The Rangers aren’t in trouble. They’re not. There seems to be a lot of panic and a lot of worrying going on after a 4-3 Game 2 loss to the Penguins, but that’s just New York being New York. In a city where each baseball game of 162 is reacted to like Game 7 of the World Series, it’s only normal for an overreaction to the result of a playoff game, in any sport.
I picked the Rangers in six because I knew it wasn’t going to be easy to eliminate the Penguins. Even if Game 1 felt as easy as any 2-1 playoff win could ever feel and any Rangers playoff win could ever feel, it wasn’t always going to be like that. The Penguins still have the best player in the world and at times the second-best player in the world. And when you have the best player in the world, sometimes he’s going to play like the best player in the world and score two goals in a game and you’re going to lose.
Mats Zuccarello said, “We knew it wasn’t going to be easy – and it’s still not,” after the Game 2 loss and hopefully his words carried to all the irrational fans out there, who somehow thought the Rangers would walk through the first round and even the second round and the conference finals and find themselves in the Stanley Cup Final because they’re the No. 1 overall seed.
The Penguins limped to the finish line and backed into the playoffs, for a good part of the season they sat atop the Met and looked like they might run away with another division title and another 1- or 2-seed in the playoffs. It doesn’t matter that the Penguins tried to 2007 Mets or 2014-15 Bruins their way out of the postseason and cause more chaos for a front office that was just turned over this past offseason, the same way it doesn’t matter that the Senators finished the season on a 20-3-3 to get in the playoffs since they’re now in a 3-0 series hole to the Canadiens. All that matters is that the Penguins are in the playoffs and they should be taken as seriously by the fans and media as any postseason opponent, especially one with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.
The Rangers didn’t look like a Presidents’ Trophy-winning team in Game 2 and when you score three goals in a playoff game with Henrik Lundqvist, you should win. Had you told me before Game 2 that the Rangers would have a 1-0 lead after the first and score three goals in the game, well, I would be broke right now from loading up on the Rangers’ money line and likely the puck line as well since three goals in a playoff with Lundqvist will usually be good enough to cover the -1.5. Unfortunately, what should be a guaranteed formula for success didn’t work out, the Penguins did their job by avoiding a 2-0 deficit and split on the road, which is any road’s teams goal in the playoffs. Now it’s the Rangers’ job to achieve the same goal in Pittsburgh in the next two games.
If the Rangers lose Game 3, they’re still not in trouble. If they lose Games 3 and 4 then we’ll have a situation. For now though, everything is fine. It’s not perfect and it’s not even great. Very rarely in the postseason do you get either of those feelings. Maybe once you reach the Stanley Cup Final and are moments away from winning it all would you say things are perfect are going great. But things are fine right now for the Rangers and that’s all you can ask after the first two games of a seven-game series.