Thursday, April 26, 2012

Win Or Go Home

Do or die. It really is that simple for the Rangers and Devils tonight. Both showed heart in forcing Game Seven against the Senators and Panthers. In a few hours, each will get an opportunity to complete a comeback and advance to the Eastern Conference Semifinals.

First up will be the Blueshirts, who'll play host to Ottawa in the first seventh game since Messier, Leetch, Graves and Richter were Stanley Cup heroes. It's a chance for new ones led by Callahan, Richards, Gaborik, Stepan, McDonagh, Staal, Girardi and Lundqvist. Who will step up? Is this the day Brandon Dubinsky scores a big goal and plays the kind of gritty game that earned him over four million? Or is it a pair of bright rookies in Carl Hagelin and Game Six hero Chris Kreider who could be the difference? Does Artem Anisimov have one of those highlight reel goals on his stick or is this the game Michael Del Zotto erupts? Or could it be one of our unsung soldiers such as Brandon Prust or Cup proven Ruslan Fedotenko?

That's what Game Sevens are. Where an unlikely hero emerges like last night for the Capitals when Joel Ward finished off a Mike Knuble rebound to stun the Bruins, ending their reign. That it was the always well respected Knuble and Ward, who've been in and out of Dale Hunter's doghouse, is what makes the theater of the deciding game so exciting. You never know who might step up. The seventh seeded Caps pulled off the upset without Hunter relying on Alex Ovechkin. And I thought the only chance they had was for Ovechkin to score nine or ten. Big kudos to Hunter for getting his team to buy in. That first round series made NHL history by becoming the first one where all seven games were decided by a goal. Unbelievable stuff. A case where the road team was undeterred in Game Seven.

That should be a warning for the Rangers, who've already dropped two of three at Madison Square Garden to the Senators. This evenly played match-up hasn't played favorites with the road team prevailing in four of six. Ottawa knows it can win at The Garden. So, it'll be up to the Blueshirts to get off to a good start and use what should be a raucous atmosphere to their advantage. All bets are off if the Sens score early. It's a closely fought series that hasn't seen much from each top line with Jason Spezza's unit largely shutdown along with Norris hopeful Erik Karlsson. Meanwhile, Marian Gaborik hasn't scored since Game One. He is playing hurt but possesses the most dangerous pair of hands on our roster. Brad Richards was instrumental in the win the other night, scoring and setting up another in the club's come from behind 3-2 win.

While all eyes will be on Broadway at 7 ET, there'll be another deciding game getting played between the Devils and Panthers. A series that's been much closer despite New Jersey's shot edge. They still needed overtime to escape Game Six thanks to Travis Zajac, who got behind the Florida defense and beat Scott Clemmensen on a great feed from Ilya Kovalchuk. The play was started by captain Zach Parise, who worked the puck out to Kovalchuk who turned a seemingly innocent two-on-three into OT heroics by drawing three Panthers, allowing Zajac to beat Devil killer Kris Versteeg for the winner.

Now, the Devils aim to complete the comeback when they visit Sunrise for a TV rated 8:30 start, allowing NBC Network to try to cash in on both deciding games. A wise play by them. Can the Devils finally break the playoff hex and win two consecutive playoff games to advance? It's been five years since they advanced past Round One. The Hurricane stunner still in a few memory banks. Even with Jose Theodore returning to net for Florida, the Devils have the edge with championship proven Martin Brodeur. You know Marty doesn't want this to be it and should be at his best with a chance at significant playoff time with possibly the Flyers awaiting.

The Devils are in this spot against Florida because the Panthers' speed has made a difference. The younger skating legs of Versteeg, Stephen Weiss, Tomas Fleischmann and Brian Campbell have been noticeable. The Cats also get back Game Three hero Jason Garrison. Special teams could play a role as the Panthers power play has had the edge on New Jersey's penalty kill. Devil worshippers are hoping for statements from Kovalchuk, Parise, Zajac, Brodeur, all-time leading scorer Patrik Elias and David Clarkson. Or is it a Calder candidate like Adam Henrique who makes a difference? Is this the game they got Marek Zidlicky for? The Devils will take it from anyone including comeback story Petr Sykora, who's contributed a lot. Perhaps it's a gritty guy like Dainius Zubrus or even little Stephen Gionta.

You never know who it will be. For both sides of the intense Hudson rivalry, they already know an anticipated second round dream match-up doesn't await thanks to Washington's victory. However, each is hoping for more hockey following tonight. There's more pressure on the Rangers to win. But the Devils certainly are expected to advance. So, anything less than a 'W' for both would be depressing.

All we can do is sit back and try not to let our anxiety go overboard. Root as hard as we can for our teams. I'll wish Hasan good luck along with close buddy Rob "Kraze" Davis. And to all my Blueshirts who are fun follows on Twitter, Let's Go Rangers!

BELIEVE

3 comments:

Hasan said...

I hate the 8:30 start, especially since I was gonna go to the viewing party at the Rock tonight but seeing as nobody I know is going because of the late start time I don't really need to make the trip to go myself.

I was having issues with Blogger (supposedly my browser isn't compatible with it and I have to download something else but it'll take time) but I finally put something up on Game 6 and rat-gate with the female Devils fan, who was actually an NJDevs poster LA07 lol.

I thought the Caps would do better than people thought, it was the first playoff in years where they literally had no pressure. Plus they had beaten the Bruins three times in the regular season so they had confidence against them, just like Ottawa against the Rangers. Still think the Rangers win tonight, I just can't see Ottawa winning three in a row there.

Derek Felix said...

Yeah. I know. I had that issue before too. I have an idea maybe to improve our blog for the future/summer. We'll talk more about it later.

I still am shocked it was her. lmao what were the odds? Or then again, the odds that John Madden would be staring down Brodeur with a chance to beat him. Crazy.

I'm just happy we won. My Dad went and said it was crazy. It's great that we both got our wishes. Now, onto a new series. No time off. :)

Derek Felix said...

Yeah. I know. I had that issue before too. I have an idea maybe to improve our blog for the future/summer. We'll talk more about it later.

I still am shocked it was her. lmao what were the odds? Or then again, the odds that John Madden would be staring down Brodeur with a chance to beat him. Crazy.

I'm just happy we won. My Dad went and said it was crazy. It's great that we both got our wishes. Now, onto a new series. No time off. :)

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