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No guarantees on a big Game 6 anniversary
Posted By On May 25, 2012 @ 4:45 pm In Hockey,New York Rangers,NHL,Stanley Cup playoffs | 67 Comments
Here is Josh’s story from The Journal News and LoHud.com today:
By Josh Thomson, 26
NEW YORK — Though not quite pushed, they were certainly prodded. Questions were asked tongue-half-in-cheek, while the pens and notebooks remained ready to recreate Rangers history on the eve of the franchise’s biggest game since June 1994.
Each time, they’d respond with a smile, yet in no way were Ryan Callahan, Brad Richards and the rest of this team’s leadership group going where Mark Messier had 18 years to the very day — and prior to another must-win Game 6 in New Jersey.
Perhaps the closest anyone in blue treaded to Messier’s guarantee was John Tortorella, but his proclamation had nothing to do with the outcome of Game 6. The coach offered assurances that his goaltender, Henrik Lundqvist, and Richards, the former Conn Smythe Trophy winner, would play better after scuffling through Game 5.
“I just know Hank will play his best game tomorrow night,” Tortorella said.
“I expect (Richards) to play his best game, too. I understand his makeup, and I think he’ll find a way.”
The Rangers and their coach remained consistent Thursday as they prepared for tonight’s Game 6 in Newark. Their collective history — Lundqvist’s brilliance, Richards’ clutch chops, two Game 7 victories so far this postseason — and a penchant for thriving in adverse situations have strengthened them in the face of a 3-2 series deficit.
“I think we just know that we have to approach this game the same way we’ve been approaching each game,” Lundqvist said. “We can’t put more pressure on ourselves. We always want to win and we always want to play a desperate game, but we don’t want to go out there and try to do too much or be too excited. We need to find a good balance emotionally and just go out and play as good as we can.”
The Rangers accomplished that at Ottawa. They had lost Game 5 at home, then surrendered the opening goal on the road in Game 6 before rallying to win that night and take Game 7 at home.
They won another Game 7 against Washington in the next round, but their Ottawa ordeal had more in common with these conference finals. In fact, players pointed to that first series as their guide.
“We’ve been in this situation in the Ottawa series, and we can draw off that, off that experience, and our feelings going into the game,” Callahan said. “We have to stay even-keeled about it. We have to go into an opposing building, win one game, and try and get it back to the Garden.”
The Rangers have won Games 6 and 7 to win a series just one other time — in 1994, of course, when they beat the Devils en route to winning the Stanley Cup.
“Not to disrespect what happened, but that has nothing to do with how we’re preparing,” Tortorella said.
The only player still in uniform on either team from that classic series agreed.
“It’s different teams and a different way of playing the game,” Devils goalie Martin Brodeur said. “That’s 18 years ago. That’s a long time. I know I’m feeling a lot different. I’m feeling a lot more appreciative of what’s going on.”
The Rangers said their play in the final two periods of Game 5 changed their minds about the series, too. Despite losing 5-3, they enjoyed their best stretch of sustained play that didn’t include Lundqvist standing on his head.
“We’re confident,” Richards said. “We finally got our legs back and played our game. We were a little behind at the start of the series. Hank gave us a chance to be in the series. Now, it seems like we found parts of it in Game 4, and last night overall it was more the way we want to play.”
“I think we found our game last night, and I think that was mostly a mind-set,” Tortorella said. “We played more on our toes. We played to who we are. We have to do that tomorrow.”
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