You, again?

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.

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  • It’s show time, so the Rangers will come out and play their game, win, and send these upstarts home for the summer.

    Not to kick a dead horse, but here it comes. Today in the NY Post, a quote from AV, “At some point, you’re happy that a player protects their teammate,” Vigneault said. “At this time, not knowing what the [officials] are going to call, I mean, I’m more tempted to say ‘Turn the other cheek and let’s play.’ ” This is the very reason I said what I did about Mc Ilrath yesterday, he’s not an AV type of player. My DNA make up won’t permit me to just turn the other cheek, as preached by AV. Yes I’m old school, but one has to defend their turf, and that’s the main reason I want the Mc Ilrath kid on my team!!!!!!!!!

    This quote by AV wasn’t posted to stir the pot today, it was to show why I feel the kid won’t get a fair shot from this coach. I could be wrong, and it won’t be the first time, but that’s how I feel, and so be it……………………

    • The past 48 hours there has been waaaayyy too much banter on here regarding McIlrath and him seemingly already being passed over by the organization.

      Not only is this the absolute time for this- the days leading up to a Game 7 in the ECF, where a victory would send us to back to back Cup Finals (which if I’m not mistaken hasn’t been done since the 08 and 09 Detroit v Pittsburgh battes) and maybe our chance to finally win a cup.

      But to address this McIlrath thing…. it is very simple, very cut and dry.

      If the kid can hang in the NHL, he will get a roster spot. What is holding him back now has nothing to do with his toughness or mean streak. It has everything to do with his ability to skate, make defensive reads and contribute to a complicated defensive system without being exposed or a liability.

      If he can handle all of that, then why on earth would AV pass him up on the roster for someone worse? He would be shooting himself in the foot. He came here to win games and without question will dress his best roster.

      Now, if McIlrath wants to come up to the show and play with a chip on his shoulder, he just needs to make sure he remembers that hockey is a team game. Discipline matters. If he were on the ice when McDonagh got hit from behind he has 3 options basically

      1) do nothing
      2) retaliate, prove his point, take a penalty, give them a power play
      3) retaliate, prove his point, take a penalty along WITH someone with the other color jersey

      No one will care what McIlrath’s agenda is, so long as he is smart about it. If he continually puts his team shorthanded, no one will want him around. Not AV, not me. If he proves he can fit the system, play the game at this level, and stick up for teammates without obnoxiously accumulating penalty minutes from bad judgement plays, then BY ALL MEANS give me a player with his size and snarl.

      If all he wants is a gongshow, he should consider the Federal Hockey League, located here in the northeast.

      ^this was mainly crafted for Leatherneck, but you brought him up first today, Walt : )

      • I’m curious about examples of prospects in the Rangers’ system that the team has passed on instead of bringing them up to the big club. None really stand out in my mind that have gone on to success at other NHL teams without first getting a shot to be a NY Ranger?

        • People are going to point to Dale Weise here as the primary example. PA Parenteau maybe.

          But for the most part, the last 3-4 years have seen kids get a shot, and if they stick, they stick.

          • thanks. yeah Dale went on to continue to be the marginal player he seemed to be in NY I believe, PA I don’t think anyway was screaming to keep him around. It does seem the org has basically converted most of its nhl-caliber prospects to become members of the team

        • Solid points…they’ve done a good job it seems, as Dave pointed out.

          I remember being upset after they let John Mitchell walk (Colorado now), but given our center depth last year and this year, he’d probably be on the outside looking in of the top 4.

      • Thank you Hatrick. You absolutely nailed it 100%.

        One other thought on Walt’s post. I think it is a real stretch to say that AVs quote has anything to do with his overall philosophy regarding players like McIlrath. That quote was specifically about this game…Game 7 of the ECF. Why in the world would you want a player (McIlrath or anyone else) who might be undisciplined and selfish who could take a bad penalty at a critical moment? We’ve seen how the Rangers PK, a strength all year, has struggled somewhat in this post season and especially against the Bolts. AV is saying, turn the other cheek…stay out of the box. What modern day NHL coach would preach anything else in this situation?

        That message was for the whole team, but you know it was specifically focused on Kreider. He can NOT do tonight what he did in Game 6. If I’m Cooper, I’m telling my players, whenever Kreider is on thie ice, and you know the refs aren’t looking, get a stick in his side or one of his teammates. He might just take another undisciplined penalty.

        Can’t happen tonight. No way. I’m sure AV had a long talk with him and we will see “Alexei” Kreider at his best tonight! 🙂

      • You can disagree, not a problem, but don’t get personal around here. Anyone that disagrees with you is a mental midget, or you seem to play that up in a round about way. State you case, let it be, then drop the personal shit, it’s not called for…….

        • What are you talking about getting personal? Sure, my counter argument may have had an aggressive tone, but not once did I get into anything other than the McIlrath argument. Nothing personal whatsoever.

          I even closed the post with:

          ^this was mainly crafted for Leatherneck, but you brought him up first today, Walt : )

          Anyways, enjoy the game tonight

    • I think the larger issue is the inconsistency of the refs.

