For the fourth time in the past five seasons, the Washington Capitals will face the New York Rangers in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. If you know the history of this franchise then you know the Caps are not much on variety when it comes to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Way back in the day, when Washington first began to play in the tournament for Lord Stanley’s Cup in the mid 1980’s (God am I getting old), they faced years of having to overcome one nemesis at a time. The first one being the other hockey team that plays in New York, the Islanders.
Washington would face the dwindling dynasty that won four straight Stanley Cups five times from 1983 through 1987 and would win just one series. The Caps swept the Islander 3-0 in 1986 before the Isles dynasty finally died.
Washington qualified for the Stanley Cup playoffs 18 times, including 14 straight appearances (1983-1996) from 1983 through 2003 postseason. The Caps missed the postseason just four times during that span. However, once the Isles were no linger in the picture another new more annoying nemesis stepped forward, this one wore black and yellow and called themselves the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The Caps and Penguins would face off for the first time in postseason play in 1990 and begin what would become a decade of Stanley Cup playoff drama. Washington would visit the playoffs eight times in the 90’s and would lose to the Penguins in four of those series, winning one six game series in 1994.
Only twice did the Capitals advanced beyond the second round of the playoffs (1990 & 1998)and ironically, never faced the Pens in either spring. Adding even more irony into the Caps heartbreaking playoff history is that on the other occasion Washington did not face the Pens but met an early playoff exit, those pesky Islanders would re-emerge to knock the Caps out of the tournament.
That six game series loss in 1993 was notorious for the Dale Hunter vicious check incident. Hunter checked Isles star Pierre Turgeon after he scored the game clinching goal in series clinching game and separated his shoulder. Hunter would pick up a 21 game suspension to start following season. At the time, Hunters 21 games were the longest suspension in league history for an on-ice incident (in terms of games missed).
The Rangers and Capitals are starting to build a nice little history once the regular season ends. These two were not exactly strangers in the playoffs before this recent run of four postseason matchups in the past five seasons. Washington and NY faced each other four times from the mid 1980’s through 1994, with each team winning two series.
Since 2009, the Capitals have won two of three series with the Rangers winning the last meeting in seven games last season. All-time, Washington has four series wins to the Rangers three and is a combined 22-19 in the playoffs vs. the Blueshirts.
This past year, the two teams met three times, with the Rangers winning two of the contests. Washington won the last meeting, 3-2 in a shootout on March 24 at MSG. The Rangers outscored the Caps by a combined score of 8-4 this season.