Rangers Prepare For Game Six, Looking To Clinch and Advance

Jim Cerny
BlueshirtsUnited.com

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Monday morning at Madison Square Garden a small group of Rangers were on the ice for an optional practice following team meetings, but everyone's focus was already on Tuesday's Game Six against the Flyers down in Philadelphia. A Blueshirt victory on Tuesday and the Rangers will advance to the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs and the Flyers season will be over.

"We have an opportunity to win a game and close out a series, so it's important to try and get it done right away," explained alternate captain Brad Richards, who has two goals and five points in this series, so far. "Every day is a new day, the games are different. You don't want to put anything into chance in a Game Seven. You'd rather just do it now, and we can move on."

The Rangers have not won a post-season series in fewer than seven games since their first-round 4-1 series win over the Devils in 2008. Since then they have won three series--a pair in 2012 and one last spring--and twice they trailed three-games-to-two before rallying to win both Games Six and Seven, while once they were up 3-2 on the Capitals in the second round of the 2012 playoffs, only to lose Game Six on the road before winning Game Seven at The Garden, 2-1.

Since so many of the current Blueshirts played in those games, the Rangers are fully aware that the Flyers will not go quietly or easily in Game Six inside their own building on Tuesday night.

"It's an opportunity for us to move on to the next round," stated head coach Alain Vigneault. "There's not a player in that room that doesn't want to do that, so we're going to be ready."

When asked how much he will be thinking about trying to finish off the Flyers, goaltender Henrik Lundqvist provided a thoughtful answer.

"With the playoffs it's a mind game, it's about controlling your mind," explained Lundqvist, whose 1.81 goals against average so far in the playoffs is third best in the NHL. "In a game where you can close a team out you don't want your mind to start to think too much. It's going to be the same thing for them. It's about controlling your emotions and staying in the right place mentally."

Many of the players have discussed the need for having a killer instinct in order to win Game Six and avoid coming back home for a do-or-die Game Seven. However most of the players also stated that the team needs to keep playing as well as it has defensively, stick with the structure and system that is in place, while raising their collective level of play and intensity, in order to move past the Flyers.

"It's a term that gets used a lot," Ryan McDonagh said of having a killer instinct. "It's tough to put into words exactly, but you understand there are going to be pushes and surges in the game with how desperate they're going to be, so you have to get through those surges and then when you have an opportunity to strike you have to make them pay."

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McDonagh's name had been included as a possible Norris Trophy candidate this season, but he will not be a finalist for the annual award presented to the NHL's top defenseman. Boston's Zdeno Chara, Chicago's Duncan Keith, and Nashville's Shea Weber are the three finalists, as announced on Monday morning.

Reluctant to talk about individual awards or honors, McDonagh did admit he had some passing interest in this year's Norris since his name had been brought up so often; but he is much more concerned about the playoffs than individual honors.

"It's hard not to think about it when people around you are talking about it," stated McDonagh after practice. "I just have to give credit my teammates to help me and putting me in this situation, and for the coaches having confidence in me, giving me a lot of responsibility this year. You don't have the opportunity to be considered if your team does not play well. It doesn't make or break me that I'm not (a finalist)."