By Joe Dyton
Yo, Rangers, where was that effort in Game Six?
Seriously, if they had played the way they did in Game Seven as they did when they mailed in Game 6, they could have saved their fan base a little stress. I guess I just need to accept the fact that the Rangers are going to bring their best when their season is on the line. Think about it, they took care of business in the last two games of the Ottawa Series, and won all the swing games againstWashington (Three, Five and Seven).
Given their track record, I shouldn’t be too surprised the Rangers came out flying in Game Seven, but their effort, or lack thereof, in Game Six gave me reason to doubt them. I was afraid they might be spent and not have anything left to give, while the Caps were feeling good after bouncing back from a devastating Game Five loss. I started mentally preparing for a Rangers’ Game Seven loss the minute Game Six ended.
It wasn’t until sometime Friday afternoon when I saw on Twitter that Rangers coach John Tortorella said the guys would be ready to play on Saturday that I started to regain faith. I don’t know why that statement made me feel good, but it did. I figured as long as the Rangers came out with the same fire they showed in Game Five, they had a shot.
And, come out with fire they did. It is hard to ask for a better start than Brad “Worth Every Penny So Far” Richards scoring for the Rangers less than 90 seconds into the game. When Torts double-shifted the Richards-Marian Gaborik–Carl Hagelin line, it was obvious how badly they wanted to get the first goal. It made sense, whoever scored first had won every time in the series.
While Richards set the tone, it was Henrik Lundqvist who kept momentum on the Rangers side in the second period. The Capitals looked like they were on a power play midway through the period and the Rangers couldn’t clear the zone to save their lives, but King Henrik made sure his team would still lead after his busiest period (11 shots against) ended. I’m still not sure how the Capitals didn’t find the back of the net on one of those mad scrambles.
I almost fell over when Michael Del Zotto gave the Rangers a 2-0 lead in the third. A TWO-GOAL lead?? The Rangers hadn’t had one of those since Game One of the series. They were obviously shocked too; so much so they didn’t know what to do with it and gave it up just 38 seconds later. The PA announcer wasn’t done reading the details of Del Zotto’s goal when Roman Hamrlik cut the Rangers’ lead in half.
Surprisingly, the Caps only took one more shot on goal after Hamrlik’s score, and that didn’t come until the game’s final minute. In a do-or-die situation, it’s astonishing the Caps only got four shots on goal in the third period, none of which came from star player Alex Ovechkin. I feel that’s more of a testament to how hard the Rangers played than a lack of effort on the Capitals’ part. Although Ovie didn’t exactly break any speed skating records getting back on defense on Del Zotto’s game winner. In the end, all that mattered was the Rangers brought their best when it mattered the most.
A few other thoughts…
*I’m glad the waved-off goal in the third didn’t come into play. Since the ref’s mic cut off during his explanation, I was not sure why it didn’t count. I understand it was the dreaded “intent to blow the whistle” rule. I won’t complain too much since it’s helped the Rangers more than once. If the Caps had found a way to tie the game and win in OT, my attitude would be a lot different.
*I’m not sure the Caps need to play so conservatively against the Rangers. I know hockey isn’t like football where a coach may come up with a totally different scheme depending on the opponent, but this whole series, I couldn’t help but wonder if the Caps did themselves a disserve by being so defensive-minded against the Blueshirts. I respect what Caps coach Dale Hunter did to turn his team into a defense-first unit, but the Rangers don’t pose much of a threat when it comes to scoring goals. I thought if the Caps played a little closer to their high-flying style, they could have overwhelmed the Rangers’ defense and went up a goal or two, and then revert back to their tight-checking style. The Rangers aren’t built to make big comebacks; I still think back to Game Four of these two teams’ series last year; the Rangers went up 3-0, but the Caps came all the way back and won in double overtime. If that score was reversed, the Rangers don’t make that comeback. Like I said, I know it’s tough to change up a system on a dime, but I thought the Caps did the Rangers a favor by playing that defensive style.
*Going forward…I don’t know what to think of the Rangers chances against the Devils. I don’t doubt they can win, but I wonder if they’ll have a tough time adjusting to a more offensive-minded outfit like Jersey after playing the Caps. On the other-handed, maybe the Rangers will find more open ice and shooting lanes in this series. I think it will come down to whoever can get their opponent to play their game most of the time. I also think the Rangers’ power play needs to be a lot better this series. Rangers in six.
Joe Dyton is a marketing copywriter in Washington, DC and a freelance sports reporter for the Frederick News-Post in Frederick, MD. He is a former assistant editor for The Dealmakers real estate magazine in Hamilton, NJ and a former sports writer and copy editor for The Trentonian in Trenton, NJ. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Joe on Twitter at http://twitter.com/dyton99.