It’s not just about playing a huge game at “the world’s most famous arena.”
Henrik Lundqvist and the New York Rangers have put up gaudy stats in elimination games and Game 7 situations at Madison Square Garden, as you’ve likely seen or heard. Most obviously, they’re 7-0 in Game 7’s at MSG.
On paper, it seems like an intimidating challenge: beat the reigning Presidents’ Trophy winners (employing hockey’s biggest goaltending star) in New York City for a chance to advance to the 2015 Stanley Cup Final. It’s the sort of scenario that practically breeds “Nervous Nellies.”
The Tampa Bay Lightning aren’t taking the bait, though. At least not publicly.
Former Ranger Brian Boyle had some amusing comments about giving in to the MSG “mystique.”
“Do you think I buy it? What am I doing here if I buy it? Why would I fly up from Florida if I bought it?,” Boyle said. “They’ve obviously had success in Game 7. It’s a new year. Obviously, we’re expecting their best and they’ve been good. It’s a fun place to play.”
“They’re going to have the crowd support. We’re going to try to take it away from them as quick as we can, and hopefully it’s going to be a really fun, memorable game.”
Victor Hedman’s mindset is simple enough: he said “we’re prepared for this.”
Alex Killorn provided the sort of clever take you’d kind of expect from an Ivy League grad.
All veteran-type responses, even if most of the Lightning’s roster has never been in this spot before. Steven Stamkos was in a Game 7, and it stung for reasons that went beyond the puck he took to the face.
“Yeah, well, I remember not winning that one, so that’s tough. Don’t really remember taking the puck to the face as much as you remember losing,” Stamkos said. “That was a tough one. That was my first experience in the playoffs, and it was a great run. We’re right back in the same position right now, so I’m excited about the opportunity of having a little different result this time around. ”
Jon Cooper made a good point: yes, the Rangers are dominant in these situations, but none of those Game 7 wins came against the Lightning.
“We haven’t been a part of that history, so it doesn’t affect us,” Cooper said, via the Canadian Press. “I guess you look back and it’s an impressive feat to see what they’ve done. But they haven’t done it against our group and our team, and we’ve got a pretty young, confident group.”
Winning and not taking a puck to the mush would be quite the improvement for Stamkos & Co. (Hey, you need to set goals, right?)