Staple, with Newsday since 1997, has covered high school sports, hockey and football.
It won't do for the Rangers to approach Thursday's Game 6 as if it's just another chance to advance to the Stanley Cup final.
This is their Game 7. For many reasons.
The Rangers have had a few Game 7s since the Garden began its transformation three summers ago and they've won them all. In fact, with this current core group backstopped by Henrik Lundqvist, the Rangers are 5-0 in Game 7s the past three postseasons.
That's certainly enough justification for the Rangers to look at Thursday as their last, best chance to knock off a Canadiens team that has made some glaring mistakes but still seems to have the momentum after a wild Game 5.
This is the Rangers' Game 7 because the Garden hasn't seen a game this big in 20 years. The nostalgia factor has been high this spring, with the 20th anniversary of Mark Messier's guarantee game just on Sunday and the 20th anniversary of "Matteau! Matteau! Matteau!" on Tuesday.
The "new" Garden needs a signature night still. This is not some hollow call for the fans coming for Game 6 on Thursday to be wild and own the place. The Garden faithful have already proven they can be loud and proud, bringing the house down when Martin St. Louis dramatically ended Game 4 on Sunday with an overtime winner.
No, this is more a call for the Rangers to have the game that makes the sort of memories made 20 years ago. The current Rangers are certainly aware of the 1994 Cup history -- how could you not be, seeing Matteau and Mike Richter and Jay Wells on hand so often? -- but, as Brad Richards pointed out the other day, this team "wants to make our own history."
They did that by rallying from 3-1 down to beat the Penguins to get to this Eastern Conference final. If the Habs storm into Game 6 the way they did Game 5, the Rangers surely will end up on the wrong side of history. Another road Game 7 win, especially in a delirious Bell Centre, is too much to ask.
These Rangers have seemingly thrived on their own desperation. They weren't at their best for all but a couple periods of the Flyers series but Game 7 was a strong game, especially from Lundqvist, who had been pulled after two periods of Game 6 in Philly.
The last three games against the Pens, all must-wins, were special. That included Game 6 at the Garden.
Now, the Rangers may be up 3-2, but it has to be a desperate time.
"You've got to try and create it the best you can," Richards said of perhaps manufacturing the desperate mindset despite being up. "It's a situation [where you can] win a game and go to the Stanley Cup final. It's a desperate time. You don't want to go back [there for] a Game 7 when anything can happen. ... The opportunity in front of us should create all the desperation that we need."
The schedule says Thursday is Game 6. But this is really Game 7, win-or-go-home for the Rangers. The Garden will be rocking, the Canadiens will be hunting for a quick start and another dent in Lundqvist's armor to grab another victory and head home with a full head of steam and all those gleaming chalices in their vast trophy case.
The Rangers cannot let this night get away from them. Win it, and the transformed Garden will have its first truly memorable night.