Hard to Kill: Rangers comfort in 1 goal playoff games began in 2012

Moore scores late vs TB (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Moore scores late vs TB (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Madison Square Garden will be electric tonight as the Rangers look to take a commanding 2-0 lead in the ECF with a win. New York won game 1 by yet another 2-1 score this postseason, making it 7 of 9 wins by that exact mark.

New York continues to look extremely comfortable in 1 goal games, which is something that began developing in 2012 when they lost to the NJ Devils in 6 in the ECF. That season, 13 of their 20 games played were decided by one goal. The next season they played 8 more 1 goal games in 12 playoff matches. In their 2014 Stanley Cup Final run they played in another 11 contests decided by 1 goal.

All those tight playoffs games over the last few playoffs, 32 in total are proving their value in the 2015 post-season. To date the Rangers have played another 13 games this playoff run and all have been decided by 1 goal. Looking back, you can see the Rangers improvement in 1 goal games over the years.

2012: 6-7 (2-3 OT)

2013: 4-4 (1-3 OT)

2014: 6-5 (2-3 OT)

2015: 9-4 (4-0 OT)

This post-season is far from over, and even if they didn’t win another game by 1 goal (which we know is impossible, it’s in their DNA) the improvement is evident on the ice and on paper. What is especially remarkable is just how comfortable they are in OT this season.

Long gone are the jitters that appeared to cause Dan Girardi to miss a bouncing puck and then react by turning it over in a panic. That was in game 1 of the 2014 Stanley Cup Final and it set the tone for the series and the inevitable outcome. These Rangers look confident in what they are doing and have a strong belief in their system and more importantly each other.

[su_quote cite=”NY Times” url=”http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/09/sports/hockey/rangers-are-often-at-their-best-when-facing-elimination.html?_r=0″]“The core has past experience in dealing with this situation,” Coach Alain Vigneault said Thursday. “I expect them to pass on their experience and leadership to the remainder of the group.”[/su_quote]

Of course with each year the roster is different, but the core players that comprise this Rangers team have played in a majority of these playoff games. The most important player has played in them all.

Lundqvist. (Photo by Anthony J. Causi)

Lundqvist. (Photo by Anthony J. Causi)

Henrik Lundqvist has been in every single one of these one goal games and had developed ice in his veins. His numbers in elimination games and game 7’s speak to that. Since 2012, Lundqvist in 14-3 in games where the Rangers face elimination and a perfect 6-0 in game 7’s.

On defense, Dan Girardi, Marc Staal and Ryan McDonagh have played alongside Henrik in all these contests. Upfront, they’re considered some of the younger Blueshirts, but Carl Hagelin, Derek Stepan and Mats Zuccarello are all playoff veterans.

The list grows when you start including players from 2013, like Rick Nash, Derick Brassard and Chris Kreider. To some extent, even J.T. Miller and Jesper Fast have some experience in the post-season with the Rangers seeing 4 and 3 games respectively in 2014.

Stephan wins it OT (newsday)

Stepan wins it in OT (newsday)

Now the Rangers are poised to try and take a 2-0 series lead on the Tampa Bay Lightning and inch another step closer to their Stanley Cup mission. Fans should take comfort in what they are seeing from this group. Anyone who has been passionately living and dying with the Rangers over the last few years may be to stressed to see what’s happened here.

The Rangers have become resilient. Much like the team they lost the Cup to last year, the L.A. Kings. At one time, they were called cockroaches because they were impossible to kill. These Rangers have developed that very hard shell now since 2012.

As they continue to rattle off 1 goal victories, their shell gets harder and harder. The Washington Capitals learned this team is nearly impossible to kill and blew a 3-1 series lead, just like the Pittsburgh Penguins did last year. The Lightning were looking to steal game 1 before Dominic Moore scored with 2:25 on the clock to secure another 1 goal win.

It’s been the modus operandi of this club. Calm, cool, and poised no matter what the situation. A club that looks to complete some unfinished business to win a Championship. A resilient bunch of cockroaches that teams are finding very hard to kill.