While being down 3-2 in any playoff series is not an ideal situation, the Rangers know it isn’t over until it’s over, and should look no further than last year’s playoff run.
Last spring, the Blueshirts overcame a 3-2 series deficit in their first round matchup with the Ottawa Senators in Ottawa on a game-winning goal by rookie Chris Kreider in the Blueshirts’ 3-2 win.
Kreider, who has appeared in one game this playoff, could play in Game 6 for Ryane Clowe, who left Game 5 in the first period with an undisclosed injury.
In addition to the Game 6 win, the Rangers were also successful in two Game 7s against the Senators and these same Washington Capitals.
While the Rangers may have gone 3-1 last season in elimination games, roster moves have added and subtracted several players from last year’s squad. Of the 22 players who were on last year’s playoff roster, just 14 remain, and that includes defenseman Marc Staal, who remains questionable for Game 6.
The benefit, though, for the Rangers is that all the goals in those three elimination games came from players still on the roster, with Brad Richards leading the way with two goals, including one in Game 7 against the Capitals.
For the players who did take part in last year’s playoff run, that experience is beneficial.
Defenseman Michael Del Zotto, who scored the game-winning goal in Game 7 against Washington last season, believes experience can play a role.
“Experience becomes a big advantage in the playoffs,” Del Zotto said when asked about if last year’s success comes into play. He said the team must use that experience heading into Game 6 Sunday.
“We had two Game 7s last year,” said Ryan McDonagh. “You know what’s at stake, but you prepare the same way you would for any other game. Your routine doesn’t change. You come with the same mentality and you just try and execute and bare down on your opportunities.”
Carl Hagelin, who has two goals this series, agreed with McDonagh in that the team cannot change its preparation for an elimination game.
“I think it’s the same mindset as it’s been all play,” he said. “You want to win a game. That’s what it comes down to … It’s no different tomorrow.”
Despite the pressure, goalie Henrik Lundqvist said it’s still important to enjoy the moment and the intensity of an elimination game, regardless of what side you’re on.
“Of course we’re going to put some pressure on ourselves, but we’ll … enjoy this,” he said after practice on Saturday. “It’s when you play the best. That’s one of the things you need to focus on: try and have fun.
“The difference between winning and losing right now is really small,” he added. “You can’t get too low. We’re not far off. We’ve had some good games at home” and if that continues and the team is successful, anything can happen in a Game 7, which is something the Blueshirts of a year ago learned very well.
Do you think last year's experience in elimination games will play a role this year? Tell us in the comments below.