Comparing the Rangers to the 1994 team that broke ‘the curse’

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For the first time in 20 years, the New York Rangers are in the Stanley Cup Final series. It’s a big deal even if Sports Illustrated probably won’t run a cover story about how “The NHL is hot and the NBA is not” this time around.

The cast of characters is wildly different, yet there are enough interesting parallels between the Stanley Cup-winning 1994 team and this 2014 squad that it could be fun to study the similarities and differences. Feel free to share your own parallels (or disagree about these) in the comments.

The Team

The 2013-14 Rangers finished second in the Metropolitan Division, enjoying strong puck possession and getting this far by playing great team defense. The 1994 version seemed more like a total package; the Rangers scored the fourth-most goals and allowed the third least goals in going 52-24-8 (112 points) to win the Atlantic Division and the Presidents’ Trophy before that Cup win.

Fittingly enough, the New Jersey Devils were the only team close in the standings, finishing with 106 points.

The Captain

Mark Messier made that famous guarantee on his way to the sixth Stanley Cup victory of his storied career and the first Rangers championship in 54 years. On the other hand, these Rangers don’t even possess a captain.

That’s not to say they lack leadership, however. Henrik Lundqvist is a steadying presence in net. Martin St. Louis came to New York in exchange for their former captain Ryan Callahan. Rick Nash is a former captain and Brad Richards knows big-game pressure.

No one’s made a flat-out guarantee, which is wise considering the modern news cycle. That’s not to say this group is meek by any means; St. Louis did state that this is “our time” after beating the Montreal Canadiens in Game 4.

The Goalie

source: Getty Images
Credit: Getty Images

There’s something oddly fitting about Lundqvist winning his 42nd career playoff game, just now passing Mike Richter for the franchise record. Lundqvist, 32, also has a few more career regular season victories (309) than Richter finished with (301). Lundqvist also has that 2006 gold medal, a Vezina Trophy and a contract that indicates that Lundqvist will leave Richter far behind statistically speaking.

Even so, for many Rangers fans, “King Henrik” won’t pass Richter until he wins it all.

The Defenseman

Ryan McDonagh is a rising star defenseman. He’s even putting up some numbers that haven’t been seen since Brian Leetch was at his best. McDonagh is one of the best blueliners the team has employed since Leetch and he’s only 24. But he’s not Leetch yet.

Leetch wasn’t that much older at the time, yet he was absolutely in his peak years back then. He won his first of two Norris Trophies in 1991-92 and went on to win the Conn Smythe in 1994.

Then again, it’s not just about Leetch and McDonagh. The Rangers employed regularly underrated defenseman Sergei Zubov, who led the Rangers in regular-season scoring with 89 points (five more than Messier and 10 more than Leetch).

The Deadline deals

As this NHL.com article lays out, then-Rangers GM Neil Smith mortgaged future assets to win that year and also chisel the team into “Iron” Mike Keenan’s image. That included a deal that sent Tony Amonte to Chicago for Stephane Matteau, which still seems to haunt Smith.

Current Rangers GM Glen Sather set out to make this roster friendlier to his coach Alain Vigneault, even though the general vibe is reversed (grit to finesse). Martin St. Louis has been a fantastic fit in the playoffs in particular, yet the Tampa Bay Lightning received two first-round picks and Ryan Callahan on at least a “rental” basis for their troubles.

Even though the 1994 Rangers made a larger volume of moves, the big-picture message was the same: win now.

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The 1994 Rangers were dominant where this version is talented yet scrappy. There are some other similarities and differences (this year’s team boasts some nice young talent while the ’94 group featured the likes of Alex Kovalev), yet these big picture considerations make for an interesting comparison.

Moving on up: Devils win NHL Draft Lottery, secure No. 1 overall pick

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The New Jersey Devils entered the Draft Lottery with an 8.5 per cent chance of winning it. They will leave with the No. 1 overall pick in the upcoming NHL Draft.

The Devils finished the regular season with just 70 points, tied with Arizona for the third fewest in the overall standings. They’ve also had plenty of difficulty scoring goals in recent years, and this provides them with an opportunity to land a player — forwards Nolan Patrick and Nico Hischier are expected to be the top two players selected in June — that can help remedy that.

It’s become quite a close race between the two heading into the draft, which goes June 23-24 in Chicago.

From Bob McKenzie of TSN:

For TSN’s Draft Lottery edition, five scouts ranked the 6-foot-2, 198-pound Patrick No. 1; five scouts ranked the 6-foot-1, 176-pound Hischier No. 1. The Swiss pivot has closed the gap with his dynamic play, which came at a time when Patrick’s injury-riddled season was ended prematurely by an upper-body ailment that wasn’t related to the groin/abdominal issues that plagued him for the first half of the season.

While the Devils emerged as the overall winners, the Philadelphia Flyers had an enormous rise up the board. So, too, did the Dallas Stars.

