May 29, 2014; New York, NY, USA; New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist (30) celebrates with teammates after beating the Montreal Canadiens 1-0 in game six of the Eastern Conference Final of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports

New York Rangers Need To Play Their Way

New York Rangers vs Los Angeles Kings

Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

Will the real New York Rangers please stand up? I’d like to assume that the “real” Rangers were the team on display for game six against the Montreal Canadiens, They featured smothering defense, miraculous goaltending (Lundqvist’s “Windmill” save!), and relentless cycling down low. This is the team poised for a shot at defeating the Stanley Cup Finals opposition, The LA Kings. Coach Alain Vigneault praised the game six effort as the best of the New York Rangers’ playoffs.
No team plays its best all the time, however. The Kings went down 2-0 vs. the Chicago Blackhawks to start their game seven elimination game before rallying to come back and win – after dropping three games in a row that could have eliminated the Blackhawks.   There is another team on the ice after all. They can force errors, stymie well-conceived game plans, or simply out skate you with more energy on a given night (better carbs before the game?). The New York Rangers have had one underwhelming game late in each series in the 2014 playoff run, against all three opponents, the Philadelphia Flyers, the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Montreal Canadiens. After those games, the fans and press verged on writing them off, particularly against Pittsburgh going down 3 games to 1. They appeared a step behind, revisited Henrik Lundqvist’s early season struggles, and the defensive zone coverage was haphazard. But since these are isolated games, only one per series, and not the norm, we can expect the “real” New York Rangers to best their game six effort against the Canadiens team to be crowned Stanley Cup Champions.
The Kings, stocked with impetuous forwards, rock solid defense and the prime goaltending of Jonathan Quick, appear to be able to challenge even the Rangers’ best effort. Anything less than that will put them on very shaky ground. Montreal’s coach Michel Therrien talked of the New York Rangers being the best team they faced and a team that played with supreme confidence. Again, this is the real Rangers. They beat the Canadiens team that beat the President’s Trophy team, the big, bad Boston Bruins! Confidence should continue to abound, and it will have to.
The New York Rangers come into the final series a transformed team and in an unusual position. They have been waiting for their opponent and are well rested. This is in stark contrast to having to battle the impossible schedule they confronted earlier of consecutive games with travel, all bunched together. How fitting the irony will be given the early season debacle of a west coast trip (they did beat the Kings 3-1 on October 7th!) and the West coast trip to the finals! The New York Rangers also are clear underdogs unlike the 1994 championship team. I believe this relieves the pressure that team felt allowing for the “real” team to more readily emerge. The New York Rangers need to keep it real in each every game.

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Tags: New York Rangers Stanley Cup Stanley Cup Finals

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