In the Game of Thrones of Game 7s there is only one king. And all others teams tend to die.
Henrik Lundqvist has proven once again why the Rangers spared no expense to re-up their franchise goaltender in the 2-1 Game 7 against the Pittsburgh Penguins to send the Blueshirts to their second Eastern Conference Finals in three years.
The King stood tall in the third period, stopping a barrage of penguin shots, ultimately coming up with 35 saves on the night, including a sequence late in the game where Lundqvist made a stand without his stick.
“That was chaos,” Lundqvist said to reporters in Pittsburgh about a play with five minutes left in the third period when his stick was on the ice, underneath him, and James Neal and Evgeni Malkin both got shots off he somehow stopped. “It’s just one of the moments when there are people everywhere, the puck is all over the place, but you try just to be in the way. I did my part, and the guys in front of me did theirs.”
And now the Rangers have made history. Lundqvist has become the first goalie to win five straight Game 7s and the Rangers have come back down 3-1 in a series for the first time in their history.
This may be a special spring after all.
The Rangers now have a chance to make a little more history and complete some unfinished business from two years ago when they ran out of gas against the New Jersey Devils.
“Nobody gave us a chance,’’ forward Brad Richards said to reporters. “Marty’s situation [his mother’s sudden death last week] called upon us. It wasn’t a good day after losing Game 4, and to have this feeling tonight after all that. … It shows how fun this group is to be around with everybody willing to do their part. It’s unbelievable.’’
Unlike John Tortorella, coach Alain Vigneault has balanced the Rangers lines during the first two rounds, so they should be fresh going forward. Also, the style of play they employ is less taxing on the team compared to the grueling shot blocking game of Tortorella.
So they should be set.
Now, the only question is who they will play.
Boston and Montreal have their own Game 7 tonight in Beantown tonight and the winner will face the Blueshirts later in the week. Although the Rangers can matchup with any team – because of Lundqvist – they always seem to have some trouble in both Boston and Montreal.
Because both the Bruins and the Habs finished with more points, the Rangers will end up going to either Original Six opponents home ice for Game 1.
But, remember, the Rangers just disposed of the Big Bad Penguins, so nothing may stop them now.
And they have the momentum going into this series. By winning three straight, the Blueshirts are skating with a flare and confidence they eluded them earlier in the Penguins series. They seem to be playing smart, tough hockey, which means they will be a tough opponent for either team.
After that, well anything can happen.
In 1994, the Lion King premiered the day after the Rangers won the Stanley Cup. Now, 20 years, later, the Swedish King is ruling Broadway.
So stand up and believe.
Your King has commanded it.