Short series key to Rangers’ Stanley Cup quest

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Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Rangers playoff history is often overblown when looking for storylines heading into a postseason series.

Does it really matter who won a series played between two teams 20 years ago? 10? Even five? No, it doesn’t.

But there’s a recent Rangers trend in the Stanley Cup Playoffs that history indicates they must avoid this spring if they hope to capture their first Stanley Cup in 30 years. That is, the Rangers must escape their first-round series against the Washington Capitals in less than seven games.

The Rangers have played 10 (!) Game 7s since the first round of the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs. To put that into perspective, New York has played a total of 19 rounds during that span, meaning roughly 53 percent of all series went the distance.

Despite success in those games — the Rangers are 8-2 in Game 7s in that span — the toll those long series took can’t be understated, especially those in the opening round.

Related: Rangers hold massive edge against Capitals in this key area

History shows quick Rangers win against Capitals in 1st round important for long playoff run

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Rangers players jump from their bench as the final buzzer sounds in game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals at Madison Square Garden June 14, 1994. The Rangers won the game 3-2 and the Stanley Cup. Credit: Frank Becerra Jr./The Journal News

Five opening-round series since 2012 have gone seven games. Of those, New York entered as the clear favorite to win in 2012 against the Ottawa Senators, 2014 against the Philadelphia Flyers and 2022 against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

And while extended playoff runs followed each of those series, including their only Stanley Cup Final appearance since 1994 in 2014, those Rangers squads each ran out of gas.

History tells us teams not taking care of their business quickly in April are unlikely to find themselves celebrating in June.

There’s a positive historical note here for the Rangers, too. In 1994, they opened their quest for the Cup with a first-round sweep against the New York Islanders. And you know how that story ended.

Just two teams in the salary cap era, the 2011 Boston Bruins and 2014 Los Angeles Kings, went on to win the Stanley Cup after playing seven games in the opening round.

Seven champions won their first-round series in five games, with another eight going six games. The 2022 Colorado Avalanche are the only Cup winner since 2006 to sweep its first-round opponent.

New York has struggled to win series in a timely manner. Since its 2007 sweep of the Atlanta Thrashers, New York has won just four series in less than seven games, and none since defeating the Montreal Canadiens in six games to open the 2017 playoffs.

The Rangers, of course, begin the 2024 postseason as heavy favorites against a Capitals team that ended the season with a minus-36 goal differential and needed to win its final game to secure a spot in the tournament.

Coming off a 55-win, 114-point season that granted the Rangers the Presidents’ Trophy and home ice throughout the playoffs and arguably the weakest first-round opponent of any team in the tournament, the Blueshirts must assert themselves and play to their role as favorite.

It’s time for the Rangers to buck a trend and get on the right side of history.

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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