Stanley Cup Final: Rangers still going but hold off on high hopes
The Rangers won Game 4 to keep their season alive but getting hopes up for an improbably comeback? Let's talk after Game 5.
When in a position of power, hope is a dangerous thing; hope for your enemy that is. Hope breeds confidence and confidence breeds success.
If you are the Los Angeles Kings, none of those things sound good right now. LA is still very comfortably ahead in the Stanley Cup Final over the Rangers, leading New York at three games to one with two of the potential final three games coming back in Southern California. But a growing confidence in New York would not be ideal for their business.
That helps to explain why, despite it only being Game 4 of a series the Kings were perfect in, Drew Doughty talked before Wednesday night, calling it a must-win game for LA. He even went as far as to call it the "most important game of our lives."
It was a touch over the top but the point stood, the Kings wanted to nip anything in the bud and just go win the Cup.
"They're a good hockey team. They're here in the Stanley Cup Final for a reason, and we can’t let 'em back in this series," Doughty said on Wednesday.
Question is; did the Kings do just that, let the Rangers back in the series on Wednesday night or not? Did the Rangers get any hope?
Certainly the only things coming out of Game 4 that would have been hope-inspiring were the fact that Henrik Lundqvist was spectacular and, of course, that they won to live another day. Because beyond that, there wasn't a ton to be overly excited about for the Rangers given how hard the Kings came at them after "flipping the switch."
Since falling in this 3-0 series hole, the Rangers have looked no further than their opponents for some inspiration. They have cited the Kings overcoming a 3-0 series deficit to the Sharks as proof that they can come back too. That has been a beacon of hope for them as much as anything, including perhaps Game 4. Frankly, that's a good thing, because hanging on for dear life and getting some help from snow isn't exactly an ideal strategy against the Kings, nor one that should inspire tons of confidence, even if it did keep their season alive.
But that's where the first three games of the series come into play. It's not that the Rangers had a lot of reason to lose hope to begin with. Sure, their mental fortitude was tested by falling in the first three games, but there's no denying the Rangers were skating with the Kings and had them on the ropes. Especially in the first two games in LA, New York didn't look overmatched. They knew they could beat the Kings, and on Wednesday night they had that confirmed.
So while their first win of the series didn't come in an inspiring effort, the end result obviously not only keeps the series going but builds on that little bit of hope the Rangers were holding on to. If you're going to come back in a series like this, as much as anything you have to believe you can.
Of course, the Kings are still in a commanding position, and while they talked about not wanting to let the Rangers have any shred of hope, they aren't feeling down one bit after losing Game 4 2-1. After all, they outshot the Rangers 41-19, 15-1 in the third period.
"We would have liked to finish it tonight, but having the next game back home, that's where we're comfortable. We're in front of home fans, at Staples Center, on good ice. We're looking forward to it," Doughty said after Game 4.
The Kings had better look forward to it. While the idea of Game 4 being a must-win was laughable, Game 5 is getting a heck of a lot closer to it. In no way do the Kings want to have to board a flight back to New York at this stage. Sure, they dropped Games 4 and 5 in 2012 and still won, but that was when they had home ice for Game 6. If this series gets back to a Game 6 in New York, all of a sudden you'll have an opponent full of confidence, abd then a series that truly is back on.
If the Rangers are to win this series, they were going to have to win four games in a row beginning with Game 4, so mission accomplished there. But at least for those outside the New York dressing room, hopes shouldn't rise unless the Rangers can survive Game 5. If they can do that, then dream away, New York.
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