So, it’s going to be like that, eh? After a solid 40 minutes of play for the Rangers, the third period was a pretty consistent offensive onslaught by the Panthers, much to their reputation. A bit of a flukey goal gave them a 2-1 lead, and it just felt like a dagger in a game that already felt doomed from the start given how the Rangers have played in Game 5’s at MSG over the last 30 years. Seems like an odd curse that was not broken last night.

To this point, this series has played out almost exactly like the 1994 Eastern Conference Final, so it’s going to be interesting to see if there is a Game 7. The Rangers played a pretty solid Game 5 and still lost, which is not how 1994 went, when Mike Keenan famously pulled Mike Richter and benched Brian Leetch. We shall see.

While Mika Zibanejad had a short handed assist on Chris Kreider’s goal, that was the only good play the duo made all series. It’s been the story of the series. The Rangers’ top guys have done diddly and it’s been extremely disheartening to view as a fan. The eulogy is not yet written on the season and there are still at least 2 chances to advance to the Stanley Cup Final, but it’s okay to feel bleak and helpless right now.

There’s a lot of “what if’s” in the playoffs, but what if Adam Fox was fully healthy this series? This feels very reminiscent to 2015’s “what if” Mats Zuccarello was able to play and was healthy?

Offensively Fox is still able to put up points and make plays, but where his injury is really noticeable is how he just cannot turn while defending and his ability to walk the blue line. The Rangers powerplay is taking a big hit due to the latter, and defensively they’ve all been a mess but Fox in particular has looked bad. He’s still playing better than most defensemen, but he’s not the game breaker the Rangers need right now.

I am confident in this core’s ability to force a Game 7. For reference, this core is 4-1 in Game 6’s dating back to the 2022 playoffs, all but one of those being elimination games. If there is one thing this team loves to do apparently, it’s play live or die hockey in the playoffs. So who is going to step up in Game 6?

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