A blog focusing on the New York Rangers and all things hockey (also Yankees and Giants) with a New York attitude from a fan of 40 years whose greatest highlight came when Mark Messier lifting the Stanley Cup on June 14, 1994
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If you're a Rangers' fan, you may feel like these playoffs have added 10 years to your life.
The Rangers have played 14 playoff games -- two grueling seven-game series -- and they are only halfway there. And every game is the same, a one-goal margin in the final minutes.
The Rangers are obviously comfortable in games like this because they played in so many low-scoring contests during the season.
From day one, their mantra has been great goaltending and defense, but it is absolutely uncanny how they can't do anything the easy way.
Brad Richards, the $12 million man, earned his money by scoring the first goal just 1:32 into Saturday's 2-1 series-clinching win against the Capitals that was so critical since the team scoring first was 7-0 in the series.
Richards, who won a Cup for John Tortorella with Tampa Bay in 2004, sure does seem to step up in big spots.
Getting an early goal was just what the doctor ordered for the Rangers after their disappointing effort in game six, but they desperately needed that elusive two-goal lead.
They finally got it when Michael Del Zotto scored at 10:05 of the third period, but it's almost like the Rangers didn't know what to do with a 2-0 lead and it lasted a mere 38 seconds. Roman Hamrlik scored just his third career playoff at 10:43 to get the Capitals on the board.
In typical fashion, the Rangers -- and their fans -- had to sweat out the final minutes, although the Bluehirts did play shut-down defense in the third period, allowing just four shots.
Henrik Lundqvist (22 saves) was his usual self, making a number pf key saves during a four-minute stretch in the second period when the Rangers looked tired and the Capitals dominated puck possession.
So now the Rangers move on to the Eastern Conference finals against the rival and well-rested Devils. The sixth Battle of the Hudson begins Monday at MSG (8 p.m.).
The Rangers' challenge now is to make history. Since 1987, when the NHL expanded the first round to a best-of-seven, no team has gone on to win the Cup after playing seven-game series in the first two rounds.
The Devils come in having played 12 games. They went seven against Florida but dispatched Philadelphia in five.
In terms of scoring chances and wide-open play, this has a chance to be a more entertaining series than the one the Rangers just survived.
These are not your father's New Jersey Devils, who actually could be the most entertaining team left in the playoffs.
Believe it or not, New Jersey plays an uptempo-game, isn't as obsessed with blocking shots as the Capitals were and has enough firepower with Ilya Kovalchuk (12 points in playoffs), Travis Zajac (10) and Zach Parise (8).
New Jersey also has Martin Brodeur -- the winningest goaltender in NHL history, who would love to win another Cup before riding off into the sunset.
Of course, in some respects the Devils had a favorable draw to reach the Eastern Conference finals. Florida was too inexperienced and the Flyers' goaltending -- what else is new? -- wasn't good enough.
New Jersey hasn't faced a team as good as the Rangers in terms of defense and goaltending, and Lundqvist has enjoyed considerable success against Brodeur during his career.
Still, the biggest concern for the Rangers heading into the series may be the fatigue factor. New York has only one day to prepare for its 15th playoff game.
Note: The six games against the Capitals were decided by a single goal.