The first round of the 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs is in full swing, and while some have already advanced, others are looking to take control in pivotal Game 5 matchups. The New York Rangers fall into the latter, as they look to ride the momentum of  back-to-back home wins against the Capitals in Washington. While it remains anyone’s series, there are key lessons to be taken from the first four games that could end up swinging the balance one way or the other come Friday night. We caught up with Ranger great, Adam Graves, for his thoughts on the series so far, keys to stealing Game 5 on the road, and why some things are more important than hockey. 

Interview by Adam Silvers (@silversurfer103)

What are your thoughts after another wild one at the Garden in Game 4? This is what playoff hockey is all about, right? 

Certainly. When you’re talking about playoff hockey there’s no better place to see a game than the Garden, the energy during Game 4 was electric. Anyone who was in the building could feel it from a couple of hours before the game to the drop of the puck, and throughout the entirety of the game. When you look at the two teams, Washington is deep—three or four lines that can hurt you at anytime—and there is equally as potent a team at the other end with our Rangers. There’s been contributions from everyone in this short series. The play of [Derick] Brassard and [Brian] Boyle with [Arron] Asham chipping in, and the big night that [Carl] Hagelin had in Game 4. That’s what it takes in the playoffs. You can see that the Garden crowd is feeding off of that because games like that can turn on one shift. The Rangers lost the lead but came out strong scoring a huge power play goal by [Dan] Girardi, that’s playoff hockey, and that’s the sort of excitement we’ve become accustomed to at the Garden.

What were some of the keys to winning Game 4, and what do the Rangers have to do moving forward?

For me, it’s staying out of the penalty box. You don’t want to get into penalty trouble against the Caps, because we know with guys like [Alex] Ovechkin, [Nicklas] Backstrom, and [Mike] Green on the back end, they can really create. For the Rangers, the power play was key in Game 4 with Girardi scoring that big goal, and in Game 3, Boyle scored about a second after the power play was done. You have to win that head-to-head special teams battle. At the same time, you want to make sure you’re focusing on one shift at a time, staying strong on the boards, getting the puck out, and playing really good at both blue lines. The Rangers need to continue to get traffic in front of [Braden] Holtby, because he’s a great goaltender who can find pucks; the only way to beat him is to jam the net and create seams.  

What’s the mentality coming home down 2-0, and now going back on the road knowing it’s best two-out-of-three for a ticket to the Conference Semis? Do the Rangers have the momentum going back to DC? 

Without question, but it would be naive to think that it isn’t going to be tough in Game 5. The Caps are going to bring their best game forward, and they’re going to be disciplined and ready to go. With that being said, momentum is a big part, and it’s always nice to have “mo” on your side. Washington isn’t a friendly building for anyone to go into. The Rangers really need to focus on those first couple of shifts during the first 10 minutes of the first period, and really go from there. The privilege of having Henrik [Lundqvist] in net is huge, he gives you that confidence that if there is a breakdown, he’s going to come up with a big save. The Rangers just need to continue to get contributions from everyone, this team is definitely a sum of their parts. 

You’re a member of two Stanley Cup winning teams. What are some of your favorite playoff memories?  

It’s the journey. When you get into springtime the weather starts to get warmer, you see the fans lining the sides of the road on the way to the arena, and you realize that it is playoff time. You look forward to it all day, and that’s really the toughest part, the wait in between games. On game day it gets that much more intense, you just can’t wait for the puck to drop and the game to start. The game elevates itself, from shift to shift, game to game, and series to series. That’s why this series is so great, you have two really talented teams who are well-matched playing entertaining hockey. 

 

On game day it gets that much more intense, you just can’t wait for the puck to drop and the game to start. The game elevates itself, from shift to shift, game to game, and series to series.

 

Talk about the Garden of Dreams event at NY Presbyterian on Thursday. You guys unveiled renovations to the Pediatric Diagnostic Radiology Center? 

The Pediatric Diagnostic Radiology Center is a place where families are facing illnesses, and anytime you can go into an area like that and try and make an impact, it’s a great gift. Something so simple as putting in a mural, fresh paint, new flooring, where people go in and it just puts a smile on their face. It’s not just the child being treated, but the siblings and the families as well. For me it’s something the Garden of Dreams is really proud to be a part of.  

This represents the Garden’s largest contribution for any refurbishing project to date. What does it mean to you, and the Garden of Dreams Foundation overall? 

When we’re talking about the most important things in all of our lives—I have three kids myself—there’s nothing more important than kids. There’s not a greater gift you can give a child than a smile, and certainly a smile at a time when they really need one. To be able to go into a hospital like New York Presbyterian, that does such great work for the community and for the city of New York, it’s fantastic, it’s a privilege. If you ask anyone at the Garden about the thing we’re proudest of—we love our Rangers, Knicks, Liberty, and the Rockettes—but it’s the Garden of Dreams. We take the magic of the Garden and hopefully try and use it to impact kids in the right way. These children become a part of our community, part of the Ranger family, part of the Knick family, part of the Garden family. We have so many different programs, over 500 different events, last year alone we had over 225,000 kids positively effected as part of our program. I’m best at being a kid, I go to these events and have just as much fun as they do.