There’s No Time Like the Present for the Rangers

Al Trautwig, Ron Duguay and Steve Valiquette preview the Rangers' must-win Game 6 against the Lightning in Tampa.

It’s a war; a battle. – Lightning forward Brenden Morrow

The Rangers — at this most critical moment in their season — remind me of an army general addressing the soldiers.

Standing before his troops, the commander shouts, PRESENT ARMS.

And then: FIRE!

Supposedly, the GIs hit their targets; otherwise known as bullseyes; or in hockey, the back of the net.

Confronted by the possibility of playoff elimination Tuesday at Amalie Arena, the Blueshirts certainly have the arms, the arsenal and the firepower.

But will they be translated into goals as they certainly were not during Sunday night’s 2-0 Ben Bishop blanket job at The Garden?

The confounding challenge for Alain Vigneault will be — as it was in Game 5 — converting a dominating half-game performance into red lights.

On Sunday, the Rangers owned the rink up until the thirteen-minute mark of the middle period and it still was 0-0.

“We went after them,” the coach pointed out. “We spent the first thirty-five minutes in their end. We were going. We had two Ds (Ryan McDonagh, Dan Girardi) up trying to cycle and create some open ice.”

All true and very gratifying; except for the result and AV explained precisely why the final score made him feel lower than the Broadway #1 Local at Manhattan’s 168th Street station.

“The Lightning did a great job of defending, blocking lanes and blocking shots,” added AV. “All of that made it really challenging for us.”

All true, again, but Vigneault must devise a system equated to the one that produced a 5-1 New York win in Game Four at Tampa Bay.

In the spirit of accentuating the positive — and expecting a Rangers win down South — consider the following:

  • J.T.MILLER: The kid has come around and should be able to reignite Rick Nash and Derick Brassard.
  • HENRIK LUNDQVIST: No kidding; this is the biggest game of his career – and why not? – which means we can expect the best goaltending he can muster.
  • ROAD RESPITE: In this Game 6 situation, playing away from The Big Apple is the best thing for the Seventh Avenue Skaters. Pressure actually is lessened; more on the home club.
  • STRATEGY: Only a bit of tinkering is necessary to exploit the Bolts defense. On Sunday, the Rangers were guilty of trying to cut it too fine and too deliberate, especially on the power play.
  • THE LAW OF AVERAGES: Chris Kreider-Derek StepanJesper Fast suffered an off-night at home. That trio has been a key to many Rangers wins. They’re due for a biggie thereby keeping the club alive for Game 7.

Not that the Blueshirts should expect much cooperation from their hosts. Ex-Rangers Brian Boyle — playing more and more like a Bobby Holik — and Ryan Callahan each have regained their grooves.

“The Rangers,” noted Boyle, “will be a desperate team which means that we have to match their desperation.”

There will be no difference in the quality of motivation in either locker room, although the opposition coaches are miles apart when it comes to further immediate air travel.

Lightning coach Jon Cooper can do without airline points at this juncture of the season.

“I just don’t want to get on a plane again (and head back to New York),” Cooper concluded. “Everybody in my clubhouse would love not to have to get on a plane again for a while.”

We’ll soon learn what the Rangers can do about forcing a change in Cooper’s travel plans.

Every citizen of Rangerville knows darn well that few teams can duplicate what the New Yorkers did last year against Pittsburgh and this spring to Washington.

With that in mind, I can say that AV’s skaters have the Bolts where they want them.

Or to put it as succinctly as possible, for the Rangers winning a game, there’s no time like the present!