By Dan David, newyorkrangers.com
Today's Game 6 vs. Washington is a very special game for the Rangers, as they have a chance to close out a playoff series in front of the Garden Faithful for the first time since sweeping the Atlanta Thrashers two years ago.
"We're excited," defenseman Wade Redden
said on Saturday after practice. "A big game at home to close this out. It's a great opportunity for us. You go through ups and downs in the playoffs and you've got to be able to put the good and the bad behind you. The only thing that matters is what's in front of us."
|At the end of the regular season, MSG proved its power by helping the Rangers turn a string of road losses into a three game-winning streak that included a playoff-clinching win over Philadelphia. |
Following the Rangers' Game 5 loss on the road, goaltender Henrik Lundqvist
pointed out that the pressure is still on Washington. The Capitals must win on the road today just to get the series to a seventh game.
Throughout playoff history, forcing a seventh game by winning on the road has been one of the most difficult things for even legendary teams to do -- just ask the 1979 New York Islanders. Even when they manage to do it, there are still no guarantees for Game 7 -- just ask the 2008 Capitals, who won Game 6 at Philadelphia before losing Game 7 at home.
The most famous MSG series-ender in Rangers history came 15 years ago, when the Blueshirts finished off Vancouver in seven games to claim the Stanley Cup. Including that finale, Rangers teams are a perfect 3-0 since 1994 when it comes to winning a potential series-ender at home. Some credit for that must go to the Garden Faithful, who raise the decibel levels at MSG to levels that can surprise the Rangers players, let alone their opponents.
In the current issue of The Hockey News
, broadcaster Pierre McGuire makes a point about how the building's atmosphere can define the game:
"Some of the buildings are always on (in both the playoffs and regular season). Whether you go to Montreal or Ottawa or Vancouver or New York or Detroit, those buildings are always electric. But in the playoffs, they get amped even more."
That was certainly evident in the Rangers' Game 4 victory on Wednesday, as the Blueshirts rebounded from a 4-0 loss two nights earlier to grind out a thrilling 2-1 win in front of a raucous crowd that repeatedly showed its appreciation for their performance.
"We've been good at home," said Redden on Saturday. "The last game was exciting. Tomorrow's going to be a great energy, and a great atmosphere to be in front of."
Even if they didn't have The Garden Faithful to lean on a bit today, the Rangers would still have plenty of history in their corner. No Rangers team has ever lost a playoff series that it led 3-1, going a perfect 12-0 in such situations (perhaps because the opponent had to win some desperation games in front of New York's fans).
There is also the matter of Game 6 history. Over the past 10 seasons, two-thirds of all first-round playoff series that one team led 3-2 ended in Game 6. Since 1998, only one in three teams faced with the Capitals' current situation -- at home or away -- has managed to force a Game 7, and more than half of those teams (56 percent) still went on to lose the series.