A great defense creates offense, right? Not always, not if you’re the Rangers right now at least. They’re winning games thanks to their solid defense and goaltender Henrik Lundqvist’s superb play, but at the same time, they’re averaging just two goals per game in the playoffs.
Which is fine because defense is what wins championships, doesn’t it? It’s an important part, certainly, but they’re pushing that philosophy to its limit and it will be interesting to see if it snaps likes an overstretched elastic band.
If the Rangers win the Stanley Cup while maintaining their current scoring pace, they’ll be setting themselves apart from the previous 16 Stanley Cup winners dating back to 1998. Over that stretch, the worst offensive team was the 2004 Tampa Bay Lightning and even they averaged 2.56 goals per game during their postseason run. They had Brad Richards and Martin St. Louis averaging over a point per game, while the modern Rangers are led by Derick Brassard and Derek Stepan, who each have nine points in 13 contests.
The 2003 New Jersey Devils were a close second last among the list of Stanley Cup winners with their 2.58 goals per game pace in the playoffs. That Devils team lacked the offensive star power of the 2004 Lightning, but it had more offensive depth than Tampa Bay. New Jersey featured 17 different players that scored at least a goal and 11 that recorded two or more markers. The modern Rangers haven’t played in nearly as many contests yet, so it’s not a fair comparison, but so far 10 players have found the back of the net while eight have recorded at least two goals. Only two players have reached the five-goal mark (Chris Kreider and Brassard) while the Devils finished with six players that reached or surpassed that milestone.
Breaking new ground isn’t necessarily a recipe for disaster though and in line with that, the Rangers deserve credit for what they’ve already accomplished. They’ve been in 13 straight one-goal games in the 2015 playoffs and the fact they’ve gotten this far by coming through in clutch situations is amazing. Still, one has to wonder if any team can keep this up.