As we all prepare for THE most important Rangers game of the season Friday night at The Garden, it is important that fans be advised of all possibilities and act accordingly.
And since a victory against the Tampa Bay Lightning will hoist the Blueshirts smack into the Stanley Cup Final, it’s vital to be totally prepared for all eventualities.
With that in mind I have a detailed check-list for the three most prevalent types of fans — the Optimist, the Pessimist and the Objective One.
Decide which category you’re in, read on and enjoy…
OPTIMISTS: The optimist Rangers fan believes that the Blueshirts are destined to win the Stanley Cup and that’s a good thing. But accentuating the positive will not necessarily bring home the Silver so these points must be kept in mind.
1. IN THE BAG, NO?: Nothing is in the bag until it’s in the bag. While everybody and his Uncle Dudley is predicting a easy Rangers clincher, the game will be played on ice and not in the Fantasy section of one’s brain.
2. BOLTS LIKE MSG: It’s not as if the Lightning shrivel up and become mummified when they walk into The World’s Most Famous Arena. They have won playoff games here before therefore, beware, brother, beware!
3. BISHOP IS NO KNAVE: Tampa goalie Ben Bishop has been drawn and quartered by the media but that does not make him a stilt-walker posing as a goalie. Remember, he blanked the Blueshirts, 2-0, on Seventh Avenue.
4. COOPER NO BLOOPER: Forget that coach Jon Cooper is a Long Islander; that’s a good sidebar. What we’ve learned this series is that he’s a smart cookie, clever enough to have taken his team to a climactic Game 7.
5. BEWARE, RANGERS ALUMNI: Ryan Callahan has found his game and would love to stick it to his ex-team. Ditto Brian Boyle, who came close to beating Henrik Lundqvist last game. Anton Stralman? You know he’s good!
6. TRIPPING THE TRIPLETS: Ondrej Palat, Tyler Johnson and Nikita Kucherov seemed to have disappeared after a Gang Buster series start. Whatever the reason for their sabbatical, it could end very suddenly.
7. BEWARE THE UNDERRATEDS: Players such as left wing Alex Killorn, right wing J.T. Brown and defenseman Andrej Sustr are the kind of “unknowns” just apt to make names for themselves in a showdown contest.
8. CAPTAIN STEVE: While Steven Stamkos hasn’t exactly dominated the series, he is one of the most threatening shooters this side of Rick Nash when the latter is hot. Point is, you can never tell with SS on the ice.
9. THE HEDMAN BUILDING: Towering Victor Hedman is about as good a defenseman as he is tall (6-6, 233). The Super Swede also is good on the rush and not too bad manning the point on the power play. Watch him!
10. SPECIAL TEAMS: The power play and penalty killing has been known to work.
PESSIMISTS: The pessimist Rangers fan remains fearful that; A. Referees will call the game against New York; B. Bad bounces will only afflict the Blueshirts; C. Lady Luck roots for the Lightning. Since all of the aforementioned actually are believed, the following solutions are offered, free of charge:
1. WORLD’S MOST NEVERLOSE ARENA: Forget about the other playoff games. When the pucks — and chips — are down at The Garden, the Rangers win the biggies. The Lightning players know that only too well.
2. THE KING RULES: Sufficiently rested and always there to give the Rangers a chance to win, Henrik Lundqvist gives his mates unlimited confidence. That, in turn, gives the Bolts about this much confidence — 0.
4. THE WHIZ KIDS: Almost out of nowhere J.T., Miller and Jesper Fast have added pizzazz to an already carbonated offense. The duet is an extra, added attraction not exactly expected to emerge so quickly.
5. LAMPLIGHTER NASH: We’re past the time for questioning The Mountainous Man. Rick Nash now is as big, figuratively, a threat as Steve Stamkos. And bigger, physically, which also counts a lot. Watch out for 61!
6. THE BRASSARD BUSTOUT: Hull, Quebec’s gift to Broadway, Derick Brassard, has blossomed into one of the better trade acquisitions since McDonagh. His hat trick in Game 6 hardly was an aberration.
7. DEPENDABLE DEFENSE: While the Blueshirts back line cannot be compared to The Great Wall of China it’s the most solid of the four surviving playoff teams. McDonagh, Dan Girardi, Marc Staal, Keith Yandle, Kevin Klein and Dan Boyle have the goods.
8. YOUNG RED-LIGHTERS: Chris Kreider, Kevin Hayes and Derek Stepan boast a blend of speed and size to go with their scoring touch. Kreider in particular, plays with an edge that invariably keeps the Bolts, well, on edge.
9. THE BRAIN TRUST: Alain Vigneault and his staff have a track record of success. These comebacks — dating to the rebound against Pittsburgh last year are a product of calm, insightful coaching.
10. THE TRADITION: It’s something to skate for an Original Six club with a pedigree dating back to 1926 and, more recently, one that visited the Cup Final only last spring.
OBJECTIVE FANS: There are none.
I hope this helps. It helped me.