It’s all on the line tonight. Everything the Rangers have done will mean nothing if they don’t dig deep and defeat the Senators in Game Six at Ottawa later. They have no one to blame but themselves for the dire situation. A lack of finish along with a surprising lack of gumption has the Blueshirts in a predicament they shouldn’t be in.
Much credit goes to the Sens, who have gotten superior netminding from Craig Anderson while taking a page from the Rangers by getting in the passing lanes and also boxing out in front. Anderson’s 41-save shutout in Game Five wasn’t that difficult due to Ottawa keeping most of the shots to the perimeter and eliminating second and third chances. They have also shown resiliency by coming from behind twice with Kyle Turris’ OT winner in Game Four helping turn the tide. All they needed Saturday was for Jason Spezza to catch Henrik Lundqvist napping along with Ryan McDonagh, who bit on the pass.
Tonight, the challenge for John Tortorella’s club is to get their second road win of the first round series and force a deciding Game Seven which would be played Thursday. If he can’t push the right buttons with a team that finished first in the East with 109 points, it’d be the third time the fiery coach has failed to get out of the first round. Granted. It’s not all on the coach even if we don’t agree with some of his personnel decisions.
A lot is at stake for the leadership that includes first-year captain Ryan Callahan, Lundqvist, Dan Girardi, Marc Staal, Brad Richards, Brandon Dubinsky, and Artem Anisimov. Even without Brian Boyle (concussion), there are enough leaders who have suffered early disappointments. They know what’s at stake. Lose and some of them could find themselves elsewhere as soon as the summer. Win and they guarantee a deciding game at a raucous MSG. While that doesn’t mean anything based on these playoffs, Game Seven usually favors the home side.
First, the Rangers will have to get there by scoring early and playing to win. Something that Tortorella hasn’t done enough of against a quality opponent. We already saw one top seed ousted last night with Jarrett Stoll and the Kings sending home President’s Trophy winner Vancouver much earlier than anticipated. The Canucks and the Penguins both were eliminated yesterday, which for many experts meant their Stanley Cup prediction. One half of mine is gone thanks to a yeoman effort from Claude Giroux, who didn’t set a new Flyer record with 14 points as NBC Network would have you believe. Tim Kerr once had 15 in a series win over Pittsburgh.
The 2012 NHL Playoffs have been unpredictable with the exception of Nashville and St. Louis taking care of business. Yesterday, Boston showed the mettle of a defending champ thanks to Tyler Seguin’s OT winner, forcing a seventh game against Washington to be played Wednesday up in Beantown. All the Blueshirts need to do is emulate the Bruins and they’ll get Game 7 on Garden ice.