It doesn’t matter that the Rangers dropped seven on the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 6.
Nor does it matter that they scored five apiece in Games 3 and 4.
And their losses in Games 2 and 5 on home ice won’t matter as well.
The only thing that matters tomorrow is the Rangers will be playing for the right to enter into the Stanley Cup Final.
“I think the excitement that just goes into that game for both teams, you’re at an even level.,” Henrik Lundqvist said today. “Both teams are playing for the same thing. It’s not like they have an advantage or anything, and I think you can feel that excitement in the building as well as a fan, knowing that the season is on the line. We’ve been there before; they have as well. So I think you have to control your nerves, obviously, and your focus needs to be on the right things.”
No. 30 will be front and center tomorrow, tested once again, as the Rangers will be playing their most important game in over 20 years.
Last season was a surprise. Although they made it to Game 5 of the Final, no many expected them to actually win the Cup when the tournament began. If last year’s team was the 1979 Rangers, this season is the 1994 team – the best in the league during the regular season and a hands-on favorite.
That’s why this game will have more meaning and more bite. A win will be a satisfying step in the quest, while a loss will be a hurtful defeat.
And even if last year’s Final loss was ultimately considered a success in the grand scheme of things – after all, the last time the Rangers played in June, The Lion King was just coming to theaters – a loss will stick in the throats of Blueshirts who can taste it so badly.
“Of course you think about it, but then you bring back your focus to where it needs to be, and that is on the job that needs to be done tomorrow,” Lundqvist said. “Because even though you’re close, there is a lot of work to be done to get there. There really is.”
It may start on the throne with The King, but his court must play their best. The Ranger depth must come through in this Game 7, with all four lines and three pairings playing at their best.
This Lightning team is no joke. They are led by former Rangers and starred by some of the best young scorers in the league. It will take a full 20 man effort to bring the Rangers back to the Final, something their most important player knows very well.
“I think especially against this team with so much skill and speed, you need to be smart all over the ice, not only on your own end, but the way you dump pucks and the way you forecheck, everything matters,” The King said.
“When you go into these games, every shift matters, every play matters. It could be the difference between moving on and it’s all over.”
Nothing else matters now.