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Rangers In Familiar Spot In Game 3

The New York Rangers find themselves in a bit of a tight spot.  They’re tied 1-1 in their Eastern Conference Semi-Final and are going on the road to play a Washington Capital team that is historically very good at home.  But don’t expect this squad to succumb to the pressure. @JoeBianchino

Bruce Bennett, Getty Images

As the final seconds of game two clicked down, and as it became increasingly clear that the harsh ping of the crossbar would be as close as the Rangers would get to overtime, a surprising and unfamiliar sense of calm ran through me.  It was a feeling I’d seldom experienced.  Generally with the Rangers I yo-yo between either utter elation, and paralyzing dread and panic.

But calm was the order of the day Monday night, as I found myself comforted by the knowledge that such would be the scene in the Ranger locker room following their series-evening 3-2 loss to the Capitals – because it’s always the scene in the Ranger locker room.

They didn’t panic when they started the season 0-1-2.  They didn’t panic when they went down two goals in the Winter Classic.  They didn’t panic when the Penguins made a charge at their lead in the Atlantic division.  They didn’t panic when they found themselves tied at one game apiece and heading on the road in their best of seven with the Ottawa Senators, and they didn’t panic when they were facing elimination on the road in game six of that same series.  To put it simply.  This Ranger team never panics; nothing phases them.

For months, commentators – including this one – have praised the mental toughness of this Blueshirts squad – pointing toward it, as much as anything else, when trying to explain their surprising play.  Not much the better, talent wise, than many of their opponents, the Rangers have battled in tight situations like these all season.  Surely then, after showing itself so many times before, such strength won’t fail them now.

The Rangers are also likely to be spurred on by the fact that, though they lost, game two may have been one of their better of the playoffs.  They carried more of the possession than they had in games past, and saw a power play that has been so woefully bad that the Rangers seem the only team in the league whose offensive output is actually hurt by the man advantage, look impressive and get a goal.  Defensively, the Rangers were strong yet again, with two of the Capitals’ three goals coming off of inexcusable Ranger mistakes – the likes of which such a disciplined team rarely makes.  Without turnovers by Bickel and Lundqvist, who knows how game two plays out?

So whether they will be motivated because they played better, or comforted in the fact that they have been here before and pulled themselves out through the other side, one thing should be clear: the Rangers won’t fear the moment, and will be ready come Wednesday night.  To sum it all up in a word? Believe.

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