MYRTLE BEACH, SC – A few weeks ago as the New York Rangers readied themselves for a Game 7 against the Washington Capitals, there were reminders all over Rangers fans facebook pages about the significance of winning the NHL’s President’s Trophy and the home ice edge that goes along with the award. The advantage held true versus the Caps and heading into Friday night, visions of another Game 7 victory seemed all but certain combined with other historical facts in the Rangers favor and all but insurmountable for the visiting Tampa Bay Lightning.
The Bolts were up against a Blueshirts Game 7 home undefeated streak and Henrik Lundqvist’s sterling elimination game record and dominance in those at MSG. There was the seven goal barrage in Game 6 where even Rick Nash lit up the scoreboard in chasing Lurch-like Lightning net-minder Ben Bishop from the crease. A two day intermission between games six and seven prepared us for an inevitable Rangers victory given their regular season home record and Tampa Bay’s road woes.
The most important stat trumped all other numbers and was slow in coming as the audience waited until the first goal and no matter how soft it was, the Lightning had a 70% chance of victory based on Alex Killorn’s five-hole, seeing eye bleeder that The King couldn’t stop about five minutes into the third. The dagger came halfway through the final period and turned The Garden into nothing more than a circus venue where elephant dung will be scooped up along with what the Rangers left behind.
The Rangers sh!t the bed at home during the entire series as their 1-3 mark in the four games will attest. Lundqvist blinked first Friday night and couldn’t bail out his team the same way he had against the Caps who were 100 seconds away from beating the Rangers in five games. The biggest story of the series was the play of the other goaltender, Ben Bishop. All six feet six of him held New York scoreless at MSG for a little better than two and a third games. If he were a MLB pitcher that’s 21 scoreless innings. The guy was barely tested or threatened during Game 7.
The Rangers laid a colossal egg. They didn’t show up and should have saved some goals for Game 7–the one they were primed to win because of that President’s Trophy. Playoff hockey is far different than those in October thru early April. The 2014-15 hockey season became a loss on Friday night. If a tree falls in the forest and there’s nobody around, does it make a sound? If the Conference Trophy is awarded to the opposing team at MSG, is there a celebration? The Garden emptied out like the police raided the joint but at least the Rangers won the President’s Trophy and can celebrate that.
Tune in tomorrow for West Coast Craig, whose Ducks quacked last night vs Chicago.