Wednesday, May 13, 2015

And Then There Was Seven...

One week ago tonight, the New York Rangers were defeated 2-1 by the Washington Capitals in the fourth game of the teams' Eastern Conference Semi-Final playoff series.  The defeat was the Rangers' third in the first four games of the series and put them on the brink of elimination.  

Friday night, the Rangers were trailing 1-0 with less than two minutes remaining in the third period - and in their 2015 season - when Chris Kreider happened.  Slightly less than halfway through the first sudden-death overtime session, the Rangers' Captain, defenseman Ryan McDonagh blasted the game-winning goal past Washington's wall-like goalie.   Their deficit in the series was reduced to 3-2 with a trip to D.C. back on the calendar for Mother's Day.  

On Sunday night, the Blueshirts gave their moms (not to mention all of us crazy "mothas" out here who root for them) the perfect present.  They defeated Washington on the Caps' home ice 4-3 (after trying very hard to give away a third-period, three-goal lead in its entirety) to tie the series up at three wins apiece.  

Tonight the teams shall square off for the seventh and final time in this post-season.  One game, winner takes all.  For these two rivals, the territory in which they skate tonight is familiar indeed.  This series marks the fifth time since the 2008-09 playoffs that they have faced off against each other in the post-season.  The second meeting, in the Conference Quarterfinals (a/k/a "the First Round") in the 2011 playoffs was a five-game affair, which the Caps won.  The other three playoff meetings that have preceded this year's in the NHL's "post-lockout era" all went seven games.  The Caps triumphed in the first one, which was in the 2009 playoffs.  However, in 2012 and again in 2013 the Rangers ended the Caps' season with a Game Seven victory, including two years ago in the Conference Quarterfinals when the Blueshirts shellacked the Caps, 5-0, in D.C.  

I shall root, root, root for the home team this evening as I have for too many evenings to count in the first not-quite half-century of my life.  I know not how this series shall end.  I do know however that through six games these two rivals have put on a thrilling display of ice hockey, backstopped by the Herculean efforts of their respective goalies.  Brandon Holtby of the Caps and the Rangers' Henrik Lundqvist have been nothing short of extraordinary.  Each of them has permitted just eleven goals through six games, including Game Five, in which an additional ten minutes of hockey was played.  When tonight ends, and the teams line up on the Handshake Line, these two deserve more than simply handshakes from their opponents.  A sustained ovation may be in order.  

And if it is, I hope like hell that it is Henrik and his teammates who are the ones with the smiles on their faces and a practice schedule for the Eastern Conference Finals on their minds...

...Let's Go Rangers! 

2014:  Game Seven Conference Semi-Finals
Post-Game Celebration at Pittsburgh 


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