The Flyers had just a 2.2 per cent chance of winning the lottery, yet they moved all the way up into the No. 2 selection spot when it was over. The Stars, with a 5.8 per cent chance of winning the lottery, also had a good day, moving up into the No. 3 overall spot.

Here is the 2017 draft order:

  1. New Jersey Devils
  2. Philadelphia Flyers
  3. Dallas Stars
  4. Colorado Avalanche
  5. Vancouver Canucks
  6. Vegas Golden Knights
  7. Arizona Coyotes
  8. Buffalo Sabres
  9. Detroit Red Wings
  10. Florida Panthers
  11. L.A. Kings
  12. Carolina Hurricanes
  13. Winnipeg Jets
  14. Tampa Bay Lightning
  15. New York Islanders

As you see, there were a few other key developments in this lottery.

Vegas was given a 10.3 per cent chance at winning the top pick — the same odds given to the 28th place team — however, the Golden Knights will pick sixth overall. The Colorado Avalanche, which finished with a miserable 48 points and had the best odds to win lottery, now pick fourth overall.

And once again, the Canucks endured more disappointment at the lottery.

Last year, they dropped two spots, from third to fifth. Needing an impact forward in order to help kickstart their rebuild, they dropped three spots, from No. 2 to No. 5 overall, on Saturday.

Related: Report: Devils GM plans to reach out to Kovalchuk’s agent next week

Report: Devils GM plans to reach out to Kovalchuk’s agent next week

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Rumblings of a possible return to the NHL for Ilya Kovalchuk have continued for some time now, and it appears the New Jersey Devils are taking the next step in this process.

On Saturday, prior to the draft lottery, John Shannon of Sportsnet reported that Devils general manager Ray Shero plans to reach out to Kovalchuk’s agent next week to gauge Kovalchuk’s interest of a potential return.

Kovalchuk is now 34 years old, having spent the last four seasons with St. Petersburg SKA in the KHL.

Getting Kovalchuk back for the Devils could provide an instant boost in scoring, which is an area New Jersey has struggled in. This past season, the Devils finished 28th in the league in goals for. Only the Canucks and Avalanche were worse in this category.

Kovalchuk had 32 goals and 78 points in 60 games this past season.

From NJ.com:

Kovalchuk would step in and immediately serve as a top-six winger for the Devils, Outside of Taylor Hall and Kyle Palmieri, the Devils constantly rotated wingers into the top six last season. Having him up top would add another scoring dimension and help the depth down the rotation by bumping a player down.

Kovalchuk has also been in the news for more than a possible NHL comeback. According to reports on Saturday, he will forego the upcoming World Hockey Championship for Russia in order to have knee surgery.

Pageau’s brilliant four-goal game lifts Senators to comeback OT win over Rangers

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Jean-Gabriel Pageau had himself a performance for the ages in Game 2 against the New York Rangers on Saturday.

Pageau completed the hat trick to tie the game late in the third period, forcing overtime as Ottawa roared back from a late two-goal deficit. But he wasn’t done there. His best moment was still to come.

His fourth goal of the game was the winner, as he ripped a wrist shot over the left shoulder of Henrik Lundqvist to give Ottawa a thrilling 6-5 double overtime victory.

The Senators now take a commanding 2-0 series lead over the Rangers, as it shifts back to Madison Square Garden.

On the deciding two-on-one rush, Pageau opted to keep his hot streak going, taking the shot instead of going for the pass.

For the Rangers, this could be a devastating loss.

Three times, they held a two-goal lead — thanks in part to a pair of goals from defenseman Brady Skjei, who is following up a strong regular season with what has so far been a very good post-season. The Senators, however, refused to go away.

Pageau recorded a pair of late goals in the third period, just 2:17 apart, erasing for good any lead New York had.

It was, until that point, shaping up to be a disappointing result for the Senators. Their power play not only went 0-for-4, but they conceded a pair of shorthanded goals.

Senators forward Clarke MacArthur left this game early in the second period, after taking a hit from Ryan McDonagh in the first period. He didn’t return. MacArthur has dealt with concussion problems in his career, however the club didn’t disclose any details of the apparent injury during the game.

The Rangers have scored two shorthanded goals against the Senators today

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The Ottawa Senators power play is off to a brutal start on Saturday afternoon in Game 2 of their second-round playoff series against the New York Rangers.

Not only did they fail to score on their first four power play opportunities of the game, they failed to generate a single shot on goal during any of them. That is … not ideal. But that is not even the worst of it. The worst is the fact they also allowed the Rangers to score not only one, but two shorthanded goals against them.

The first one came just 4:16 into the game (on the Senators’ first power play of the game) when Michael Grabner scored his third goal of the playoffs to give the Rangers an early 1-0 lead.

You can see that goal in the video above.

The Rangers added to the struggles of the Senators’ power play in the second period when Derek Stepan scored his second goal of the playoffs increase the Rangers’ lead to 3-1.

That goal came during a wild five-minute stretch that saw the two teams combine for four goals and helped the Rangers build a 4-2 lead late in the second period.