Rangers Up Against Elimination – I Stand Defiant
Down 3-2. On the road. Losers of two straight. Outplayed in large sections of all five games played so far this series...Well, that seems pretty bleak. But stand defiant Ranger fans - this team will.
For the last 18 hours or so - ever since the clock ran out on game five - I've been walking around in a sort of daze. Perhaps I've been trying to reconcile the differences between the two Ranger teams - the one I fell in love with over 82 regular season games, and the one I watched disappoint last night. Perhaps I've been replaying game five's disastrous first ten minutes in my imagination. Or perhaps I've been staring into the abyss of a long, harsh, forthcoming offseason.
But actually, I've been working my way through the gut punch that was Wednesday night's loss and settling into a state of reckless defiance ahead of Friday's game six. Why? Because despite the debacle that has been games four and five, I still believe in this Ranger team. Despite the fact that Lundqvist looked lost on Wednesday, despite the fact that the defense hasn't been able to get out of their own zone, despite the fact that forwards aren't tracking back with enough ferocity, despite the fact that the Rangers aren't carrying enough possession, despite the fact that they're not shooting enough, despite the fact that the Blueshirts are on the road and facing elimination, I still believe.
Now I could sit here and tell you that such a belief is the work of extensive analysis - that the Rangers showed me that Lundqvist will be better in game six, that they'll get more pucks and bodies to the net, that they've figured out the Devil forecheck and will exit the zone with greater efficiency, that having been in this exact situation round one against Ottawa, they know how to pull out of it. But while I believe those to be true, I'd be lying if I said that the reason for my stubborn support had to do with anything but that organ for which I have showered praise upon the Rangers - that same organ Huey Lewis claimed was still beating inside Rock n' Roll. The Heart.
"They’re imperfect and they don’t possess an overwhelming amount of skill. But they’re tough, they’re physical, and they’re without an ounce of quit."
I wrote those words just after the Winter Classic, and I quoted them when the Rangers found themselves in this situation against Ottawa. And in that article, I followed those words thus:
"Callahan. Dubinsky. Boyle. Prust. They all epitomize that personality, the depth of character that had this team winning games they had no business winning, rising to the top of their conference with talent that may color them third or fourth best."
Dark as the hour may be, I still believe that these statements ring true. I still believe that what boils down to a ferocious will to win will surface. Perhaps I'm naive. Perhaps I'm too far thunder deep in the forest to see the trees. An objective look at this series would almost have to yield the thought that the Devils are on the precipice of the finals. They've looked the better, they have the lead, and they're heading home. But sports aren't objective. They're emotive, physical endeavors in which the tide of a contest can be swung by desire as much as skill.
Then again, perhaps I'm fooling myself, or perhaps I'm just trying to convince myself. But maybe, just maybe, depth of character can rise above all else. Maybe a scrappy team can find a way to claw out two more wins. Maybe a team that has relied so heavily on their toughness, their physicality, their refusal to quit, can find it again and see it save them one more time. And that's what I choose to believe in. I choose hope.
In all honesty, I don't know who will win Friday night. I don't know what the outcome will be. But I trust the team I know. I believe in the team I know. I have faith that the team I know has suffered the wake up call and will come out ready to play - that, at the very least, they won't go down without one hell of a fight. And in such a fight - I choose the Rangers every day of the week. I wrote during the Ottawa series that an early exit isn't worthy of this team. It's still not - and they know it. So keep believing Ranger fans, keep believing. And if you need some motivation, I give you this.
Keep believing. Go Rangers.