Before I get to the retro-fun, I would like to comment about the Nashville Predators situation. I went to a Predators game in Nashville about 5 years ago, and I was pleasantly suprised. The fans really get into the game, plus they also know about hockey. I was someone who believed hockey doesn't belong in the south, until I went to this game. It would be a great loss for the development of hockey, and it would also be detrimental to the fans who have become loyal in the past 10 or so years. The Predators need to stay in Nashville for the betterment of the game.
So it's Friday. Time to kick back and get ready for the weekend. So I thought why not kick back a few and recall one of the best teams of the 1990s. When you think of the best teams of the 1990s, you probably instantaneously think of Detroit's cups in 1997 and 1998, Pittsburgh's 2 cups, or even Colorado. However, looking back in the 1990's I think of the New York Rangers.
The New York Rangers in the 1993-94 season were a team of great talent. Their captain was recent Hall of Fame inductee Mark Messier, the greatest leader hockey has ever seen. He had 26 goals-58 assists-84 points in 76 games. Even better that season was defenseman Sergei Zubov who had 12 goals-77 assists-89 points. They also had Mike Richter who was a huge force for the US National teams during his career, also played for this team. He put up an impressive 42-12-6 record playing 68 games.
Going through the roster, there is nothing but solid players. Adam Graves, who had 52 goals in the campaign. Brian Leetch, a future Hall of Famer, had 34 points in the playoffs. Eddie Olczyk, the NBC color for the NHL, had a share of the cup in this season. Joey Kocur, one of the great enforcers of the 1980s and 90s. And who can forget the clutch plays of Esa Tikkanen?
The coach for this star studded team was Mike Keenan. He coached the blueshirts to a league-best 112 point season. What intrigues me most is that he was only associated with this team for 1 year, and he still won the stanley cup! Rarely does this happen, but he had everything a first year coach could ask for.
What people remember most about this team is the Eastern Conference finals matchup between the New Jersey Devils and the New York Rangers. I remember watching this as a kid with my dad, who is an avid Rangers fan. I credit this series as my first exposure to hockey.
Comming into this series: The Rangers had pretty easily defeated the Capitals and Islanders. The Devils on the other hand had not defeated their opponents as readily, defeating Sabres in 7 games, and the Bruins in 6. The Devils were unable to defeat the Rangers in the regular season losing all 6 matchups. The series started off with a 4-3 double OT heartbreaker by the New Jersey Devils. The Rangers would win the next 2 games. However in games 4 and 5, the Devils would regain the series lead at 3-2. As devastated as Rangers fans may have been, Messier told the media that the Rangers would win game 6. The Devils were ahead 2-1 after 40 minutes of play. In the Broadway Joe style, Jets fans hadn't seen in over 25 years, Messier would score a hat-trick in the 3rd period to force a game 7. It was a fierce goaltending battle between Mike Richter, and Jauggernaut Martin Brodeur. After 2 overtimes the Rangers would score and win the Prince of Wales trophy.
The Stanley cup was another hard fought series for the Rangers. Vancouver would take game 1. This didn't deter the Rangers as they would win 3 straight games. Vancouver, down 3-1 was not in an unfamiliar spot, as they won 3 straight against Calgary earlier in the playoffs. The Canucks would even up the series, but would not be able to win game 7. The Rangers would win game 3-2 to win the Stanley Cup for the first time in 54 years. Brian Leetch would win the Conn-Smythe trophy for 34 points in the playoffs.
This team always suprises me when I read about them. There are so many familiar names on this squad, that when I read about the team, it always suprises me who played for them. Their series against the Devils is maybe the greatest series of all time in playoff hockey. This team to me is amongst the greatest.
Now only if the Jackets were this great...