New York Rangers, Mats Zuccarello
Photo by Bergen Record

If you’re surprised the New York Rangers are yet again in this position of playing a Game 7 in the Stanley Cup Finals, then you’ve been MIA.

By Robby Sabo

Is it humanly possible to actually be surprised?

I mean let’s get down to it. This is the NHL, and the Stanley Cup Playoffs where each squad is separated in talent by less than a fraction.

Add onto this equation the New York Rangers, who seem to take pride in the notion that they provide heart attacks to most of Rangerstown.

So, to be surprised about the Rangers and the Tampa Bay Lightning engaging in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals shouldn’t be one of the adjectives at the moment.1rangers2

Surprised about any outcome tonight? Well, that’s a different story.

Oftentimes, momentum is the key struggled during the course of a playoff series. Once a team grabs it, the other must counter and win it back.

During these East finals, however, each game has been its own novel. No hockey pundit, or diehard Rangers fan can figure out what’s going occur on a nightly basis.

From close 2-1 games, to blowouts left and right, these two highly-skilled, transitionally flowing rosters have boosted the term shock value another level. It all comes down to one shift, one game, one night – Friday night at Madison Square Garden.

The reason we’ve gotten here is two-fold.

For one, the Derick Brassard line (J.T. Miller, Rick Nash), combined for 13 points in a Game 6 wipeout of the Lightning that saw a final of 7-3.

And two, New York captured its first Presidents’ Trophy since 1994, earning them the right to play in front of their own fans on these special nights.

The gameplan for head coach Alain Vigneault will be simple: “stick to the system.”

It’s evident by this point that, despite how fast and skilled the Rangers are as a squad, playing fast and loose is what Jon Cooper’s Lightning dream of. They thrive on the uptempo game, look to generate quick turnovers anywhere on the ice and get moving up the ice for an offensive advantage. This type of play leaves them vulnerable at times, which has proved costly for them in Game 4 and 6.

Therefore, New York must stick to a structured and responsible gameplan that doesn’t allow Tampa Bay to thrive off of their style.

Additionally, now more than ever, it seems the Lightning are a classic front-running team. If Steven Stamkos, Tyler Johnson, or any of the Triplets get it going early, then they remain on fire the rest of the night.

However, if they are stymied early and often, it reverberates up and down the bench and their defense (and goalie) falls apart.

Henrik Lundqvist must come up with a repeat performance of Game 6 and shut these guys down early. Make no mistake about it. No matter how great the Rangers blueline plays tonight, there will still be a few golden nuggets Hank must shut the door on.

The first-period of this game will mean everything.

For the Blueshirts, the time is now, and the night is theirs.

The Rangers sport and amazing 15-3 record over their last 18 elimination games. Despite that magic, they also realize this Lightning team is no joke.

Lundqvist’s numbers are just plain silly. During his last seven Game 7’s, he’s allowed only seven goals.

Now 33-years old, The King has an opportunity to finally ascent to the top of the sport. Finally put his stamp on a magnificent career that we can more closely compare to Sidney Crosby instead of Alex Ovechkin; Michael Jordan instead of Patrick Ewing.

For the Blueshirts, the time is now, and the night is theirs.

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Robby Sabo is a co-founder, CEO and credentialed New York Jets content creator for Jets X-Factor - Jet X, which includes Sabo's Sessions (in-depth film breakdowns) and Sabo with the Jets. Host: Underdog Jets Podcast with Wayne Chrebet and Sabo Radio. Member: Pro Football Writers of America. Coach: Port Jervis (NY) High School. Washed up strong safety and 400M runner. SEO: XL Media. Founder: Elite Sports NY - ESNY (Sold in 2020). SEO: XL Media. Email: robby.sabo[at]