History, as you might imagine, is not on New York’s side right now

31 Comments

NEW YORK — After losing 3-0 on Monday night in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final, the Rangers now face a monumental task in rallying from a three games to none series deficit.

And monumental might be understating it.

Only one team in Stanley Cup Final history has come back to win after dropping the first three games — the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs, who did it against Detroit in the first-ever final to go seven games.

Three teams have since rallied from 0-3 in playoff history (1975 Islanders, 2010 Flyers, 2014 Kings) but nobody’s turned the trick in the Final since the Leafs did it 72 years ago.

And hey, we’re just about the full comeback here. It could be argued the Rangers will have a remarkably tough time getting past Game 4… depending on how much stock you put in history.

According to WhoWins.com, 26 Stanley Cup Finals began with one team getting out to a 3-0 series lead. In 20 of those, the team leading completed the sweep — most recently, the Detroit Red Wings did it against the Washington Capitals in 1998. That, of course, marked the end of a bizarre chapter in NHL history in which four consecutive Finals were sweeps:

1995: New Jersey 4, Detroit 0
1996: Colorado 4, Florida 0
1997: Detroit 4, Philadelphia 0
1998: Detroit 4, Washington 0

To their credit, the Rangers are saying the right things in how they plan to avoid a sweep — all it takes is one win, just approach it 60 minutes at a time. Cliches, sure, but what else are they going to say?

“We just have to keep working ourselves and work hard and the bounces will come our way,” Dan Girardi said after Game 3. “It all just comes down to we have to win one game and we’ll go from there.”

If nothing else, the Rangers could look at their bitter rivals from New Jersey for inspiration. Two years ago, the Devils also fell behind 0-3 in the Cup Final to the Kings in similar fashion — dropping the first two games in OT before getting shut out in Game 3 — but managed to rally and force a Game 6.

Getting at least that far is what the Rangers want to accomplish.

“It’s not over,” Henrik Lundqvist explained. “We are looking at getting the next game, that’s all we think about right now is that win. In a game like this every little play matters and it feels like they had the luck so far in these three games where it feels like the game has been pretty even, but they have been finding ways to get the big goals at the right times.

“I guess and it’s something we just have to accept and try to be a little better next game.”

As for the Kings, they seem to remember the New Jersey series all too well, explaining how difficult the fourth game of a Stanley Cup Final while saying they’re ready for the Rangers’ biggest effort on Wednesday.

“We have a lot of confidence right now, but we can’t get ahead of ourselves,” Drew Doughty said. “We’ve got a lot of work left to do. It’s not even close to being over.

“This is going to be the toughest part of the series, closing it out.”

Talbot torments Ducks as Oilers take 2-0 series lead

2 Comments

Those who vehemently argued for Cam Talbot being a Vezina finalist likely felt vindicated tonight (even if postseason results don’t factor into the voting).

In Game 1, Leon Draisaitl stole the show. Talbot was the standout of Game 2, snubbing a steady Ducks threat as Edmonton won 2-1 on Friday.

And, just like that, the Oilers are up 2-0 in their second-round series against the Anaheim Ducks. Better yet for this young group: the venue shifts to what’s likely to be a rowdy scene in Edmonton for Games 3 and 4.

The tone was set when Andrej Sekera scored just 65 seconds into the contest. That said, the Oilers could have sulked when a would-be 2-0 goal was called off (and they had to kill a penalty). Instead, they just kept battling, even after Jakob Silfverberg ended Talbot’s shutout bit with a laser beam on the power play.

Speaking of the power play, the Oilers managed to match the Ducks (1-for-4 each on the PP), even as Talbot faced 12 shots on goal during Anaheim’s power-play opportunities.

Talbot ultimately made 39 of 40 stops, and while the Ducks kept Connor McDavid from scoring, number 97 sure looked speedy and dangerous at times in Game 2.

Anaheim came into the second round with home-ice advantage through the West side of the playoffs, seemingly enjoying a golden opportunity when other conference powers fell. Instead, it’s looking like the Oilers might just have a chance to prove that they’re big-time contenders, too.

