Every so often in our time, an NHL Team of destiny skates over the playoff horizon and when that club starts winning, you can feel the magic.
I had that feeling for the first time when I covered the Mets’ 1969 Playoff and World Series wins. Every time they played it was like Goosepimple Day at the ball park.
I have that same feeling now for the Rangers as they gear up Sunday in Washington for what once again is their most important game of 2014-15.
Something about their magical act of pulling a WIN out of a hat marked LOSE on Friday night at The Garden has the Big Apple in a tizzy; as well it should.
But when you think about it, there’s every reason to believe that another New York win is in store Sunday at Verizon Center.
Mind you, this is not Dream-A-Little-Dream Of-Me stuff. It’s all about reality.
When the Rangers came on like a thundering herd Friday night, there were precise reasons for the victory.
More important, those elements will come into play Sunday in D.C., leading us to a Game 7 on Wednesday at The Garden.
Here’s what I mean:
- SPEED AND SIZE: Despite the common believe that the Caps have the physical edge, it is an error. Sure, Washington boasts big guys, but the Blueshirts do, too. What’s more, New York’s huskies have more talent. Namely, Chris Kreider, Rick Nash and Dan Girardi, to name a few. They constantly control the boards and Kreider knows how to bull his way into scoring position.
- OFFENSIVE DEFENSEMEN: While the Caps feature names such as Mike Green, Brooks Orpik and John Carlson, none have been scoring threats. By contrast, Ryan McDonagh is Exhibit A when it comes to underlining why New York has the advantage in this area. More and more, the Blueshirts’ backliners are successfully jumping on the attack.
- DIMINISHING OVECHKIN-BACKSTROM: The Big 8 is a phenom as a one-act virtuoso; like a stand-up comic with strength and skill. But he does nothing — zilch — to enhance his linemates. Not only has his long-range mortar been silenced but even his super-face-off linemate Nicklas Backstrom is beginning to lose key face-offs. Rangers have their numbers.
- MATS ZUCCARELLO MAGIC: The Rangers answer to a water bug-on-a-pond may not be in the lineup but Zuccarello’s spirit was instilled in the team when he was shown on The Garden’s Big Screen sitting in a suite. That was heartening to say the least; inspirational to say the most.
- BRADEN HOLTBY VS. LAW OF AVERAGES: No question, the Caps’ goalie has reached the Elite Level. His spate of first-period saves on Friday defied credulity. But there comes a time when — even with his skill — Holtby will allow a goal here and there simply because of the volume of shots New York is firing at him. Figure a Red Light Rodeo Sunday.
- GLASS-BREAKING: Every game and in every way left wing Tanner Glass is proving himself a much more useful player than he was during the regular season. Not only is the Regina native doing the tough-smart-no-penalties thing; he also has added an offensive touch to his game. Glass could break the Caps’ spirit Sunday.
Make no mistake, this is a solid, well-coached, highly-motivated Washington club which is a notch or two above the Penguins in terms of overall quality. But the Caps are flawed and once the Ovechkin flame is doused — which it certainly has been — Washington’s foot soldiers lack the rifles to beat Henrik Lundqvist.
MAVEN’S RAVIN‘ — I look for New York domination for the first 20 minutes and one Rangers goal — maybe even two — at least by then to catapult them to victory.
You know what happens after that; Cap-less Wednesday!