Steve Zipay is an award-winning journalist who has covered events from Super Bowls to World Series and issues
WASHINGTON - Perhaps the goals and maybe the bounces will come at home for the Rangers. If not, they will be ushered out of these playoffs very quickly.
To advance past the Eastern Conference quarterfinals, they will need to win at least one game at Verizon Center, and so far, the Rangers have managed to put one puck past Braden Holtby in 128 minutes.
The offense, which has been as dry as dust in an old barn for much of the regular season, cannot get untracked for more than a few minutes at a time. And the players' refrain is like a needle sticking on a long-playing record: "We're getting the chances."
It's all reminiscent of the hockey bromide: "All Swedish and no Fin[n]ish."
In the big picture, history is not on their side: The Rangers have overcome a 0-2 postseason deficit once in their 86 seasons, when they beat the Montreal Canadiens in six games in 1996.
But the Rangers dismiss a past of which they were not a part and are looking ahead to a last stand on Broadway. To be sure, they can point to a 16-6-2 record at Madison Square Garden in this lockout-shortened season.
"We've got two games at home now," captain Ryan Callahan said after Saturday's 1-0 overtime loss. "We have to take care of business in our building."
During their run to the Eastern Conference finals last spring, the Rangers relied on an emotional crowd at the Garden to lift them in two Game 7s. That won't be the case this May if this series even gets to a seventh and deciding game: That one will be played here, in a building where the Rangers are on a disturbing 1-9 streak.
Speaking of last spring, the Rangers won all three of their Game 1s and followed it up by losing all three Game 2s. They could not reverse that trend Saturday, in large part because this team, with orchestra leader Henrik Lundqvist remaining a rock in the crease, has a chorus of different players.
Gone or injured are players who had seven goals and 11 assists in last season's seven-game series against the Capitals. Marian Gaborik was 3-4-7, and his current Columbus teammate, Artem Anisimov, was 2-1-3. Marc Staal, whose damaged vision has kept him out of 28 games and who doesn't feel confident enough to guarantee he won't make a costly mistake at this time of year, was 1-2-3. Rookie Chris Kreider, who was 1-1-2, was scratched Saturday. Ruslan Fedotenko, in Philadelphia this season, and John Mitchell, in Colorado, had an assist each.
In their stead, the regular-season guns -- Rick Nash, Derek Stepan, Ryan Callahan -- are not firing. Middle guys such as Brad Richards, Derick Brassard and Mats Zuccarello are playing hard but aren't getting rewarded on the scoresheet.
When this edition of the Rangers is in need of a timely goal, the posts are in the way. Anton Stralman clanged one Saturday at 3:40 of the first, which would have provided some confidence. Nash dinged the near post off a power move late in the third.
Maybe it all turns around Monday and Wednesday at home. Maybe they rise to the challenge. Or perhaps, for this group, the hill will prove too tough to climb.