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How the Rangers Will Win Game Seven



There's concern in Rangerville; no doubt about that.

Call it anxiety; foreboding; unease; fear; apprehension or whatever dismal description you prefer.

It's all about Game Seven of the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals on Saturday night at The Garden; and it's legit.

If you're a Rangers fan why wouldn't you suffer the heebie-jeebies over a Washington sextet that keeps getting up off the canvas after seemingly ready for a TKO?

But recent history demonstrates that all these concerns belong in the Nonsense Net that soon will be hauled away.

Which is The Maven's roundabout way of saying that Game Seven is in the bag and will be won by New York in the same manner with which the Blueshirts disposed of Ottawa in recent memory -- and in seven.

I say this with all due respect for the Capitals and their coach Dale Hunter who has done so well behind the Washington bench that he's practically erased Islanders fans visions of him clobbering Pierre Turgeon from behind with an infamous 1993 cheap-shot.

Nor do I have anything but Class AAA admiration for the Caps third-string goalie Braden Holtby who looms as the most appealing rubber-stopper to emerge from Saskatchewan since Glenn (Chico) Resch showed the world how to kiss goal posts.

But all of the above cheery homilies will have nothing to do with the eventual outcome of a contest that has lifted Metropolitan Area hockey interest to the highest level in eighteen years or -- to put it in a more emotional way -- since Mark Messier orchestrated a John Phillip Sousa march to The Stanley Cup Final.

The Rangers will win Game Seven because they will be the better team over the seven-game set; and if you want specifics, here they are:

• GOALTENDING: Holtby has allowed more weak goals than his opposite. However, it would be a worthwhile idea for Henrik Lundqvist to tighten the webbing on his left glove; where Alex Ovechkin shots trickle through. In Game Seven vs. Ottawa, Henny was better than Craig Anderson. Ditto over Holtby the second time around.

• DEFENSE: Capitals senior citizens such as Roman Hamrlik have been plodding and penalty-prone. The Rangers have exploited that weakness with forechecks and will do so more often on Saturday night. Granted that Mike Green's game has advanced but, overall, Hunter's backline cannot measure up to the likes of Marc Staal, Ryan McDonagh, Dan Girardi and friends. Or, to put it another way, New York D-men join the rush better than the D.C. variety.

• OFFENSE: The fact that Hunter rations Alex Ovechkin's ice time has been hailed as a brilliant bit of insight. The Maven thinks not. I would want my most dynamic forward out there as much as possible. By husbanding The Great Eight, Hunter is hurting his cause. Nicklas Backstrom, Alex Semin and Jason Chimera have been -- and likely will be -- threats. But the Rangers boast as much fire power; and then some. I expect BIG games from Marian Gaborik, Brad Richards and Ryan Callahan. Their time has come.

• SPECIAL TEAMS: Mechanically, the Rangers power play is more efficient than Washington's. It proved that point with the astonishing Game Five comeback but failed with a four-minute advantage in Game Six. I regard this area as a wash both for the penalty kill and the PP.

• COACHING: John Tortorella's philosophy -- "If you're not blocking shots, you're not going to play" -- is at the core of his team's success. MSG's Lunchpail A.C. lives by the boards and wins by the boards, and while the Caps are no slouches in that department, they've not been practicing it as often nor as successfully. After all, Hunter is a rookie coach who has been on an NHL bench for less than a full season. Advantage Blueshirts!

CONCLUSION: 3-1 Rangers!

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