Monday, May 13, 2013

Rangers and Caps Faceoff Tonight In Do-Or-Die Game 7



















It all comes down to this. The Rangers and Capitals will play Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals tonight in Washington to decide who will move on and who will officially begin their offseason come tomorrow. After winning a thrilling Game 6 by a final score of 1-0 last night at the Garden thanks to a phenomenal 27-save shutout from Henrik Lundqvist, the Rangers will have to be the first team in this series to win a road game if they want their season to live on. Tonight's Game 7 will be the Rangers' third Game 7 in their last four playoff series' dating back to last year.

Come on - you didn't actually think this team would make any of this easy, did you?

If there's one thing we've learned from this series it's that the Rangers cannot get away with playing the same type of game they have played at home as the one they'll play on the road tonight. Of course, that doesn't mean they won't try. The conservative approach has barely worked in their three victories at home in this series and it has fallen short in all three road losses. Sitting on a one goal lead in your own building with the crowd behind you is one thing, and trying to do it on the road is another. I said before this series started that the Rangers would need to attack and be more aggressive and they simply haven't. If they lose tonight, that will be the story of the series and ultimately what did the Rangers in. I think it's a mistake to go into a conservative dump-the-puck-deep-and-go-for-a-line-change style of play every time they take a lead, and I'm a firm believer that this team needs to be much more aggressive in trying to score that critical put away goal instead of expecting Henrik Lundqvist to be perfect in every game.

Some notes and things to look for in tonight's game:

- With their backs against the wall yesterday, the Rangers came out flying and fired anything and everything at net. I don't expect that same approach tonight. I think the Rangers will once again try and survive the first period and try to chip in an early goal without being overly aggressive. They'll try to weather the storm and let the emotions and intensity level of the Caps and their home crowd die down before they get going, in my opinion.

- The Rangers have managed to score a total of two goals in all three road games in Washington this series.

- Rangers announcer Joe Micheletti said after last night's game that he thinks Rick Nash (no goals, one assist in six games this series) is playing hurt because he isn't showing the same burst to get around defenders that he was earlier this year. It's a fair point, and Micheletti certainly has a lot more insight on what's going on with the Rangers since he sees the team everyday. Nash did suffer a groin injury while playing overseas during the lockout, and also appeared to jam his knee while going hard into the boards in Game 3. The more this series goes along and the more I see Nash struggle the more I tend to agree that he has to be playing hurt. He has way too much talent to be struggling this badly.

- Derick Brassard has obviously been the Rangers' best forward in this series, recording two goals and five assists for seven points in six games. Other forwards of noteworthy performances in this series: Mats Zuccarello (no goals, four assists, plus-2 in six games), Brian Boyle (two goals, one assist, minus-2 in five games), Carl Hagelin (two goals, two assists, plus-3 in six games), Derek Stepan (two goals, zero assists, plus-1 in six games) and Ryan Callahan (zero goals, two assists, plus-1 in six games). The captain has played a good physical series so far, but tonight is where the Rangers need Cally to step up with a clutch offensive performance to move onto the next round.

- It'll be interesting to see if any of the emotion at the end of last night's game will carry over into Game 7. I don't think it will, personally, since this game is too critical for guys to lose their cool and wind up taking mindless penalties, but you never know. The Capitals have definitely shown the most frustration in this series and have taken some dumb penalties, but the Rangers' power play has done nothing to make them pay for it.

- Neither Ryane Clowe or Darroll Powe traveled with the team to Washington, meaning both are obviously out tonight. The speculation is that both players are suffering from concussions.

- No update was given on Marc Staal's status (obviously), but I'd be shocked if he played tonight.

- Both Ryan McDonagh and Dan Girardi played under 25 minutes last night. That means you can expect to see them a lot as the game winds down in the third period. I wouldn't be surprised if both guys finish with over 30 minutes of ice time tonight.

- Brad Richards played just 9:34 in last night's game, including just 5:35 on even strength, which is just stunning. John Tortorella hasn't been afraid to bench Richards, and if he doesn't get things going early tonight I would expect more of the same. Richards skated on the fourth line last night with Arron Asham and Chris Kreider, who both had a little over 4:00 of ice time. Richie has certainly fallen out of favor with Torts recently and it's fair to wonder what the future holds for him after this season.

Not much more needs to be said. Puck drops tonight at 8 p.m. ET. The time for talk is over, and it's time for the Rangers to go out there and show what they've got.

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