The thoughts of a anxious Rangers fan

Alright. I’ll be honest. I’m nervous about tonight. It’s another one of these survival games for our Blueshirts. The puck drop is supposed to be 7:08 PM but from reporters on twitter it might be delayed due to NBC. Ugh.

If you’re not anxious about Game 6 after how the Rangers stared elimination in the face Friday and pulled off a miraculous 2-1 heart pumping Game 5 home win at a rocking MSG, you’re either immune or a robot. It’s impossible not to feel some nerves for this one at Verizon Center. I hope all our players are ready to do whatever it takes to get this series back to The Garden for Game 7.

As passionate and diehard fans, all we can do is watch. Cheer and support our team till the end. They know what’s at stake. Ironically, it’s Mother’s Day for Game 6. It was a year ago that Martin St. Louis scored the game’s first goal in a emotional home win over the Pens forcing Game 7. That one is fondly remembered. On the one-year anniversary of his Mom’s death Friday, he played well and probably should’ve had at least a goal if not for Braden Holtby. Maybe he gets one tonight and inspires the team to another big win in an elimination game.

Elimination games are tough. Every shift matters. Every key play. Every mistake magnified. The Rangers must play patient, smart and disciplined. They will have to withstand the Caps’ start. You know Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom will be flying. They must be ready for anything. Henrik Lundqvist must be better than Holtby. Ryan McDonagh and Dan Girardi must be strong defensively as must Marc Staal and Kevin Klein.

Derek Stepan, Chris Kreider and Jesper Fast must carry positive momentum forward from Friday. They weren’t perfect but were matched mostly against Ovechkin, Backstrom and Joel Ward. Ultimately, the trio helped save the season with Stepan finally getting some work done with his drop to Kreider with 1:41 left and his perfectly executive fake eliminating the Caps D for McDonagh’s emotional overtime winner.

In a game of this magnitude, it would be nice to Rick Nash finally get that big goal. He remains stuck at one for the playoffs. Even though he’s working hard and has done some strong work defensively while setting up a couple of goals, this is what the Rangers got him for. He needs to be a factor. Derick Brassard usually plays his best in these games. And he’s been the offensive catalyst again with a team-leading five goals.

Kevin Hayes must shoot the puck. Enough of the skating and figure eights. He’s not Alex Kovalev. Simplify it. Carl Hagelin must not only use his speed but be a royal pain in the ass for Holtby and the Caps D. Dominic Moore has done some good things since being moved to that line. He must be his usual pesky self and win key draws.

J.T. Miller has sparked the fourth line creating chances for Tanner Glass while James Sheppard has worked hard. They must put their hard hats on and stay out of the box.

Keith Yandle and Dan Boyle have to play smart. Make good decisions with the puck. Be stingy in one-on-one battles. Don’t cough it up. Make smart pinches. If there’s a lane, take the shot.

Alain Vigneault will continue to roll four lines. I’d still love to see him move Nash up to the top power play unit. If it comes down to the nitty gritty, he can’t be afraid to double shift his best players. Roll the dice.

It’s another game that’ll be hard on the stomach. Drink water. Have oxygen masks. Take some deep breaths. Here we go.


About Derek Felix

Derek Felix is sports blogger whose previous experience included two stints at ESPN as a stat researcher for NHL and WNBA telecasts. The Staten Island native also worked behind the scenes for MSG as a production assistant on New Jersey Devil games. An avid New York sports fan who enjoys covering events, writing, concerts, movies and the outdoors, Derek has scored Berkeley Carroll basketball games since 2006 and provided an outlet for the Park Slope school's student athletes. Hitting Back gives them the publicity they deserve. From players, coaches to administrators, it's a first class program. In his free time, he also attends Ranger games and is a loyal St. John's alum with a sports management degree.
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