By definition, game seven of a playoff series is played between two evenly matched teams who’ve traded blows for two weeks. Tonight’s match between the Rangers and the Capitals is no such game seven. (If you must watch such a game, the deciding contest of the Devils-Hurricanes series is inexplicably also tonight.) Yes, the Rangers and Capitals are tied at three games apiece, but it’s been nowhere near that close. In their three wins, the Rangers have done just barely enough to get the victory; in their three losses, they’ve been crushed.
And consider what’s happened since they took a 3–1 series lead last Wednesday: Sean Avery was scratched from the lineup in game five for undisciplined play. Hilariously, in that same game, the man that benched him for his lack of discipline, coach John Tortorella, threw a water bottle at a heckler and was suspended for game six. Apparently determined not to let the incident go away, Rangers president Glen Sather then released a detailed letter he’d written to the commissioner that included some of the Caps fans’ remarks, including questions about whether defensemen Mark Staal and Dan Girardi have “a sexual relationship.” (As if the Garden crowd, and its blue-seat chants of “homo Larry,” are above that sort of immaturity.)
If that wasn’t enough, they lost their best penalty killer, Blair Betts, after a vicious — and somehow unpenalized at the time — hit by Donald Brashear. (Brashear was later suspended for six games, but that doesn’t change the fact that Betts has a broken orbital bone and will be out indefinitely.) Another center, Brandon Dubinsky, was wearing a bandage yesterday after receiving a tetanus shot, saying he was certain that he was bitten during game six by the Caps’ Shaone Morrisonn. And Henrik Lundqvist, the only reason they even have the three wins they do, has been pulled for the third period in the previous two games — 4–0 and 5–3 losses that weren’t even as close as they sound.
It’s no wonder, then, that no one is giving them much of a chance to win tonight. (The back page of the Post says they’ll need a “miracle.”) And it’s probably true they shouldn’t win this game seven — their first since winning the Stanley Cup on June 14, 1994. But then again, they probably shouldn’t have won games one, two, or four either, so really, who knows?