For the second time in as many years, the New York Rangers find themselves in a do-or-die game 7 with less than 24 hours to prepare. This year, they'll have the comfort of home ice — where two of their three wins this series have come — to fall back on, only this time, it's the Rangers — not their opponents — trying to regroup after a game 6 loss. For the Blueshirts to come out on top, there's a laundry list of players that must step up.
Start with franchise player and highest paid goalie in the league, Henrik Lundqvist. The King has — at best — played Flyers' goalies Steve Mason and Ray Emery even thus far. If the playoffs ended today, his .910 SV% would be his worst in the postseason since posting a .908 mark in 2009. That's not to say Lundqvist has been bad — he hasn't — but he also hasn't stolen a game for the Blueshirts so far — tonight would be an ideal time to do so. Just the fact that the quality of goaltending in the series has been comparable, if not even tipped in the Flyers favor, is a big win for Philadelphia.
Than there's the matter of Rick Nash, the two-time 40 goal scorer who currently has just one goal in 18 playoff games as a Blueshirt, and has been blanked thus far by Philadelphia. Yes, he does have four assists, but the Big Smooth has been held off the scoresheet the last three games, and yes, 25 shots on goal in six games is a sizable amount, but at some point, bad luck is no longer an excuse. Nash is at that point. Brought in two years ago to be the game breaker the Rangers sorely lacked, he's been anything but on the big stage so far. The big man needs to impose his will in a big way tonight — with goals, hits, passion, you name it, they're all needed — or else he'll face an undue amount of the blame if the Rangers fall.
Even Ryan McDonagh, the Rangers' stalwart on D and a Norris finalist snub, has had a pedestrian series. McDonagh did miss the last five games of the regular season with an injured shoulder, but rust should no longer be an issue, and all indications are that the U.S. Olympian is completely healed. However, McDonagh is yet to register a single point, has just 9 shots on goal, and is a minus-2. He's been uncharacteristically sloppy at times, as was his partner Dan Girardi — solid in the series otherwise — in making two critical mistakes last night.
And of course, there's the Rangers old bugaboo — special teams — rearing it's ugly head again. After an 0 for 5 last night, the Blueshirts are now 0 for their last 20 with the man advantage, while the Flyers are 6 of 19 in the series. Despite Philadelphia's propensity for taking penalties, the Blueshirts have been unable to make them pay for their transgressions — or even get the puck in the offensive zone — since early in the series. The imbalance in special teams play has taken a series that the Rangers have otherwise dominated at even strength and turned it on its nose.
It's not all doom and gloom for the Rangers though — they've been in this situation plenty of times before — but if they are to win — not just tonight, but potentially going forward — the big names need to play big time games.
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