Thursday, May 03, 2007

Huge

Huge is the operative word. We are sitting at a game and the Rangers are on a power play during a critical time in a tight game and one of us would say this is a big opportunity and one of us would reply, "Huge". The same thing with a penalty kill or a key faceoff and one of us would say, "Huge". My friend Beansie would say huge all the time. There was an old time actor, a comedian, Hugh Herbert, and every time Beansie would mention him it would come out Huge Herbert.

Huge is what is coming up tomorrow night in Buffalo. The Rangers have come back remarkably after losing the first two games in Buffalo. You might say they held serve, but it was much more than that. They sent a message to the President Trophy winners that they will be a tough out. However, that was at home where the Rangers are practically unbeatable. The Rangers have won nine straight at home, including the last four in the playoffs. While they were a good road team during the regular season and beat the Thrashers in two games in Atlanta, the Rangers have not beaten the Sabres in Buffalo this year.

As the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference the Rangers have to win road games to advance to the next round. Tomorrow is the night to pull that off. Assuming that the Rangers will continue to win at home, big assumption, the Rangers don't want to have to play game seven in Buffalo. Not too many road teams pull off wins in game seven. Right now the Rangers have Buffalo thinking and wondering about their offense and their big players, who have yet to play big. This is a sea change from Buffalo's attitude after their first two wins in Buffalo. They were primed and ready for a four game sweep but some guys named Lundqvist, Jagr and Shanahan had other ideas.

The Rangers actually blew game two in Buffalo and Tuesday night at the Garden almost duplicated that feat. They fell back to early season habits like allowing a goal to the other team right after they scored a goal. You could see that Tuesday after Shanahan's goal had given them the dreaded two goal lead. They thought the game was over. Ales Kotalik brought them back to earth with a thud. They then hung on for dear life the rest of the way.

The key to tomorrow's game is discipline. The Rangers must stay out of the penalty box, must. The Rangers, like most people, are creatures of habit. Marek Malik, who was booed mercilessly, continues to ignore the boards when clearing and insists on passing up the middle especially if Jagr is cruising nearby. Jagr, refuses to shoot the puck into the offensive zone and insists on carrying the puck which many times results in turnovers and opposition rushes. Lundqvist, to paraphrase Jag, must stay in the net.

The general consensus is that the Sabres will come out flying and the Rangers must weather the storm in the first ten minutes. Guess what? I believe it is the Rangers who should come out storming and put pressure on Ryan Miller and put people in front of the net for distractions and deflections. The best defense still remains to be the best offense, that's what needs to be done. This is a big game. It's huge.



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