From the very start of the Stanley Cup playoffs, the comparisons to the Rangers' dramatic 1994 playoff run have driven the hockey media's narrative. It started off innocuously — "Look everyone; the Rangers won the Eastern Conference for the first time since 1994!" — but by the time the Conference Finals started, the similarities were so striking that even the most casual of hockey fans could predict how the story would be told.
The Rangers are facing the same teams in the Eastern Conference Semis and Finals as they did in '94; Games 3-7 are all scheduled on the same day as their 1994 counterparts; and of course, the Rangers now face a 3-2 deficit going into Game 6 in New Jersey. A quick glance at the New York tabloids and hockey news outlets pushes the 1994 angle in virtually every story. I half expected to wake up this morning with news about a bold guarantee of victory by Rangers captain Ryan Callahan.
The incessant comparisons to 1994 are clearly getting tiresome for the players, many of whom weren't even old enough to attend kindergarten in 1994. For them, that season is no more relevant than Beatlemania. At the opposite end of the spectrum is Marty Brodeur, who was a rookie playing in his first postseason in 1994. Much of the media's attention has naturally fallen on him, and not just because he is the only man left standing from that series. Despite his remarkable career, the Rangers have historically had Brodeur’s number (he’s had only one playoff series win against them in three tries heading into this year). It’s clearly irksome to the future Hall of Famer that so much attention is being focused on a postseason that occurred 18 years ago, as is the fact that he has never beaten the Rangers on his way to a championship (as indicated by his passive-aggressive dismissals of the past).
It's hard to blame the hockey media for pushing the 1994 comparisons to this extent. It was an unforgettable season, not just for New York but also for the NHL. The 93-94 Rangers became media darlings, and the NHL used the boost in popularity of its biggest market team (plus the ensuing NBA lockout) to land new TV deals and embark on an expansion program bigger than any since the WHA merger. While the NHL's own lockout after the 2003-2004 season wiped out any remaining momentum the league had built during the mid 90s, there is little doubt that the league would welcome another surge in popularity, even if only from the New York market.
While 1994 is currently acting as a security blanket for many Ranger fans, slightly more recent history might be a better source of comfort.
While 1994 is currently acting as a security blanket for many Ranger fans, slightly more recent history might be a better source of comfort. New York's previous two series during this postseason have followed very similar scripts as this one. Just as they did against Ottawa and Washington, the Rangers have struggled to score and have relied on their goaltending and team defense to keep them in games. In both series they were outplayed for long stretches and seemed to be winning more games than they deserved.
Yet the Rangers are 3-0 this postseason in elimination games, winning Games 6 & 7 in the first round against Ottawa and Game 7 in the second round against the Caps, and looked comfortable and confident in all three. None of those games were blowouts — the Rangers don't have blowouts — but in every game they clearly outplayed their opponents, unlike many of their wins in non-elimination games.
If the Rangers do manage to come back from the brink and win this series, the 1994 noise will only get louder. The Kings' playoff run is even similar in many ways to the Canucks run from that same year, so there will be plenty of fodder for those looking to continue the narrative.
But in a search for confidence moving forward, it's 2012 rather than 1994 that should be looked upon. The Rangers have lived on the edge all season and have achieved more than any of their fans could have possibly expected.
That being said, if Cally or Richards wants to guarantee a win tonight, I'm totally fine with that.
Fan Hub Action
Jeanne-Marie Jansen Lowell May 23rd
Greatest relief pitcher EVER! Someday we can all tell our grandchildren we got to see him pitch. A true legend!
Charlie Lobosco May 23rd
Ask Craig; I’ll say it again; not the best relief pitcher ever; the best MLB player ever. Yes, that includes everyone.
Jim Lowell May 23rd
Great tribute to a great player, a great Yankee, and a great man.Thank you!
Frank Lowell May 23rd
Great job, Ryan! As a life-long Yankee hater since the 1950’s in the closing days of the Brooklyn Dodgers, I can only sit back and…
Tiffany Riddle May 23rd
Love the article, and I completely agree!
Michael T Carr May 16th
Another good article, Craig Lowell.
Charlie Lobosco May 1st
This is a very compelling story because Mr. Collins is a very passionate, tough, intelligent, athelete taking on some additional responsibliity to help others as…
Scott Cohen May 1st
Charlie.. very well said.. he does have guts
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