The New York Rangers are just one win away from the Stanley Cup Finals. Just one more win and they will be relaxing and recouping, waiting for their Western Conference foe to be determined.
The Montreal Canadiens have something to say about that though. Tonight’s Game 6 in New York means everything to both sides even if the Rangers aren’t facing elimination.
Listening to sports talk radio or watching 24-hour sports coverage in New York is something special. No where else in the country could Mike Francesa be such a rock star. Because of that die-hard fandom though, New York sports fans don’t react well to bad news or to losses.
If the Rangers blow a 3-1 series lead to Montreal and are forced to battle through a Game 7, it won’t go over well at home.
To start the series, everything was going in New York’s favor.
Game 1 was a 7-2 thrashing. Montreal also announced that star goaltender Carey Price would be out the rest of the series. The Canadiens would be forced to rely on rookie Dustin Tokarski for the remainder of the Eastern Conference Finals.
Game 2 saw New York take a 2-0 series lead behind their own all-world goalie, Henrik Lundqvist. After splitting overtime victories in Games 3 and 4, the series was 3-1, heavily in favor of the Rangers.
Things were looking good. Too good.
In Game 5, Rangers fans rapidly began to come down from their high.
Lundqvist was pulled from net after allowing a flurry of goals early on. The Rangers stormed back to tie the game at four but couldn’t get over the top. Montreal not only won 7-4, they tarnished New York’s beloved goalie in the process.
Now, a Game 6 loss will do three things for the Rangers: it will lose them the huge lead they built up, it will lose them home-ice advantage and it will bring doubt into their minds of the confidence of Lundqvist.
They don’t want any part of having to travel back to Montreal on Saturday night for a Game 7. More importantly, they don’t want to have to face the thought of playing another match.
So while tonight’s game is only an eliminator for the Canadiens, it sure feels like it might eliminate whichever side loses, even if the Rangers are left with one last chance to advance.