Rangers looking to buck recent trend with 2-0 playoff series lead

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-New York Rangers at New Jersey Devils
Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Rangers find themselves in an enviable position following a 4-3 victory over the Washington Capitals in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference First Round playoff series Tuesday. They hold a 2-0 series edge heading to Washington for two games this weekend.

According to Hockey-Reference.com, teams up 2-0 in a best-of-7 Stanley Cup Playoff series have advanced 86.4 percent of the time. It’s even better if you win the first two games at home, with the winning percentage climbing to 88.4 percent.

But it doesn’t take a longtime Rangers fan to know those numbers don’t necessarily guarantee anything. In fact, the Rangers contributed to the 13 percent category each of the previous two postseasons after jumping to 2-0 leads against Tampa Bay Lightning in the 2022 Eastern Conference Final and 12 months ago in the opening round against the New Jersey Devils.

Two series leads. Two series losses.

That’s not good. But things are a bit better when looking at the bigger historical picture. The Rangers are 11-4 all-time when leading a best-of-7 series 2-0, though just 3-3 since 2007.

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Rangers playoff history when taking 2-0 lead in best-of-7 series

NHL: Washington Capitals v New York Rangers
Kevin Lowe moves the puck against Capitals in second round of 1994 Stanley Cup Playoffs — USA Today-USA TODAY NETWORK Credit: USA Today-USA TODAY NETWORK

The Blueshirts swept the Atlanta Thrashers in 2007 for their first series win since 1997. They followed it up with a five-game victory over the Devils in 2008 after also taking a 2-0 lead. Each playoff run ended in the following round both years, to the Buffalo Sabres in 2007 and Pittsburgh Penguins in 2008.

The Rangers were up 2-0 again the following postseason, in 2009 against the Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals. New York won the first two games on the road before splitting the next two at The Garden to take a 3-1 series lead. However, the Rangers couldn’t seal the deal, losing three straight on their way to an extended summer break.

It’d be five seasons before New York again won the first two games in a playoff series. The Rangers were up 2-0 against the Montreal Canadiens in the 2014 Eastern Conference Final before winning the series in six games, earning their first trip to the Stanley Cup Final since 1994.

As mentioned, the Rangers had 2-0 series leads in both the 2022 and 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Rangers won the first two games at home against Tampa Bay in the Eastern Conference Final before dropping four straight.

They changed things a bit in 2023 by winning the first two games against the Devils on the road in New Jersey before losing three straight. They rallied to win Game 6 at home but lost the decisive Game 7 on the road.

Notably, the Rangers sprinted to 2-0 leads in the first two rounds of the 1994 playoffs, including the second round against the Capitals, whom they dispatched in five games on their way to winning their only championship since 1940.

Washington, meanwhile, is 2-7 all-time in series they’ve trailed 0-2. One of those series wins was in the opening round against the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2018. The Capitals reeled off four straight wins to take the series en-route to their first Stanley Cup championship that spring. The Capitals were swept 4-0 in their previous trip to the Final in 1997 against the Detroit Red Wings after, obviously, losing the first two games.

The 2024 Rangers have taken care of business through two games. Will they buck their recent trend of coughing up 2-0 leads? We will find out more Friday and Sunday when they play Games 3 and 4 at Capital One Arena.

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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