The Rangers, the Eastern Conference’s No. 1 overall seed, are down 3-2 in their first-round series with the Ottawa Senators and must win the next two games to advance to the next round. Game 6 is tonight in Ottawa. If Blueshirts’ coach John Tortorella let me address the team before the game, I’d say something like the following (BE ADVISED, AN R-RATED RANT LIES AHEAD)
All right, gentleman. This is it. Over 82 games, you developed an identity as a bruising defensive juggernaut that scratched out 1-0 and 2-1 wins like it was nothing. As Heath Ledger’s The Joker might say: “What happened? Did your balls drop off?“
In the first four games of this season, Ottawa led for zero seconds! They didn’t hold a fucking lead the entire f0ur games!! Yet somehow, they won as many games as you did (two, on OT game-winners). And that’s because you blew it. You were up 2-0 six minutes into Game 4, with a 2-1 series lead, and you have not scored since. Let me say that again: YOU HAVE NOT SCORED SINCE. You can make your half-baked excuses about “hot goalies” and say “we’re doing the right things” but obviously that’s a crock. If you were doing the right things you’d have closed out the series in five games like a real Stanley Cup contender.
Remember the 1994 team? The one that is immortalized in the minds of Ranger fans and anyone who lived in New York during that magical spring? They were the top seed as well, and they swept the Islanders in the first round by a combined score of 22-3. Meanwhile, you guys are a loss away from cementing your reputation as chokers for at least another year.
The Game 4 loss (a backbreaker that completely switched the momentum of the series) was eerily reminiscent of your Game 4 choke job in last year’s first round, when you squandered a 3-0 lead against the Capitals, lost in double overtime, and didn’t win another game in the series. The only difference between then and now is that this year you’re the No. 1 seed, not the No. 8 seed. This year you are SUPPOSED to win.
But you haven’t. You’ve turned Craig Anderson into the second coming of Domenik Hasek, which I assure you he is not. He’s not even the best goalie in the series, though poor Henrik Lundqvist has been overshadowed by your offensive ineptitude.
Whom might I be talking about? Well, there’s you, Marian Gaborik. You came into the playoffs as the Rangers’ leading scorer, and your 41 goals on the season was third in the NHL. That’s a goal every two games. You even started the right way, with a second-period goal in Game 1. Since then, over 4.5 games and two truncated overtime periods, you have two assists and no goals. Nada. Zilch. This from the guy whom I said “has cemented himself as a year-in, year-out scoring machine.” Apparently that sentiment is only good for the regular season.
What about you, Dubi? I know you’re not as a good as everyone thought you were at this time last year. BUT YOU HAVE MORE GAME MISCONDUCTS (1) THAN POINTS IN THIS SERIES. We need offense from someone who’s not Gaborik, Brad Richards, Ryan Callahan or Brian Boyle (more on him in a minute). Your terrible season would be forgotten with a couple of well-timed goals. Man the fuck up.
Are you guys Stanley Cup material? Do you have the intestinal fortitude to play up to your seed and dispatch a game but raw and comparatively untalented Ottawa team? Can you avoid being a punchline on the back page of the New York Post, which blared “ON THIN ICE” after you went down meekly at home in Game 5? Are you worthy of the adoration of a fan base that has had one championship to enjoy in the last 72 years? If so, we better see it tonight.
That’s not motivation enough for you? How about that your second-round opponent could be Philadelphia (your bitterest of rivals), Washington (a chance for revenge from last year), or New Jersey (enough said)? Or how about that the Brendan Shanahan Wheel of Fortune has seemingly decided not to suspend Ottawa’s Chris Neil for this hit on Boyle, which left the Rangers’ best player in this series with a concussion and stuck on the bench tonight? Forget “win one for The Gipper” — how about winning one for your Captain Morgan lookalike?
Yeah, you’re young. Maybe you’ll be in the same position next season, or the season after. Then again, maybe you won’t. Hockey’s a capricious game. But right now, you have home-ice advantage THROUGHOUT THE PLAYOFFS because Vancouver choked away its first-round series in the Western Conference. Last time that happened? 1994. I think I’ve covered what happened that year.
Give your fans a Game 7 on home ice. Give them a chance to go berserk. Give yourselves a chance at a Stanley Cup and the immortality that comes with it. I don’t question your heart — if you go down, I know you’ll go down scrapping and clawing. But this team is too talented to go down at all. Not yet, anyway.
Now go out there and prove me right.