Saturday, May 12, 2012

Do or Die

In a few hours, the Rangers will take to the Garden ice for another Game Seven. Last time, it was the Senators. Tonight, it's the Capitals. It doesn't matter who the opponent is. The pressure is all on the home team. Sure. Washington expects to win too. But it's the Blueshirts who earned the right to home ice for such special occasions.

Do or Die. This has been a very competitive series from the word go. The Caps have proven grittier than the Rangers, who always put the hard hats on. Washington has matched them in the trenches check for check and blocked the most shots in the tournament. So, they know they have their work cut out. If the Rangers want to advance and set up a dream Eastern Conference Final against the very relaxed Hudson rival Devils, they'll have to go the extra mile.

Simply put, the Blueshirts will have to control every single aspect. From faceoffs to puck possession to forechecking, backchecking, team defense and goaltending, the Original Six club will be under the radar in another unique setting. Win and they are halfway there. Lose and let the questions begin along with a long offseason. As Frank Sinatra says, "It's up to you New York."

The last home game produced a Miracle on 34th Street. Brad Richards and Marc Staal supplied the real fireworks in one of the great playoff games the franchise has played. The same team in its 86th season chasing a fifth Stanley Cup also was part of an epic Game Three that went three overtimes before Marian Gaborik played the hero. Given how almost every game has been decided by the slimmest of margins (1), there's a possibility that the deciding game could require sudden death.

Anxiety is building. Tension is everywhere. Whether you're a player on either side or a fan living and dying with every shift, it's bound to cause panic attacks. I almost had one after Richards tied Game Five. I didn't care. That's what these playoffs are. A place where you cheer as loud as possible until it's over. I think I speak for all #TwitterBlueshirts when I say:

I don't want it to end!
Nobody does. You can bet Alex Ovechkin, Mike Green, Nicklas Backstrom, Alex Semin, Jason ChimeraBraden Holtby and John Carlson are thinking the same thing. The Caps have played a wonderful series. Sacrificing for a new team concept similar to ours under new coach Dale Hunter. They won't fear our building. So, the atmosphere must be chaotic. If you're there like Dad will be just like at Round One's conclusion, let our Blueshirts know how you feel.

There will be plenty of nerves. When it looked like Carlson's power play goal would stand up this past Monday, groans could be heard. The crowd which had been subdued throughout started getting into it. "Let's Go Rangers" became the battle cry. The cheers increased in that emotional final minute. Then pandemonium. Fans really can make a difference. Our blood rival made sure that their team rallied from two goals down to put the Flyers on the brink. Our energy is vital.

I am not going to bother with the Rangers' Game Seven history at The Garden. That's a superstition. We all have them. It's why I'll be in our house watching with Justin. But we'll be there in spirit along with everyone else dying for the first meaningful hockey this club's seen since Messier, Gretzky, Leetch, Graves and Richter starred on Broadway.

If you love dramatics, then Game Seven is as good as it gets. I hope it lives up to the hype. But most importantly, it's time for Ryan Callahan, Richards, Gaborik, Staal, Henrik Lundqvist, Carl Hagelin, Ryan McDonagh, Dan Girardi, Mike Del Zotto, Brian Boyle, Artem Anisimov, Derek Stepan, Chris Kreider, Brandon Prust, Ruslan Fedotenko, Mike Rupp, John Mitchell, Stu Bickel, Anton Stralman to rise up.

All season, the battle cry's been The Right Way from a resilient group who are facing another challenge. From John Tortorella on down, it's time to respond. Every inch matters. Play with passion. Play with discipline. Play with heart. Dare to dream.

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