It's pretty simple at this point: the New York Rangers need a win against the Washington Capitals on the road Saturday night or their season is toast. But, really, if you've watched this team all year, is there a reason to just give up now?
With the way the Rangers have played this season, fighting adversity seemingly every single night with a multitude of injuries to core players, their reliance on youth and a gameplan hinging on being physical and out-working opponents, this is a team that's impossible to write off, even in a 3-1 hole. Do we even have to mention their season came down to their last game, then the last game of the NHL season? You just can't count this Blueshirts team out.
John Tortorella has been composed and relaxed this year when compared to his others in the NHL and he remained that way heading into this 3:00 p.m. tilt against the Caps at the Verizon Center. Despite the gut-wrenching loss to the Caps in Game 4, he's confident that the team will ready for this game and has a good feeling about the club. When you look at the performance of the Rangers in this series, despite being down 3-1, on a whole they haven't been dominated -- the Rangers dominated the second period in Game 4, while the Caps controlled the third period and much of overtime, but really, the Blueshirts are not as far off as the series indicates.
What do the Rangers need to do to get a win? First, as Tortorella has preached, take it as one game at a time. Don't look at the big picture, the fact that they must win three straight. This team has been great at only concentrating on one game at a time the entire season and it's a must in this one. No. 2 is to continue the play from the first 40 minutes of Game 4 -- hard forechecking, using the body, blocking shots and creating chaos near the net. Michael Neuvirth can't have an easy day in the net -- the Rangers need to get traffic in front, get shots on goal from all angles and make contact with him with him (within the rules). New York choked away the lead in the last game because they got away from the forechecking part of their game. They weren't aggressive, they looked tentative and nervous and they sat back. The team knows how they have to play to win and they'll have to get back to it in Game 5 if they want to live another day. They aren't going to change their style now just because they had a rough period. The final must is the power play, which has gone 1-for-18 in the series. Let's be realistic and say that if it doesn't score, it needs to not sabotage any of the momentum generated. Lately it's been so bad and disoriented it's sucked some of the life out of the team. It can't do that anymore.
The Rangers had a great record on the road this season (24-16-1) and that will be tested against one of the better home teams (25-8-8) in all of the NHL, in what's going to be a wild atmosphere. There is no point in worrying about what could have been. There's three games left in their season right now and they need to just take it one period, followed by one game at a time. If they don't come ready to play, they'll be packing their golf bags Saturday night.
Saturday, Apr 23, 2011, 3:00 PM EDT