      McIlrath can be a great addition if he shows he can skate. He brings an element the Rangers don’t have. The problem is that he can’t skate, and AV plays man coverage in the DZ.

    • McIlraith is a bust. It’s not an AV thing. If he could play he’d be up. If it were an AV thing, some other team would be offering something of value for him.

  • Very fair points, Justin….. I still can’t help but get up for these though.

    It is funny… Game 7s usually are more of a chess match than any other games. Neither team wants to be responsible for the first gaffe and goal against. The wreck less abandon which teams facing elimination displayed in prior games (5 or 6, for example) usually isn’t as abundant in the rubber match.

    In this series though, with all of the unpredictability and high octane play- who knows. I’m making no predictions.

    I am very anxious to send the Bolts packing though, They’ll have plenty of opportunities in the future given all of the exciting youthful players they have, along with master planner Yzerman. From that standpoint, they don’t deserve this one…. not yet. Unfortunately, for us, in that sense, deserve means nothing. Everything begins and ends tonight.

  • I’m getting too old for this shit – but I’ll be watching, as always.

    And just think. If we win we get to do this all over again.

  • Any chance that Zucc comes out of the tunnel, limping ala Willis Reed? Probably not, but what a sports moment that would be.

    Got beer in the fridge and Xanax on the table. Ready for game 7.

  • McIlrath at worst will be like Clayton Stoner…which is a good thing and at best like Buekeboom which is even a better thing. Been a long time since we have had a stay at home defenseman that can bang and intimidate.

    McIlrath will not be a Purinton or Bickel. But in his short stint Bickel was not a liability.

    I still believe that it is in the DNA of hockey players to get motivated by a hard hit, a good fight…and the face wash of an agitator. If this was not the case we would never have seen Stamkos running around as he has done.

    I find it ironic how stats are used to justify a point, but will be completely ignored for other issues or debates. Hence why stats will never tell the whole story and never will be able to.

    Emotion is just as vital, courage a source of need in these big games. Experience has shown up on stats, but really can it truly dictate what a game will be like tonight? I know this, the 1st powerplay and goal will be huge factors in this game.

    Another point, I love Hagelin and he is our fastest player; he has line of 18 GP 2 G 3 A 5 P -3
    Patrick Maroon has a line of 15 GP 7 G 3 A 10 P +5. So who is having a better playoff? Why is Maroon trusted to play with the big boys? Same can be said about Bickell of Chicago though granted this year so far he has not been as efficient. So clearly Dave’s only speaking from opinion and not fact. I respect his or any other persons opinion but it does not mean it is fact or if I should agree with it.

    As for tonight it will not be Hank who wins it, it has to be the entire team. I have no idea either how this game will be played out. I know this I am glad we are here to compete. From Hank to line 4 and 3rd pair D it has to be 1 shift at a time, 1 battle at a time and 1 goal at a time for 60 minutes.

    • “McIlrath will not be a Purinton or Bickel. But in his short stint Bickel was not a liability.”

      When a playoff game goes into triple overtime, and your icetime is limited to UNDER 4 MINUTES…. you are a liability.

      As for comparing Maroon and B Bickell to Hagelin….. toughness HAS NOTHING TO DO with playoff points. You’re nitpicking any players to fit your narrative. Let me try. Johnson and Kane have the most playoff points overall right now…. theyre not tough. I win.

      ^Also.. Maroon and Bickel have the skill to put their size to use. The former trumps the latter.

      Look– I agree with you completely. A good fight. A bone crushing hit. A net front scrum…. all of those things get me out of my seat as much as a goal would in many situations. We all love hockey and mostly all love all of those aspects. Trust me. I watch Scott Stevens and Nicklas Kronwall youtube tributes on the regular. Yes I miss the Rangers having some tougher players in the roster to some extent. But when it comes down to it– THIS vanilla group (I’m guessing you’d call them) is about to make it to back to back Stanley Cup Finals appearances.

      I’m not about to nitpick that roster construction. Nothing beats a pure combination of skill, size and snarl…. but sacrificing the first for just the second two does not make an NHL player in today’s NHL. He would be more fit for the ECHL.

      • I tried to like and dislike your post but it wouldn’t let me I agree with the point you made that the combination of the two is needed on a roster.

        You clearly missed my point on Hagelin though. Speed has nothing to do with it was my point. It is about having the courage to get dirty and play in front of the net that determines who gets the most goals. Breakaways seldom yield a goal but being in the paint more often will.

        I love Hagelin and I have nothing bad to say about his play. So do not take it as me bashing Hagelin

        • Lol… maybe a new feature for Dave to consider adding.

          Agree on players needing to be willing to get to those areas and battle. Don’t count Hagelin off though. Very few defensemen can contain his cycle game. He is a monster in the corners.

          All good teams have a blend of players. Dump the puck in the corner… let a guy like Hagelin get in there and get it. Couple turn and burns before he throws it into a clustered crease area. And there’s Holstrom is to put in yet another rebound within 2 feet of the crease. A line of 3 Hagelins….. or 3 Holstroms…. probably not all too good. Get a trio of complimentary players and that’s another story.

