Win or Go Home
It all comes down to tonight. The puck will drop at 7:30 sharp. The Conference Semi Final matchup between the New York Rangers and Washington Capitals will be settled after tonight’s Game 7. This series has been one for the ages. The New York Rangers and Washington have fought for ever inch of ice over the past two weeks. 5 out of 6 games have been settled by one goal, two games have gone to overtime, and for all of you sensitive people who say hockey is too violent and fighting has no place, this series has had great, clean play. For all the hockey fans out there, this series has provided us with everything we could want.I want to reiterate what I’ve been saying all along. These two teams are mirror images of each other. They both start with defense. Both teams bock shots, clog up the neutral zone, dump and chase with the forecheck and take the opponents body with discipline. Both teams have a nucleus of young talent and veteran proven all-stars, and both teams features a goalie who can put a team on his back and single-handedly win them a hockey game. As a Ranger fan, I really thought that my team was the best defensive hockey team in the NHL, and I really have to hand it to the Capitals. They are much better than I knew at playing fundamentally sound hockey.
Going into Game 7 against the Senators, I was confident the Rangers would win. They battled Ottawa on the road to force the Game 7 and had all of the momentum coming home to the Garden. In this series, I am unsure what to expect tonight. My heart is telling me the Rangers will win. They are 4-0 all time in Game 7s at home. This team has shown a great will and has battled adversity all season long. They finished first in the East, which allows them to play at home tonight, and it was not a flukey #1 finish. The Rangers were strong all season long, and did not panic when things were not looking great at times. Also, I have and always will have my trust in Henrik Lundqvist. He is battle tested, the rock on our team, and its hard to bet against him.
However, Washington scares the shit out of me. They have beaten the Rangers in the playoffs each of the past 2 times they have played. Twice this series, the Rangers devastated the Capitals with OT wins, and each time the Capitals bounced back and outplayed New York to tie the series. The Capitals won a Game 7 on the road against the defending champion Bruins, showing they are not going to be intimidated in this spot tonight. Ovechkin seems to be heating up and it has appeared that he has solved Lundqvist as much as I’ve seen anyone in the league. Braden Holtby has played amazing in the playoffs, is the reason the Capitals are where they are, was a fluke bounce away from shutting out the Rangers in the last game, and has shown time and again that he is not afraid of the spotlight. The Capitals will not come out tonight and roll the carpet out for the Rangers to walk to a Conference final date with the Devils.
With all that said, I’m going with my Rangers tonight. The Garden will be rocking, and I have to believe that our leaders will step up tonight. Look for Callahan, Richards, Girardi and Gaborik to lead the role players. We need to get Chris Kreider and Carl Haggelin flying around the ice, taking the action to the Capitals. I want to see Mike Rupp and Brandon Prust get aggressive with Ovechkin, let him know that open ice will be at a premium tonight. The Rangers have had some magic this postseason, really all year long. They are tested, they are hungry, and I strongly believe they will find a way to get it done tonight. Enjoy the game tonight!