Wednesday, April 29, 2009

History is History

Well, so much for the Rangers. Never blown a 3-1 series lead? Until last night, anyway. The Caps hadn't overcome a 3-1 deficit since 1988? Twenty-one years is just too long.

Anyway, not that I had much faith going into last night's game, but I came away even more disheartened. The Rangers played their hearts out for two periods and had exactly one goal and a tie score to show for it. It was only a matter of time until the Caps finally scored again and the Rangers -- all one shot's worth -- were utterly powerless to fight back.

Which brings me to this point: why does Glen Sather still have a job? I'm beginning to think that having Gretzky and Messier and Lowe and Coffey all on one team made Sather look good. Really good. Like Phil Jackson coaching Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen good. (Or Shaq and Kobe good -- take your pick.)

My point is that if you overlook the Edmonton portion of Sather's résumé for a moment, the results aren't all that pretty. After all, the Rangers missed the playoffs in his first four seasons as GM. Even now, with four straight playoff appearances, they've never finished the regular season better than 3rd in the division and haven't made it out of the playoffs' 2nd round. (The Rangers have a 14-17 playoff record during Sather's reign.)

The bottom line now is that the Rangers simply can't score. As great as Lundquist played in this series, without a margin for error, the team was doomed. Sather has left the team without a guy who can put the puck in the net. And I'm not talking an Ovechkin, here. There are four Capitals with more points than the Rangers' leading scorer, Nik Antropov. (Full disclosure: not only is Antropov only the 65th-best scorer in the NHL, but he tallied 43 of his 59 points for Toronto.)

And the big-money guys like Gomez and Drury can take their place alongside such high-priced, underperforming talents as Lindros, Bure and Holik who were never able to put the Rangers over the top. How long can a man live off his past success and not be held accountable for the present? If Sather can't produce that scoring threat for next season, the Rangers should begin their own search for a new leader.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

O Ye of Little Faith

Okay, I admit it: that's me. After watching the Rangers get blown out of the Garden on Sunday (well, for as long as I could stand watching it, anyway) my hopes are not particularly high for tonight's Game 7. It should be noted that even in the Rangers' wins it was by the slimmest of margins, whereas the Capitals have had their way with the Rangers during their three wins. (In fact, if you'd only watched the Caps' wins, you'd wonder -- and rightfully so -- how it was the Rangers were even still in this series.)

However, I'm always a sucker for historical stats, especially the ones that favor the Rangers. To wit:
  • Of the 233 teams that have built 3-1 series leads in the Stanley Cup playoffs, 213 have ultimately won the series. That's good for 91%.
  • No NHL team has overcome a 3-1 deficit since 2004, when Montreal beat Boston in the first round.
  • It has been 21 years since the Capitals overcame a 3-1 series deficit -- 1988 against Philadelphia in the first round.
  • The Rangers have never blown a 3-1 series lead, though they needed a Game 7 in the 1994 Stanley Cup finals against Vancouver.
Okay, so there you have it. History favors the Rangers. (Let's just not talk about the on-ice matchups...)