Rangers-Flyers Game 6 Thoughts: It’s Never Easy

New York Rangers at Philadelphia Flyers

Two periods was enough. I couldn’t take any more Rangers hockey in Game 6 after the embarrassing performance and effort put on in the first 40 minutes. So I turned the game off. The only problem was CC Sabathia was busy blowing another lead (this time to the worst offense in baseball in the Mariners), so I was forced back to the Rangers, hoping that they would pull off a Bruins-like comeback from last year’s Game 7 against the Maple Leafs.

The Rangers have now lost 12 consecutive games when leading in a series and after dominating the first period in Game 6, they came out for a Sunday skate in the second period and a one-goal deficit quickly got out of hand. Now one game stands between the Rangers and the Penguins and the Rangers and the offseason. There’s a chance on Wednesday night, the hate-watching of the playoffs will begin for me with the next Rangers game not for over five months. With that notion and the notion that finality will be in the Garden for both teams on Wednesday, I don’t feel well enough to put together Thoughts on Game 6, but I will.

– Ladies and gentlemen, Dan Girardi! If you thought giving Girardi a six-year, $33 million extension was a bad idea then you must have had a fun time watching Game 6. Girardi was an embarrassment on defense watching plays develop in front of him and then letting players get behind him with little to no effort trying to clear out the front of the net. After Girardi’s disastrous Game 2 and now Game 6, he has been every bit as bad in this series as he was a year ago against the Bruins in the five-game loss. And aside from a few weeks during the post-Olympic break, Girardi has now been playing poorly consistently for an entire calendar year. For as good as Ryan McDonagh has been, imagine how good he might look if anyone other than Girardi was his defensive partner. Well, if his defensive partner were anybody other than …

– Ladies and gentlemen, Anton Stralman! If you’re Raphael Diaz and you keep getting scratched for Anton Stalman, how are you not showing up to playoff games drunk wearing a Flyers jersey? We are well past the point with Stralman where you have to point out when he does something good to justify his presence in the lineup and we are at the point where he can no longer dress for games. He is the biggest defensive liability on the team, which is saying a lot about a team that also has Dan Girardi and John Moore, and he provides zero offense (he now has one goal and 13 assists in 87 games this year). Alain Vigneault doesn’t need to scratch Anton Stralman for Game 7, he has to.

– I’m tired of hearing about Derek Stepan. Unless he’s sitting on the doorstep or the far post wide open on the power play and the puck is placed perfectly on his tape, he isn’t scoring. He has been soft on the puck for the entire series, has made horrible decisions at the blue line trying to create offense and has been unable to capitalize on what should be freebies. Then again, it’s not like he has missed as many opportunities as …

– Benoit Pouliot. When the Rangers signed Benoit Pouliot, my former college roommate and Bruins beat writer for The Hockey Writers Mike Miccoli told me, “He has 39 scoring chances a game and never scores then takes stupid penalties.” It was the most spot-on scouting report I have ever heard of a player in any sport. It’s incredible to think Pouliot has never scored more than 16 goals in an NHL season when you watch how many high-quality chances he has every game, but with the way he handles open looks in the slot, he never will score 20 goals in the NHL.

– Rick Nash isn’t Alex Rodriguez. He’s not even Mark Teixeira or Robinson Cano and certainly not Nick Swisher. He’s a player who just happens to have played six playoff game this year and has no goals and four assists. And even without Nash scoring a goal, the Rangers are one win away from advancing to the conference semifinals and hockey’s Elite Eight and playing the Penguins. But on Wednesday night at the Garden, the Rangers need Nash. They need Rick Nash to be the player I was willing to give up the farm for at the 2012 deadline and the player they traded for the following summer. If Nash doesn’t score in Game 7 and the Rangers don’t advance, he should be prepared for the criticism that will come with going goalless in a seven-game series against the hated Flyers. He will have earned it.

– Henrik Lundqvist is one loss away from having his ability to win in the playoffs called into question again. As ridiculous as it is, especially after Game 6 when he was hung out to dry, it’s going to happen. Non-Rangers fans love nothing more than to spit out the lazy idea that Lundqvist is a different goalie in the postseason than he is in the regular season even though the numbers prove he is the exact same and that it’s more about the Rangers even worse inability to score in Games 83 and beyond. Lundqvist still hasn’t stolen a game like I said he would at some point in this series and now he only has one chance left to do it. If the Rangers win Game 7 without Lundqvist stealing it then that means the offense carried the team to the second round and I can’t see that happening after the last two games. Henrik Lundqvist needs to close out the Flyers single-handedly or at least go into Game 7 thinking he needs to.

I really believed this postseason would be different. I really believed the Rangers would make quick work of the Flyers (I predicted the Rangers would win in five games). I really believed the Rangers would advance to the conference semis without facing elimination. But here we are. The Rangers are in the same place they were a year ago and the year before that and three years before that. Game 7 in the first round. Nothing is ever easy with the Rangers. Nothing.