Two years ago today, the Rangers won a Game 7 against the Capitals in Washington. One year ago today, the Rangers won a Game 7 against the Penguins in Pittsburgh. Tonight, the Rangers will play another Game 7, this time at Madison Square Garden. May 13 might as well be “Game 7 Day” on the calendar.
“Rangers in 7” is what I said after they lost Game 4 last Wednesday. It was mainly out of optimistic jest hoping that the season would extend past Friday’s Game 5 the way I had hoped the 2013-14 Rangers could give us one more game each time they played the Penguins after Game 4. Like last postseason when they scored only two goals combined in Games 2, 3 and 4 against the Penguins, these Rangers had scored only one goal combined in losses in Games 3 and 4. They were once again trailing a second round series by two games and after last year’s miraculous run, it seemed irresponsible to think they could erase another 3-1 series deficit.
This entire postseason I have watched the Rangers with a calm demeanor that I have never before experienced when it comes to this team in the playoffs. But after a regular season in which I grew to enter each Rangers game thinking they would win after years of knowing one or even two goals would be too much for them to overcome, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised by the way I have viewed the playoffs.
I didn’t get too discouraged after the Game 2 loss to the Penguins and I didn’t get down after the Game 1 loss to the Capitals or the Game 3 loss or even the Game 4 loss. The only time this postseason I sensed impending doom was in the final minutes of the third period of Game 5 as the clock ticked away on a Presidents’ Trophy season with the Capitals leading 1-0. But then with 1:41 left, Chris Kreider saved the season, and in overtime, Ryan McDonagh extended it and now here we are faced with another Game 7 on May 13 with a chance for the Rangers to go to their third conference finals in four years.
Every championship team needs to overcome something crazy to win their championship and in the Stanley Cup Playoffs it happens every year. The 2013-14 Kings overcame a 3-0 deficit and won three Game 7s on the way to the Cup. The 2012-13 Blackhawks had to overcome a 3-1 deficit to the Red Wings before winning the Cup. The 2011-12 Kings were the 8-seed and had to beat the 1-, 2- and 3-seeds to reach the Final before winning the Cup. The 2010-11 Bruins had to overcome a 2-0 series deficit to the Canadiens, overcome a 2-0 series deficit to the Canucks and win three Game 7s to win the Cup.
I thought the 2013-14 Rangers’ comeback against the Penguins might have been their championship moment, but the magic ran out in the Final when they couldn’t hold a two two-goal leads and when they couldn’t win any of their three overtime games. Maybe a Game 7 win on Wednesday night against the Capitals to complete their 3-1 series comeback will be their championship moment this year?
If the season ends on Wednesday night at the Garden where the Rangers have never lost a Game 7 in the team’s history, it will be devastating and a enormous disappointment. After reaching the Final last year and winning the Presidents’ Trophy this season, the next logical stop in the team’s progression is to reach the Final again and this time win the Cup, no matter how incredibly hard that is and how impossible it can seem even for the best regular-season teams in history.
This Rangers season wasn’t meant to end on Friday night at the Garden and it wasn’t meant to end on Sunday night in Washington. This Rangers season was set up for so much more than a second-round exit and after coming back in this series with 101 seconds left before finality set in and a handshake line took place, it can’t possibly end on Wednesday night. Rangers in 7 on May 13 once again.