April 13 - A Blast From The Past
It has been almost years since the last Rangers playoff win. The date was May 18, 1997 and the
Rangers were in a spot they were not supposed to be - in the Eastern Conference finals against the
But there they were with Mark Messier, Wayne Gretzky, Adam Graves, Brian Leetch and Mike Richter.
Who would have known that Ranger fans would have to wait another 10 years?
While they waited, I graduated high school, reached the legal drinking age and graduated college.
Others have done other things in that span, such as getting married and having kids. But whatever
Ranger fans have done in the last 10 years all we wanted were some playoff victories and never
did we expect it to take a decade off our lives.
We thought Gretzky and Messier would not be a one-year thing. But we know what happened there in
the summer of 1997 and the disaster of the 1997-98 season.
We thought maybe it was a one-year fluke but it wasn't. We thought the 1999 spending spree to bring
in Theo Fleury would work but we didn't realize how bad the moves for Valeri Kamensky, Stephane
Quintal and Kevin Hatcher actually were. We were teased with a seven-game winning streak and a
midseason trade for Radek Dvorak but it wasn't enough to save the season and Neil Smith's job.
Smith brought us to the mountain in 1994 but just six years later it was over and in comes Glen
Sather from Edmonton. Sather brings back Messier and thoughts of little glory are dancing in our
Maybe, just maybe we can be in the back of the top eight with Messier and Fleury returning to his
previous form. Fleury does but then loses his battle with his demons and it's four years without a
Looking to end that drought Sather turns to two names - Jaromir Jagr and Eric Lindros. He can't get
Jagr but gets Lindros from the Flyers and hopes are high and hearts heavy.
An emotional home opener that takes place less than a month after September 11 begins the
season and things look good early. Is this the year? Eventually Lindros gets hurt and the Rangers fall
short despite acquiring Pavel Bure.
Bure is here too late and is career on Broadway consists of 51 games. Alexei Kovalev is back and
Bobby Holik is signed from New Jersey and in typical bad luck he misses 18 games after never being
injured with the Devils.
It's also the end of an era. Mike Richter picks up his 300th win but weeks later suffers a concussion
and doesn't return, forcing the Rangers to obtain Mike Dunham, who is clearly the wrong guy named
It's six and counting but at least this time some kind of youth movement occurs after a disasterous
winter. One of those trades ends Leetch's time on Broadway as he goes to Toronto to help end their
drought, which makes seven years seem so little.
So off goes Leetch, Petr Nedved, Kovalev, Martin Rucinsky, Matthew Barnaby and in comes Jaromir
Jagr. Eric Lindros also gets knocked out again and Messier hints at retirement, a decision delayed
by the lockout.
As, the lockout, no winter of watching the high-paid Rangers mess it up. When it's over, there's a
salary cap, forcing the Rangers to show some restraint.
But they still stink, don't they. Well that's what it appeared like, but appearances can be deceiving.
With Jagr leading the way, a young goalie named Henrik Lundqvist, Martin Straka, Michael Nylander, a
youngster named Petr Prucha, the Rangers are far from the best and are the among the best stories
of the NHL.
But it ends so badly. They lose the division on the last day and get re-acquainted with the playoffs in a
four-game sweep to the Devils.
That leaves us wanting more, which is what we expect when Brendan Shanahan comes aboard. For
five months that's in doubt, injuries and countless blown leads make the postseason a doubt.
Then something turns. It's 2-0 St. Louis on a Saturday afternoon in March and then a goal from Karel
Rachunek followed by on from Sean Avery and we go to overtime and eventually the shootout and win.
The rest is history. The Rangers pepper Rick DiPietro with 58 shots and win in the shootout and that
begins a 12-3-3 season-ending run and here we are with their first win since some of us were in high