Ah Valentines Day is here. Valentines Day is either a Holiday you love or hate each year and there is no in between. For NHL fans, they are being treated to 10 games this year on this day. As fans we have moments where we love our team and moments where heartbreak is suddenly thrown our way. As fans going through tough loses only makes it that much sweeter when your team wins.
As Rangers fans for the average 20-something Rangers fan, the generation is too young to remember the 1994 Stanley Cup Championship. The team was so close last season to reclaiming the Stanley Cup, and it ended so suddenly in double overtime in Game 5. The Rangers look even better this season than the team that was 3 wins away from finally giving the 90’s kids generation of Rangers fans a Stanley Cup Championship to celebrate. When that day finally arrives, the true Rangers fans are going to enjoy it that much more having been through some tough seasons. The Rangers did not make the playoffs from 1998-2004. The post 2005 New York Rangers have given us a lot to cheer about as fans, having only missed the playoffs once in 2010.
This current group of Rangers players are enjoying the most success of any team the younger generation has seen. It has to culminate in a Stanley Cup for all the tough loses to be worth it. With the great core at the blueline in place, a top 3 goalie in the World, and a consistent offense led by the current Rocket Richard race leader, this Rangers team is poised to make a strong run at the Stanley Cup the rest of this decade. There have been some tough loses along the way as I have said. When the Rangers finally reach the pinnacle of hockey these games will still be remembered, but the pain not as deep. Here are the top 7 most heartbreaking losses for the age 20-something Rangers fan.
7) 2012 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals Game 4 vs Ottawa Senators
This is the only game on the list where the Rangers would win the series following the tough loss. The Rangers were the #1 seed in the Eastern Conference this year under the grinding, shot blocking, tough to play against 2012 team. The Rangers would have a tough physical series in the first round against the Ottawa Senators. The team definitely left this round a little beat up. The Rangers held a 2-1 lead in the series before losing a tough one here in Ottawa on a Kyle Turris snipe that evened the series 2-2. The Rangers would fall behind 3-2 in the series before coming back to win Game 6 in Ottawa and Game 7 at Madison Square Garden.
6) 2011 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals Game 4 vs. Washington Capitals
The Washington Capitals were the #1 seed in the Eastern Conference this year and the New York Rangers finished 8th, barely making the playoffs by two points over the Carolina Hurricanes. With the Rangers trailing in the series 2-1 the Rangers had a great chance to even the series at 2 games apiece at Madison Square Garden. A bank shot goal from behind the net by Artem Anisimov, a sweet back door finish from Marian Gaborik, and a fortunate bounce for Brandon Dubinsky gave the Rangers a comfortable 3-0 lead going into the 3rd period. The Capitals would come storming back and sent this game to overtime. In double overtime Henrik Lundqvist tries to make a play on the puck before it ricochets off Gaborik and is put into the shocking empty net by Jason Chimera. The Capitals would win this series in 5 games.
5) 2009 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals Game 7 vs. Washington Capitals
This season the Caps finished as the #2 seed in the East and the New York Rangers the #7 seed. The Rangers shocked the Capitals in Game 1 on a sweet goal by Brandon Dubinsky late in the 3rd to give the Rangers a 4-3 win.
Unfortunately for New York this one did not end as well as it started. The Rangers took a commanding 3-1 lead in the best of seven series before dropping two straight games and having to win Game 7 on the Road in Washington. With Game 7 tied late in the 3rd veteran Russian sniper Sergei Federov snipes one glove side on Henrik Lundqvist. The two defenseman on the ice for the Rangers were Wade Redden and Michal Rozsival.
4) 2010 Final Game of Regular Season Shootout vs Philadelphia
Talk about drama and nerves, a shootout on the last game of the regular season to decide the 8th seed in the playoffs. This was the most meaningful shootout in NHL history. This year was John Tortorella’s first full season as Rangers coach. Henrik Lundqivst against Brian Boucher would already heavily favor the Rangers, but somehow the Flyers found a way to win this one. Danny Briere and Claude Giroux scored for the Flyers and PA Parenteau scored for New York. The Flyers went on to win the shootout 2-1 and as the 8th seed advanced all the way to the Stanley Cup Final before falling to the Chicago Blackhawks in 6 games.
3) 2007 Eastern Conference Semi-Finals vs Buffalo Sabres Game 5
The Rangers were facing the incredibly stacked 2006-2007 Buffalo Sabres. The Sabres had won the Presidents Trophy that season with 113 points. The offensive firepower was endless with players such as Danny Briere, Thomas Vanek, Maxim Afinogenov, Jason Pominville, Chris Drury, and Derek Roy. All six players finished with 60 points at least and Briere scored 95. Their defense was led by Brian Campbell in his prime and young Ryan Miller in net. The Rangers lost the first two games in Buffalo and went on to win both games at MSG. In Game 5 the Rangers were holding on to a 1-0 lead before Chris Drury tied the game off of a rebound with 7 seconds to go. Buffalo Sabres legendary broadcaster Rick Jeanneret of course went crazy. Maxim Afinogenov won the Game for Buffalo with a slapshot from the blueline in OT. Buffalo would win the series in 6 games before their Stanley Cup dreams fell short in the Eastern Conference Finals as they were upset by the Ottawa Senators.
2) 2014 Stanley Cup Final Game 5 OT vs LA
The LA Kings came out strong in Game 5 of the 2014 Stanley Cup Finals. Justin Williams, the Conn Smythe Award Winner, scored 7 minutes into the game on a backhander with traffic in front to put LA up 1-0. Henrik Lundqvist was spectacular and kept the Rangers in the game all night. Chris Kreider would tie the score at 1 on a power play goal with 4 minutes left in the 2nd. Brian Boyle then scored the nicest goal of his career skating the puck shorthanded around Drew Doughty before firing a perfectly placed wrister top shelf over the glove of Jonathan Quick. The Rangers carried a 2-1 lead into the 3rd period, 20 minutes away from a Game 6. With 12 minutes left in regulation Marian Gaborik of all people put in a rebound on the power play following a Drew Doughty wrist shot. The team then exchanged relentless Grade A scoring chances and posts all the way until the end of 2OT. Alec Martinez would score the game winner on an odd man rush and the Kings would win their 2nd Stanley Cup in 3 seasons.
1) 2012 Eastern Conference Finals Game 6 vs NJ
Some people might switch this game with the LA game, but in my opinion this one is the toughest to swallow. The 2012 New York Rangers were the #1 seed in the Eastern Conference. The New Jersey Devils were the 6th seed and needed two miraculous OT victories in a row against the Panthers to get out of the 1st round. They went on to beat the Flyers in 5 games to reach the Conference Finals. The Rangers reached the Conference Finals with two victories in Game 7’s at home against the Ottawa Senators and Washington Capitals. The Devils were rolling 4 lines and doing it effectively. Ryan Carter, Steve Bernier, and Stephen Gionta became an incredibly consistent 4th line. Add that in with players such as Ilya Kovalchuk, Zach Parise, and a stingy defense and the New Jersey Devils were a tough opponent. Even when Game 6 went into overtime, it seemed like the unthinkable for the Rangers to lose this game and go out this way. Well it happened and rookie Adam Henrique scored off a rebound to send the New Jersey Devils to the upset victory and Stanley Cup Finals appearance. This was the toughest loss in my opinion for Rangers fans.
I am a 2015 graduate of Montclair State University in New Jersey. I have coached ice hockey at the high school level for two seasons here in NJ. I will be covering the Toronto Maple Leafs moving forward for The Hockey Writers.