By Jared Max
» More Columns
The Rangers are squeezing so hard, they're on the verge of popping blood vessels.
Constipated for most of their second-round playoff series, the Rangers finally broke through in Game 4, scoring their first goal since Game 2.
Like exuberant parents of a newborn, Rangers fans collectively cheered, "Goooooood boyyyyyy!" after Derick Brassard produced the first nugget on New York's scoresheet in more than 100 minutes of game time. But the celebration was short-lived. The Capitals capitalized on Rangers turnovers and scored the next two goals before Braden Holtby stopped Carl Hagelin's third-period penalty shot.
As soon as the Rangers lost 2-1, I turned the TV off. No need to watch postgame coverage; I knew how it would go.
Reporter: "Do you think you guys might be pressing at this point?"
Player: "Well, sure. I mean, we haven't scored much. Give the credit to their guy. He's stopping everything. We're not getting many opportunities because their defense is shutting us down. They're aggressive. They're resilient. Physical. We just have to find a way. Tonight's game is over. Our focus is on Game 5. It'll be good to get back home in front of our crowd. Maybe we'll find our comfort zone again. Our offense is clogged."
Liquid Plumr. Metamucil. Viagra. They need something. Quickly.
Since eliminating the Penguins in a tightly contested opening-round series, the Rangers have been trying to thread a needle with a chubby, overstretched rubber band. They have attempted 126 shots, scoring only five goals in the first four games versus the Capitals. Is Holtby this good? Are the Capitals better than the Rangers? I don't believe so.
While the Rangers have lost back-to-back games for the first time this postseason, the team should remain confident. It was not a fluke or by mistake that they were the NHL's best team this season. They have survived slips into various valleys. And they know that one year ago they were in the same position, trailing the Penguins 3-1 in the second round. The Rangers won three straight to advance to the conference finals.
Will they do it again? History is not on their side.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Rangers have played 18 best-of-seven playoff series where they trailed 3-1. Only one time — last season — has a Rangers team overcome this deficit. That makes their record 1-17 all-time in such situations. But, this statistic is a guide, merely.
To beat the Capitals, the Rangers need to fire one shot after another from every possible angle. They cannot wait to set up for pretty shots. They cannot afford to allow the Capitals to know when shots will be taken. After all, the Caps are wearing puck-proof vests. Last night, they blocked 25 shots. The Rangers blocked only seven.
Blocked remains the Rangers' operative word. I understand; they have been away from home. To get regular again, they need to forget what they have been unable to do of late. Hopefully the sounds produced by the Garden crowd on Friday night will be like running water to the Rangers' ears -- one good push from breaking through. Once this happens, anything is possible.
Believe. And breathe.
Jared Max is a multi-award winning sportscaster. He hosted a No. 1 rated New York City sports talk show, "Maxed Out" — in addition to previously serving as longtime Sports Director at WCBS 880, where he currently anchors weekend sports. Follow and communicate with Jared on Twitter @jared_max.
for more features.