Two New York sports teams had awful weekends, but it is pretty clear which team had it worse. The Yankees lost three straight to the Red Sox in varying brutal fashions, but they're just 18 games into a long season. The Rangers, on the other hand, coughed up their 3-1 series lead to the Capitals in a fashion that makes it very hard to think they should even bother showing up for Game Seven.
Henrik Lundqvist, the best thing the Rangers have going for thme, suddenly looks like his glove hand weighs a half a ton. The Capitals continually attacked that spot and found the back of the net nine times in two games. Lundqvist has to be great for the Rangers to have a serious chance of advancing. Another performance like the ones on Friday and Sunday will ensure plenty of time for golfing this summer. Adding insult to injury, Caps forward Alex Ovechkin made a point of saying that Lundqvist was overrated in an interview before Game Six.
Added into any discussion of the Rangers' mindset has to be the bizarre moment on Friday when coach John Tortorella hit a woman in the head with a water bottle while arguing with fans behind the Ranger bench. He was rightly suspended for Game Six, even if the Rangers moaned about the decision because the fans were being mean to them.
Because of the way the glass is installed, the patron sitting behind Coach Tortorella (the gray-haired, bearded man in the white T-Shirt) could literally scream into the coach’s ear. According to Rangers trainer Jim Ramsay, one patron was screaming at the team, in graphic language, about whether Dan Girardi and Marc Staal have a sexual relationship. This was within earshot of several children seated nearby. Several other fans also made repeated homophobic remarks. Moreover, Mr. Ramsay reported that he and other bench personnel were spit on by one or more “fans” as they yelled through the gaps in the glass.
Look, no one's going to stand up and defend fans making homophobic remarks or spitting on players and coaches. At the same time, though, this is the playoffs and you have to expect nothing less than exactly that when you're the visiting team. Especially when you benched a key player for that game because he couldn't control himself under pressure. It's hypocritical, as is complaining about the arena security when you're a team that needed a New York Times article to tell you that arena-sanctioned homophobic chants aren't something that reasonable people find amusing.
So they've lost their goalie and they've lost their heads, is there any hope? Yes, thanks to equally dunderheaded tactics by the Capitals. Donald Brashear's hit on Blair Betts, as dirty a bit of headhunting as you'll ever see in the NHL, and his pregame attempt to goad Colton Orr into a fight should get the Capitals tough guy suspended for Game Seven. (UPDATE: Brashear was suspended for Game Seven and five more games for his conduct.) Additionally, the Rangers claim that Caps defenseman Shaone Morrisonn bit Brandon Dubinsky during a clinch in Game Six, which should cause more flashes of anger from the Blueshirts.
For a team that has had problems finding an emotional reserve, the combination of all the above should be enough to light their fires. Losing Betts, who broke a bone around his eye, is a killer, and the Capitals are obviously the more skilled squad, but playing like a house on fire for 60 (or more) minutes can make up the difference.
And if they don't fight with their backs against the wall, well, there should be some major changes starting about 10 minutes after the game ends.