Game 3 airs on NBCSN at 7 p.m. ET on Sunday. You can watch online and via the NBC Sports App; click here for the livestream.

Latest goalie interference mess: Oilers get penalty, not goal

2 Comments

Ah, goalie interference. Does the fun ever start?

Arguably the most irritating facet of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs reared its pesky head once again on Friday, as the Edmonton Oilers saw a would-be 2-0 goal disallowed in the first period of Game 2 against the Anaheim Ducks.

The goal wasn’t just disallowed, either, as Mark Letestu was given a minor penalty.

One would imagine that there are opinions for or against the goal (and penalty counting); there are also many who are just getting a little worn out by the uncertainty surrounding such calls. Tomas Holmstrom is nodding his head so hard right now, everyone.

Here’s one unhappy take:

Moments after this post went up, the Oilers made it 2-0 for real this time. Check out the game here.

Math may help build Vegas Knights, but biggest aim is not being boring

Getty
Leave a comment

Unlike Pierre Dorion, it sounds like Vegas Golden Knights GM George McPhee would rather listen to analytics-minded people rather than … you know, hit them.

As McPhee readies for the expansion draft, he told The Star’s Kevin McGran in Q&A that they’ll at least be factored into decisions.

I’ve been really fascinated by how revealing that data can be. You have these kids speaking a different language. But I’m convinced it has a really important place in this game. You have to pay attention to it, and you have to use it.

Naturally, the real question with McPhee and other executives comes down to how much they will lean on analytics. Some teams seem to pick and choose when to listen to such voices, ending up with an odd mix of moves that please and unnerve the “fancy stats” community.

Owner Bill Foley gave a good idea of how much they’ll lean on stats vs. more traditional approaches in an interview with the Vegas Hockey Hotline back in February, which was transcribed by The Hockey Writers’ Keith Scheessele.

“Analytics is not going to drive how we draft,” Foley said. “Analytics are going to supplement what the scouts are seeing. We’re going to rely on the scouts and what they recommend.”

(Foley also spoke of rating players in 10 different categories, which started to make one think about how old sports video games could only quantify skills in so many ways. Anyway …)

So, it sounds like McPhee & Co. will take a modern approach – a mixture of the old and the new – rather than going full-on bold and revolutionary like, say, the Cleveland Browns or Golden State Warriors.

Considering the mystery of roster quality one faces with the Vegas Knights, it honestly might be most important that McPhee is repeatedly stating that he doesn’t aim to put together a boring hockey team.

Hey, if it takes a while to be good, at least the Vegas Knights might fit with their environment and put on a show.

Tarasenko’s two goals help Blues tie series with Predators

3 Comments

One of the (many) remarkable things about the St. Louis Blues dispatching the Minnesota Wild was that they didn’t need a ton of production from Vladimir Tarasenko. He didn’t score a goal until the clinching game of that series.

The Blues needed more from him tonight, and he responded with two huge goals to help St. Louis win 3-2 in Game 2, tying the second-round series at 1-1.

Tarasenko scored the opening goal on that major power-play opportunity from the Vernon Fiddler knee on Colton Parayko, while Joel Edmundson wisely got out of the way to let Tarasenko nab the game-winner.

That ended up being the decisive factor as the Nashville Predators finally lost their first game of the postseason.

St. Louis must be breathing a sigh of relief for a number of reasons. The series shifts to Nashville for Games 3 and 4, so going down 2-0 might have been lethal.

Even beyond that, the Blues had some breaks go their way that likely won’t repeat to the same degree in future contests. The Predators didn’t receive a single power-play opportunity while St. Louis spent significant chunks of the contest on the man advantage, going 1-for-5 (but again, that includes a major).

The Blues also won despite what must have been a frustrating start. They only managed a 1-1 tie after the first 20 minutes despite holding Nashville to a mere three shots on goal.

The Predators also managed leads of 1-0 and 2-1, yet the Blues kept fighting to get back in this series. Game 3 will air on NBC at 3 p.m. ET on Sunday. You can watch online and via the NBC Sports App (Click here for the livestream link).

* – That said, he made a lot of commotion to set up Edmundson’s overtime game-winner from Game 1. That connection continued on Friday, as you likely noticed.