You wouldn’t know by herds of people dressed in suits and skirts on their way to work this morning. You wouldn’t know just by stopping by the usual hot dog vendor on the corner, though his red, white and blue logo is prominently displayed on his cart. But if you’re one of the thousands of people that will be entering the building where Madison Square Garden meets Penn Station in one of the busiest parts of Manhattan this evening, the hair on the back of your neck is already standing up.
Within the walls of what’s proudly displayed as ‘the worlds most famous arena’ is a group of players that for the second time this week are getting ready to go to war.
The New York Rangers will host the Montreal Canadiens tonight for Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals where a win for the Blueshirts means finally ending their seven-game series streak and their first Stanley Cup Final appearance since 1994. A loss means a trip back up to Montreal for their third and final shot of getting there.
The two teams collided on Tuesday, where the Canadiens played with the desperation they needed to in front of their fans at Bell Centre in order to force tonight’s game. With their season on the line,things started off as they had hoped. Jumping to a 4-1 lead, chasing Henrik Lundqvist from his crease before the eventual 7-4 victory.
While the Canadiens would be happy to brag about their Game 5 performance, saved for that five minute blip where they allowed the Rangers back into the game, Lundqvist doesn’t want anything to do with it.
Not for the first time in his NHL career, Lundqvist was yanked out of a game in which the Rangers held the power of ending another teams season along with their hope of lifting Lord Stanley. After allowing four goals on 19 shots Tuesday night, Lundqvist’s night was over and he would have two days to dwell on it before he gets back into his crease tonight to do what he does best- perform well enough to help his team win.
“All of you [the media] keep asking about the last game, but I don’t think about the last game,” Lundqvist said according to NHL.com. “I think about tonight.”
Tonight things will have to be different if the Rangers plan on finishing off the Canadiens without going the full stretch of the best-of-seven series, a task that hasn’t come easy for them in their recent past, especially for Lundqvist himself.
To find the last time the Rangers ousted an opponent in the Playoffs without going to Game 7, you would have to go back to 2008 when they eliminated the New Jersey Devils in five games. Since then, every playoff series won has gone the distance
As for Lundqvist, he has been yanked out of four games in which the Rangers could clinch and carries an 0-4 record, a 5.53 GAA along with a .808 save percentage. Not very high marks for a played dubbed The King by his biggest supporters.
Still, the past is the past and it has to be if the King and his teammates plan on meeting with a Western Conference team next Wednesday for the start of the Finals. He's gotten them to this point, now it's time for the final push.
He has people that believe in him. He just has to prove them all right.
“I expect him to play like he always does,” Coach Alain Vigneault said of his netminder. “ He’s a great goaltender. He strives when the pressure is on. He knows that [Game 6] is a big game.”
The expectations, as they typically are in New York, will be that way for everyone on their side tonight. But if Henrik Lundqvist can’t deliver and let’s another series-ender slip out from underneath him, he may have to eventually turn in his crown.
The saddest part is, it may have never been his to begin with.