The New York Rangers managed to do what most thought they couldn’t – avoiding the sweep and staying alive in this series. Now, it’s a matter of actually flipping the script and beating the Los Angeles Kings on the road, and making this Stanley Cup final into something memorable, and not just a series with two teams in two completely different levels.
So what do the Rangers need in order to make it 3-2? Great goalkeeping from Lundqvist, as we saw in game 4, luck, and making the most of what they get. Two times the puck went to make its way across the line but didn’t. Once it simply stopped before a hand knocked it out of harm’s way and another it was some quick thinking by the defense as a stick saved the day. The Kings had a few of these moments in game 3.
But explaining hockey and sports by simply suggesting it’s about the bounces and lucky breaks. The Rangers simply played like the Kings in certain parts of game 4, but their defense was still too slow (especially Dan Girardi) for Jeff Carter and Marian Gaborik, but Lundqvist was always in the way except for a one on one situation. At some point, even on a night of 40 saves, an excellent goalkeeper has to give up something.
The Kings need to keep doing what they did in game 4 and throughout this series. Maybe carrying on with the slow starts isn’t recommended, but I think we’re past the point of the Rangers playing the way they did in the first couple of games. They’re trying to get some time with the puck and they’re trying to attack with numbers, even if it sometimes exposes them in the back. If they get some sort of adjustment going to not leave Girardi and others so exposed to the speed of the Kings attack.
Are the Kings somewhat shaken up by not being able to finish the series in New York? Their players insist that the confidence is still there. You have to take their words for it, and for a team that has avoided elimination so many times in this postseason, winning three game 7’s along the way, it’s probably safe to assume that it takes more than a one goal loss with them being the much more dangerous team to actually throw them off their game.
Maybe fatigue comes into play, although the Rangers have played only one game less in these playoffs. Lundqvist said that when it’s time to close a series you tend to think more about the finish and miss some details about the now. The Rangers, who made that mistake in one of the games against the Canadiens, need to hope the Kings are in that same place, because if it comes simply to hockey vs hockey, the home side are big favorites to finish the series.
However it ends, at least we got something more from this series. The first two games went to overtime, but the third left a bad taste in everyone’s mouths, as if the sweep was inevitable, not to mention anti-climatic. The Rangers have been able to get over that game 4 hump but in order for this series to become something they can actually look back on and be proud of, even if they end up without the Cup, it has to get to at least a game 6.