Rangers to Play Senators in Game 7
The last time the Rangers hosted a game seven they were winning the Stanley Cup. Thursday, they'll just hope to complete a comeback from down 3-2 and advance in this year's chase for sport's best trophy.
Game. Seven. For many, those are the two best words in sport. For a fan? There no two words in the English language more likely to trigger cardiac arrest. For a historically fatalistic Ranger fan? Dial 9-1 and wait - things are going to get nutty. One game. 60 minutes (at least) for your playoff life. The ferocity, the unpredictably, the intensity of the NHL Playoffs all condensed into one neatly packaged, terrifyingly exciting battle.
Thursday, the Rangers will host such a game in the climax of their series with the Ottawa Senators. It's been a bit of a whirlwind series already with fights, big hits, assaults, suspensions, controversies, conspiracy theories, threats of bodily harm (classy, Neil), and great goaltending coloring these last six games as anything but bland. It seems only fitting that it should wind to its end in a game seven.
For the Rangers to keep their fans from the depths of an alcoholic tail spin, they must look to get out and press the action. Their best stretches of play this series have come when they have forechecked with vicious aggression and taken the game to the Senators. Hagelin will be key in such an effort, as the rookie's speed will have to play its game changing part in part in pressuring the Senators and opening up their defense. Look for Derek Stepan to play a big part as well. The young scorer has found his game in the last two, with a goal and two assists in game six. But most likely, this game will fall to the sticks of the Rangers' biggest stars - Richards and Lundqvist. Richards came alive in game six, winning face-offs and pressing the action. His hard play opened up the offense and he will likely need to be the catalyst again. And well, what is there to say about Lundqvist? If he holds court at the Garden, Rangers win. It's that simple.
Then again, perhaps it's something less specific that can carry this Ranger squad. Before game six I wrote about my belief in this team, my confidence that they would not succumb to a bitter fate not because of any overwhelming skill or talent, but because of an iron will and a heart that has seen them play well over their heads for much of the season. We saw it in the Winter Classic, rallying from 2-0. We saw it turning back the Penguins' late charge for the Atlantic. And we saw it in game six - on the road, facing elimination, down by a goal, and rallying for three and the win. I said in that column on Monday that they would fight, they would claw, that an early exit wasn't worthy of this team, that I believed. Well, they did, it wasn't, and I still do. Because they still will and it still isn't.
It's hard to know what will happen in game seven, but two things are certain: 1. the Rangers will not roll over and quit, and 2, the Garden will be rocking. For my fellow Ranger faithful, I leave you with this video. Garden legend John Amirante singing the National Anthems the last time the World's Most Famous Arena hosted a game seven.
Got chills? Keep believing. Go Rangers.