We’re two games into the Stanley Cup final, and it’s not going well for the New York Rangers. Both games followed a similar script — the Rangers built up a two-goal lead, then collapsed and lost in overtime. Now they’re hosting Game 3 tonight, facing a virtual must-win against an L.A. Kings team that seems to be toying with them.
There’s a temptation to bury the Rangers, and if this keeps up for two more games we’ll get the chance to do it for real in a few days. But today, I thought we’d go in a different direction. Because while it’s true that coming home down 2-0 in the series is the worst-case scenario in terms of wins and losses, it hasn’t been all bad for the Rangers. There’s room for optimism here. So we’re going to walk through a few reasons why New York fans should feel like they can absolutely come back and win this series.
And then, once we’ve done that, we’ll inject some reality to crush that hope back into a fine powder of despair.
(Sorry, New York – never ask a Maple Leafs fan to supply your optimism.)
They’re Playing Pretty Well
The most cited stat over the past 48 hours is one that doesn’t even sound possible: The Kings are up in the series 2-0 despite not leading in either game for so much as a second. That speaks to the quirkiness of sudden-death overtime, but also to how well the Rangers have played for long stretches. Despite some predictions that they wouldn’t be able to hang with the Kings unless Henrik Lundqvist stood on his head, the Rangers have absolutely looked like a team that can hold its own.
The blown leads are obviously a major concern, but it doesn’t change the fact that the Rangers have had to play well to get those leads in the first place. If they can keep that up, and get an extra bounce or two along the way, then they can wind up right back in this thing.
Yeah, but: It’s all well and good to talk about deserving a better fate, but that won’t change the fact that the Rangers are down 2-0 and now need to win four out of five. That’s an awfully tough hill to climb against a team like L.A., no matter how well you’re playing.