“We can’t lose another game.” – Alain Vigneault.
Game 5 saw the Blueshirts cough up another late lead and the locals will have to play with the commanding authority that has been on display at home in the series in order to force an all-decisive Game 7. A team is never in trouble at this time of the year until they lose at home. The Rangers have not lost at home in this series and a loss tonight would certainly be trouble with a capital ‘T.’
Erik Karlsson and Henrik Lundqvist are the game-breakers for their respective teams. Lundqvist was not quite the factor he needed to be in his last two starts in Ottawa. That being said, Henrik has not been forced to be a factor in his last two starts at home given the solid play of his team in front of him. Tonight will likely play to a different drumbeat. I would expect Ottawa to come with a least the semblance of a heartbeat, something not very evident in their last two visits. The ease with which Hank makes the first save is often a harbinger of things to come. The King seems to settle into an important rhythm when he absorbs the first shot.
In the meantime, Karlsson all but invisible so far at The Garden, has been the difference in games played in Ottawa by making a key play at a time when the Senators needed one. He has been talked about ‘ad nauseam’ over the course of the series. With reason. He is simply that good and that important to the outcome of this series. For those who believe that any game is a zero-sum event where the difference is the ability to defend versus the ability to score, Game 6 will certainly warrant a watch as these two elite talents, Karlsson and Lundqvist, attempt to backbone their team to victory.
3 KEYS TO GAME 6
1. Special Teams
When a team gets to the point where the margin for error is minimal, at best, a power play goal or a penalty kill takes on a greater significance. The Rangers have been good on the PK, and will need a goal from the power play as their margin for error is minimal. At best.
A goaltender’s role rarely gets lost in the big story that is an elimination game. Making a big save is inspiring. A soft one against is equally deflating. Henrik needs to outplay Craig Anderson.
Big games are often determined by the little things. Blocking a shot. Finishing a check. Taking the shot when it’s there. Advancing one zone at a time. Moving the feet. One shift at a time. Getting to the puck quickly. The little things add up and the Blueshirts need the sum of the simple things to total a Game 7.
Rangers-Senators Game 6 tonight on ESPN 98.7 FM New York. Don LeGreca, Kenny Albert, John Giannone and I will have all the action starting with the pregame at 7. Puck drops a little after 7:30. MSG Network will have complete post game coverage.
Check it out!