One way or another, a first is going to occur tomorrow night in Washington.
The Rangers have never blown a 3 - 1 series lead in their history. However, they have also never won a Game 7 on the road.
Which holds true tomorrow and which is broken? Well, by the looks of things, it's easy to assume that this will be the first blown 3 - 1 series lead.
This team is in disarray and unfortunately it hasn't shown many signs of getting back to the smart, cohesive play from early on in the series.
The leaders haven't led and goaltender Henrik Lundqvist has simply run out of gas. Who could blame him after facing 40+ shots a night?
Where will the spark come from? Avery is now too scared to make a mistake or take a penalty. Ryan Callahan seems that he is running out of gas. And Marc Staal has simply not been good enough all series.
Assume the power play continues to be dormant, well what about your penalty killing? Particularly with Blair Betts suffering his concussion (more on that in a minute), the Rangers have lacked the focus in shutting down Washington's power play.
The top penalty killing team in the NHL throughout the season just simply has not shown up.
The Rangers have nothing positive to focus on right now other than they have one more shot to do it right.
But much of the disarray can be attributed to the amateur approach all parties have taken during this series.
For the Rangers, there are a few culprits. Head Coach John Tortorella has clearly shown his flaws in a miserable on-ice incident and the poor decision to bench Avery in Game 6.
Avery has, of course, continued to do stupid things, but that's what he is. Nobody can deny that and the Rangers knew that when they re-acquired him. Amateur on one shift, but effective on another.
The officiating has been completely amateur as there has been no consistency (for either side) throughout the entire series. There was no reason that Brandon Dubinsky should have received a 10 minute misconduct, particularly after the officials didn't call the two late hits in the first period.
For Washington, they have also lacked professionalism. For their home staff not to acknowledge the opponent's request for security because of boisterous fans is childish and ridiculous.
On the ice, Donald Brashear has become a mockery to the sport. He serves little purpose anymore and for him to try and instigate during the pregame and then take such a liberty on Betts is unacceptable. He must have forgotten what cheap shots to the head felt like. Bottom line: he deserves to be suspended.
And Alex Ovechkin is a great talent, but his continuous imploring to the referee everytime something occurs has him looking more like Sidney Crosby than himself.
Finally, the NHL.
Commisioner Gary Bettman, plain and simple, you have created a monster. The bias that your officiating staff shows is implorable and there is no need on the ice for incompetent officials, let alone two. This sport is quickly becoming like the NBA and NFL, but without the revenue success. Your rules and officiating have dominated the games and become the story rather than the game itself.
And this sentiment is not just present in this series, but all the series. Any fan who has watched the playoffs this season has to be scratching their head at many of the on-ice decisions the officials make. Players, embarassingly, look around when a penalty is called because neither team knows who committed the foul.
It looks ridiculous and the NHL should expect more from their officials. If any average American or Canadian is poor at their job, they are fired. In the NHL, mediocrity amongst officials is merely swept under the rug with "internal" accountability and no improvement in performance.
While I appreciate that it is a difficult position to have and it is a difficult sport to officiate, there needs to be a higher standard and that comes from the top down.
Overall, the series has been a roller coaster for both sides. One would like to think it's entertaining, but in reality it has not been. The Rangers have won when Washington didn't show up and the Capitals have won when the Rangers didn't show up. That doesn't make a great series, it just exemplifies amateurism.
For multi-million dollar players to go out on the ice at this time of the year and play such uninspired hockey as the Rangers did yesterday, is a travesty and with MSG continuing to increase their ticket prices during these economic times, there needs to be a better product on the ice. Fans work too hard for the "privilege" of going to the Garden and watching the Rangers.
As if Cablevision wasn't digging the knife deep enough with ticket prices, the Rangers didn't have any respect for the fans in their effort and that is a sad thing.
If they win, it will just cost more fans in the end. If they lose, they will take the route of choke artists such as their New York counterparts in the Jets and Mets.