Some musings before Tuesday’s practice at MSG:
One goal, from Ruslan Fedotenko, for Pete’s sake, in a game when you needed three.
This is why, back in February, I told you the management rationale behind chasing Rick Nash, and why the Rangers went hard after him. For times like these, when May is winding down and June is for the final two Cup contenders.
As the playoff saying goes, sometimes it’s not the best team, it’s the team that is playing better, that wins.
Now, I’m not, not saying Chris Kreider should have been included in a package. No. No way. I’m talking about the means, not the ways.
The lack of an elite power forward is haunting the Rangers, who are banged up from overachieving, shot-blocking, and the mental pressure of two intense seven-game series and the prospect of at least two more games with the Rock-dwellers, who have been firing on all cylinders.
Cold, hard facts: This series could very well have been over in five if not for Henrik Lundqvist.
But forget that. Turn the page. Peering ahead to Game 5, the Rangers, I suspect, will have a good start. Banging, firing quick shots from all angles at Martin Brodeur and the (in my mind) still-suspect Devils defense.
The Devils will try to batten down the hatches and take advantage of odd-man rushes for an early lead. Or tie. But the Devils will not rest in the den.
Fifth games haven’t served the Rangers well, remember: A loss to Ottawa and a miracle rally with a Brad Richards PP goal with 7.6 seconds left and Marc Staal’s PP, OT winner in Washington.
Having written that, the Rangers will have Brandon Prust back. And before you say, "stop coaching, Zip", I’d toss Brandon Dubinsky in the mix, too. Let him ride the adrenalin.
They have survived with their backs to the wall so far. It could be the last home game of a surprising and rather fulfilling season when most local pundits picked them for fifth or sixth in the East and others, from afar, even lower. It certainly has the feeling of a game where the Blueshirts must summon up their best and leave nothing on the ice.
The task: Make Brodeur stop 40 shots and rebounds. Plant Mike Rupp and Brian Boyle and Dubinsky in front to screen and harass him. Draw penalties, don’t wait for them to be called.
Because a loss at home and for Rangers fans, Game 6 could be a season-determining Hell in Newark.