The Rangers entered their fourth do-or-die playoff game this postseason
with the same attitude that has permeated one of the most
successful campaigns in franchise history.
“Staying positive,” Brandon Prust said about the Rangers’ mental outlook during the team’s media availability at Madison Square Garden Friday morning. “It’s something that we’ve done all year and have done a good job at, even though when you’re going through tough times, you’re going through rough patches. We’ve always stayed positive and it’s helped keep us successful.”
But isn’t there inherently more pressure in a Game 6 when a team trails in a series three games to two?
“It’s always exciting, in a game where it’s all or nothing here,” Henrik Lundqvist said. “Keep playing or go home. And you just have to see it as an exciting game, great challenge, great opportunity instead of just a lot of pressure.
“You try not to think about it. You don’t put more pressure on yourself. You go out there and try to play your game and focus on the things you want to focus on. Looking forward to the game,” Lundqvist said. “Of course, everybody knows it’s an important game, but when you play, you try just to block everything out.”
Devils feeling good too
Of course, the Devils entered the game feeling good about themselves. That is only natural when entering a potential clinching game with a series advantage.
“I feel good. I feel confident. Where else would you rather be? I mean, I don’t think anyone predicted at the start of the season that we would have a chance to play a home game to move on to the Stanley Cup final. And we’re in a great spot. We worked awfully hard to get to this point. And where else would you want to be?” Devils coach Pete DeBoer asked reporters at the Prudential Center Friday morning.
“I don’t think any extra difficulty other than the difficulty you put on yourself — that pressure that you put on yourself. I don’t really buy into that — that it’s the hardest to win,” DeBoer said. “I mean, it’s the hardest to win because of the pressure you put on yourself to do that. And for us, it’s business as usual. We just have to play our game and win a game.”
Kovalchuk enjoying run
This playoff campaign is the first extended run for Ilya Kovalchuk in his 10-year career. And he has been relishing the opportunity to display his wares on the sport’s grandest stage.
Kovalchuk has totaled 16 points (six goals and 10 assists) in 16 games, including a goal, three assists and a minus-one rating in the Eastern Conference finals.
“I think it’s media-created,” DeBoer said when asked about a perception of selfishness regarding Kovalchuk. “I didn’t see any of that. I said from day one he’s been all in; team first, great teammate. I didn’t see even a hint of that, and I haven’t seen it at all this year. So totally false, and we wouldn’t be here without him.”
Rangers’ legends Pete Stemkowski, Ron Greschner and Stephane Matteau hosted a viewing party at Local NYC across the street from the Garden.
Follow Rangers beat writer Denis Gorman on Twitter @DenisGorman.