History firmly on Rangers side, up 3-0 in playoff series against Capitals

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-New York Rangers at Washington Capitals
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Rangers slayed a dragon of sorts Friday night when they defeated the Washington Capitals 3-1 to take a stranglehold 3-0 lead in the best-of-7 Eastern Conference First Round.

New York, of course, had blown series leads of 2-0 in consecutive postseasons. But history tells us the odds of blowing a series when up three games to none is nearly as rare as the Rangers holding a 3-0 advantage at all.

According to hockey-reference.com, 206 best-of-7 series in the Stanley Cup Playoffs have begun with one team holding a 3-0 lead; all but four won those series, with 62 percent ending in four games.

The fact the Rangers are heading into Game 4 on Sunday against the Capitals up 3-0 is a rarity in itself. This marks just the sixth time in the franchise’s near 100-year history they have an opportunity to sweep an opponent in a best-of-7 matchup.

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NHL: New York Rangers at Atlanta Thrashers
Henrik Lundqvist makes save in 2007 Stanley Cup Playoffs against Atlanta Thrashers — Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

The Rangers most recent chance at a sweep was a successful one, when the Blueshirts took out the Atlanta Thrashers in four games back in 2007. New York outscored Atlanta 17-6 in the series, with Michael Nylander leading the way with eight points. Henrik Lundqvist won all four games and finished with a .939 save percentage, including one shutout.

Oddly enough, two of the previous five instances of the Rangers being up 3-0 came in the span of about three weeks in the spring of 1994.

The Rangers bulldozed the New York Islanders in the opening-round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, outscoring their suburban rivals 22-3, including shutouts in the first two games.

They carried that momentum to a 3-0 series lead over the Capitals in the second round, eventually eliminating their Patrick Division foe 4-1 on their way to their first championship since 1940.

The Rangers also swept the Chicago Blackhawks in 1972, and defeated the Montreal Canadiens in five in 1950 after being up 3-0.

While history tells us the Rangers failing to win this series against the Capitals is extremely unlikely, look no further than Saturday’s slate of games to see how difficult that fourth win is to get.

Both the Carolina Hurricanes and Florida Panthers had chances to eliminate the Islanders and Tampa Bay Lightning, respectively. Both failed and now each series is extended to a fifth game.

The Rangers would surely like to avoid playing Game 5 on Wednesday, instead preferring to rest and prepare for their second-round opponent, which likely will be the Hurricanes.

Matt Calamia spent six seasons as a digital content producer and writer for the New York Rangers. Prior to... More about Matt Calamia

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