NHL Playoffs 2012: The Key to Game 4 Between the Rangers and Capitals

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NHL Playoffs 2012: The Key to Game 4 Between the Rangers and Capitals
Patrick McDermott/Getty Images
Caps fans had to hate seeing this, but their team can use it to their advantage

The New York Rangers and Washington Capitals had an extra day to rest up after their marathon, triple-overtime game Wednesday night. Both teams will look to dictate the pace and style of Game 4 and hope to prevail.

The stakes: for the Capitals, a loss means going back to Madison Square Garden on Monday with elimination staring them in the face. For the Rangers, it means an even series going back to MSG on Monday and probably another Game 7 nailbiter.

Neither team wants either of those fates for themselves. Both know how close they came to elimination in the previous round.

Usually, when a game is approaching, analysts and writers like to discuss the keys to winning the upcoming event and usually rely on statistics and a team’s individuals to make their argument. Those things are always important and worth looking into. For this game, though, it is each team’s respective attitude that is going to dictate the outcome.

Nothing else.

Today’s contest will play out like a chess match. Nothing else separates these two teams. You don’t go to three overtimes in the playoffs against a team you’re significantly better than. So the only advantage to be gained is mental.

Which team is focused enough to see this thing through. Who knows? Maybe both are depleted after Wednesday and this game will be a total snoozer. Similar to two prize fighters standing toe to toe in the middle of the ring, late in the match, barely able to stand.

Ultimately, if the Capitals take Wednesday’s loss too lightly, they may find themselves facing elimination after the final horn sounds today.

In the same way, if the Rangers treat their win Wednesday like a sign of their team being destined to raise the Cup in June, they’ll get beat this afternoon and bad. 

Will Game 4's outcome dictate this series' result?

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After a big game like Wednesday’s, people like to look for indicators to how the series will play out. What did we learn from these two squads in Game 3? Nothing. Those indicators aren’t in Wednesday’s result.

Both teams played great and gave above and beyond what we’ve seen so far in this year’s postseason. The indicators you’re looking for will be in Game 4. Plain and simple. How these teams learn from what they experienced in Game 3 will probably dictate the outcome of this series. Both are talented and have the ability to win the Cup; they’ve both proven themselves this postseason.

The question is, who will?

Nothing is a lock in the playoffs; neither team is doomed with a loss this afternoon. But if one of them comes out slow, if one of them isn’t as locked in and focused as they were Wednesday, they’ll find themselves with a lot of free time next weekend.

End of story.

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