whatever needs to be done.  They’ll be the Rangers.  I wrote before game seven of the Ottawa series that an early exit isn’t worthy of a team like this.  I believed it then.  I still believe it now.  And I think if you search back into your memories of this team, you know you believe it, too.

Keep believing. Go Rangers.

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