    • Walt,Leatherneck, Eddie agree with you on Mcilrath, he needs a chance , He can add an element we do not have. The 94 cup team had Kocur, Graves, Buekaboom. If you looked at Messier or Kovalev or Leech the wrong way, you knew you had hell to pay. This current crew has too many finesse players, thus you have the Samkos of the world crushing people. If this was the 94 team, he would be in a coma by now.

  • justin: great post,pretty much nailed what’s going on in our heads for a game 7. let’s go rangers !!!!!!! seen or heard a lot of game sevens over the last 53 years and they don’t get any easier, especially in “94”. soooooo, “LET’S GO RANGERS”

  • “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.”

    Hahaha…….Justin GREAT post, but, I don’t think I ever was able to have a meal, let alone dinner prior to a Ranger gane 7 lol lol! I would just throw up.

  • Tonite in the end is about Heart,Desire and WILL. X’s and O’s have been adjusted and re adjusted at this point . These teams know each other after 6 hard fought games. The other day Brassard said it’s WILL and DESIRE. I believe him. It’s WILL that wins tonite . LGR

  • Game 7’s are like no other. I’m comforted in knowing this Rangers team has proven time and again they’re up to the task. Winning the Prez Cup lets us play the game at home. That matters. Our Game 7 pedigree and home ice certainly gives us an edge tonite. That said, anything can happen. A bad bounce or two, or Stamkos being Stamkos, can flip things. Seven hours until game time and I’m already feeling anxiety. Let’s Go, Rangers!

  • Nights like this are exactly why we are fans. Not just any fans, but passionate, crazy Rangers fans who live and die (historically die more than live) with these moments.

    I’ll never forget the ECF Game 7 in ’94. In a sports bar in Manhattan with my fiancée and all my old Rangers pals. Edge of your seat regulation stuff….then Zell-PUKE-in stuffs it in. I literally collapsed onto the floor of the bar, curled up in a corner, and refused to talk with anyone during that whole intermission. My fiancée clearly thought I was nuts. Then the first OT. Then the second OT. I still, when I’ve reviewed the tape, can barely watch when the Devils charge the net (Richer among others I think). It looked for sure like that puck was going in. I still don’t know how it didn’t.

    Then, the errant clearing pass by Fetisov along the boards……Matteau skates in….Matteau behind behind the net….puts in front…HE SCORES!!!!!!! MATTEAU!!!!!
    MATTEAU!!!MATTEAU!!!!!! I friends lifted me up on their shoulders and carried me around the bar and we were high fiving everyone. We were just a few blocks from MSG, and we headed over there to just soak it in and high five and hug total strangers.

    I told my fiancée, who was not really a hockey fan at the time (but she is now thanks to that season) before that game that Game 7s, especially this one, will either be the greatest night I’ve ever had as a sports fan, or the absolute worst. Just no middle ground!

    This one is for my son. He’s seen the Matteau game on tape countless times. Yes, last year was fun, but it wasn’t Game 7 in the ECF. This will be one will be a moment he will never forget that he can tell his kids about!

    Lastly, a certain movie moment comes to the mind whenever I get ready to watch a game like this. And it’s not what you’d think (Miracle). It’s a scene from Apollo 13. The crew and the folks from Mission Control had done all they can do. Now, we wait, we pace, we hope, we pray. They will either burn up in the atmosphere trying, in which case we will mourn the loss of a great season. Or they will make it through in triumph and we will marvel at the incredible accomplishment of going to the SCF two years in a row!!!!!

    I can’t wait to experience this feeling yet again!!!!!

    • Eddie, you bring tears to my eyes. I was watching game 7 against the Devils (94 ECC) in my apartment in the Bronx. When they tied it up in regulation, ( 7 seconds left) I grabbed the 19 inch TV of its stand and marched to my kitchen window. I was on the 6th floor, if not for my brother intercepting me, out the window it would have gone. The stress was unreal, we live and die with this team. Heave Ho, Pull Together . Let’s go Rangers.

  • Oh the horror of Zele Puke in…if I recall with less than a minute to go? And then the chicken dance by Matteau….talk about a roller coaster ride…eh….I was in Redondo Beach CA, and still a Marine. On a side note, I used to get the Blue Shirt Bulletin mailed to me…Still have a few copies with my APO address reading them in Somalia.

    This is a close second to what it is all about, 1st being watching McDonagh raise the coveted Cup over his head and then passing it to Lundqvuist then Girardi then Staal and watch the kids run around with it and kissing it….ah the vision is brilliant

    • Today (listen for the echo), I consider myself, one of the luckiest men on the face of the earth – Oh no, wrong sport.

  • Dave’s secret prediction: Tanner Glass nets the winner on a short-handed breakaway late in the 3rd!!!! Dave immediately sends off a thank you email to Glen Sather for the heady signing of Glass last summer. Tells Glen that he was very shrewd indeed, to sign Glass to such a cost-effective contract. In a later development, a group of pigs are seen flying over MSG wearing Tanner Glasses’ #15 jersey.

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