Fortunately the Rangers have shown resiliency to pessimism and extended periods of ineptness all season, and the ability to rebound in tight spots has been a core strength for a team that truly hasn’t relied on it’s Power-Play or the goal prowess of Gaborik to find ways to win hockey games.
A large part of that resiliency is eliminating the should haves, would haves, and could haves from the vocabulary of the team in order to stay on mission with playing to their strengths and finding ways to win. With only a combined 9 shots in the 2nd and 3rd periods of game 2 it’s easy for Ranger analysts to point to insufficient attack as the problem but the Capitals themselves only mustered 18 pucks to the net.
Both teams have played defensively sound hockey: the Rangers holding Alex Ovetchkin and Alexander Semin to just 1 goal apiece on the entire season, and the Capitals have blocked 53 shots, clogging up the crucial middle lanes the Rangers need to penetrate. Hits have been even and often and the Henrik Lundqvist/Michael Neuvirth goaltending matchup has left little room for error (or shooters). Minus a surge here and there, the Rangers have executed their defensive gameplan and the series is tight.
The Rangers offensive drought is inpportune, sure, but as their season record has proved, it won’t last. Only once have the Rangers been kept to 1 goal or fewer in 2 consecutive losses–Against Tampa Bay and Florida on the first weekend of 2011. After that dry spell they ripped off 3 straight wins, and four in five games (including a 1-0 gem against President Trophy winner Vancouver).
Madison Square Garden has been an iffy place for the Rangers to feel at home, hovering around .500 since last season, but they’ve stuck with their resolve to win for their fans and down the stretch the Garden has helped them as it needs to for games 3 and 4 of this series (6-1 with a shootout loss in their last 8 home games, including a must win season finale with the New Jersey Devils).
When the pressure has been on, the resilient Rangers have responded and the team expects nothing less of itself these next two games. And as the doubts build about Marian Gaborik, know that he has been a streaky scorer his whole career and this season alone has answered a 6 and 8 game goal-less stretch with a hat trick and a 4 goal performance, respectively.