Tonight, the Rangers will play Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals. Obviously, playing in the winner-take-all game in a playoff series is a familiar spot for New York. Their elimination game record the past few years is staggering, and have been battle-hardened to these moments. I’m sure if you went searching for pre-game content around the interwebs, you could find plenty of articles waxing poetic about the purity and excitement of Game 7. I have a confession to make: I’m not a fan.
Sure, those talented authors are correct in their whimsical accounts of pure sport, guys stepping up on the big stage and motivation of “it all comes down to this”. The problem is, Game 7’s are a crapshoot. They come down to bounces, mental mistakes, officiating and other such incidentals that take some of the quantification out. I’m not just talking about from a statistics standpoint, either. Of course, if one team controlled 65% of possession and had a heavy advantage of scoring chances, yet lost 2-1, you’re going to hear that narrative. What I’m talking about is the emotional component.
Think about what your evening will be like tonight. You come home from work, have some dinner and then congregate around a television for the 8pm start. You might be at home with your family, you might be at a bar with friends or co-workers, but the bottom line is that tonight, your attention is reserved for our friends in blue. If they win, the euphoria is almost indescribable. If they lose, our psyches start to demand answers. This group you have followed for the last six plus months did not end up getting to where we all expected them to be. Why? Did they fail? Did they get screwed? Did Ben Bishop outplay Henrik Lundqvist?
But oh boy, if they win. The possibilities are endless. Maybe Mats Zuccarello makes a miraculous return for the Stanley Cup Final. Maybe New York starts thinking about the Canyon of Heroes again. The NHL would have to be considering the marketing potential of a New York/Chicago Final. All of these things, all of the emotional capital, all depend on the outcome of (presumably) sixty minutes of hockey.
Around here, we like to take the long view. The long-term stability and success for the franchise is where most of our perspective comes from. Statistics normalize, patterns emerge, players regress to the mean. Not tonight. Tonight is it’s own animal. We’ve seen six games in two weeks with the 2014-2015 Tampa Bay Lightning. We know who they are as a team and, for the most part, we know what the Rangers need to do to beat them.
The players know. AV knows. It’s all about execution. Give me Rangers in five any day of the week. When it comes to this however, I know I won’t enjoy watching until the final buzzer, but there is no denying how special a Game 7 win is. Time to put Lord Stanley on notice.