Right now the Tampa Bay Lightning are destroying the Pittsburgh Penguins by a score of 5-0 after 40 minutes. It is very boring, and has caused me to flip over to Tennis Channel HD to watch the women’s world #1 Caroline Wozniacki and all of the wonderful slow-motion replays that she gives life to. And that got me thinking — is there any way the Rangers keep their season alive today by continuing the strange streak of road team victories in the NHL playoffs? I mean sure, there’s a way, but will they?
I liked Washington in five games from the start, as you can see in my entry on the eastern conference quarterfinals. I’ll admit, I got the Rangers’ win wrong, since I thought it would come in either Game 1 or 2, but the end result is looking spot on. But with the written-off Lightning refusing to go quietly today, I am wondering what it would take for the Rangers to also extend this series to six games. The comparisons between the Penguins and Capitals may never go away — Crosby & Ovechkin, both winning Game 4 in double OT, both hosting closeout opportunities today, etc. — and that would lead the most superstitious of us to go with the visiting Rangers today. But other than a head-standing performance from goalie Henrik Lundqvist, what would it actually take?
In my opinion, the best way for the Rangers to take Game 5 today is for the Capitals to play like they’re up 3-1. What I mean is, in each of the past two seasons, the Caps have allowed 3-1 leads to become home Game 7s. Last year, it was to the 8th seeded Montreal Canadiens, who ended up knocking the Caps out, while in 2009 it was against these Rangers, who eventually fell to the Caps in Game 7. But either way, given their recent history, there is no way the Caps want anything to do with a Game 7 this time around, and based on their play there shouldn’t be a reason to think it will happen. If you consider this an even matchup, then there should be a 25% chance that this series reaches a seventh game. But if the Caps play like they just took a peek at the leaderboard and found themselves one hole away from a victory, there’s a chance the nerves might set in. Early missed opportunities might lead to a 1-0 deficit, which might lead to gripping sticks too hard or pressing, none of which got them to this point. The Caps have a golden opportunity to prove to the hockey world, and more importantly, to themselves that they do have the heart of a champion and the killer instinct necessary to close teams out.
It will be a fun game to watch, and it’s live from the Verizon Center in D.C. in less than an hour (3 p.m.) on NBC!