Recently I read an article by the wonderful Sean McIndoe over at The Athletic that ranked the worst playoff losses by the Toronto Maple Leafs in the Brendan Shanahan era. That prompted me to think about the worst NY Rangers playoff losses, mostly from 2014 on since that is when they really started to hurt.
While McIndoe ranked the worst losses from every series including the one (one!) the Maple Leafs won, the Rangers have had a lot more success (sorry, Sean) and ranking losses from series wins would take forever. With that being said, here’s a ranking of the worst NY Rangers playoff losses since 2014.
I’ll be honest, I didn’t even know whether or not I should include games played in the bubble. To me, the qualifying round was a play-IN round, not a playOFF round. But I included them anyway. Does anyone remember anything about Game 2 of this series? No? Me neither. Moving on.
The first “elimination” game on this list, if you even want to call it that. The Rangers were swept by the Carolina Hurricanes and showed very little fight along the way. That being said, the Rangers were never exactly considered cup favorites in the bubble, and most people shrugged and moved on after the loss.
Another elimination game! A Rangers team that once again showed very little fight and was completely overmatched lost to the Penguins handily. There was some hope this would spell the end of the Alain Vigneault era, but it did not. Losing to the Penguins stung, but this Rangers team had atrocious vibes and was not good all around.
I ranked this as worse than the elimination game because the Rangers were closer to winning the game and at this point it felt like they could still manage to put up a fight in the series. However, the Rangers struggled to score, defend, and, well, do pretty much everything. By the time this one ended, the series felt over. Game 5 was a mere formality.
While the Rangers looked mostly listless in their warm up games for the bubble, the real test didn’t come until the qualifying round started. The Rangers struggled mightily in this game, foreshadowing how the rest of the series would go. Seeing New York get off to such a terrible start was discouraging and thus earned the worst ranking of the series.
Up 2-1 in the series, the Rangers had a great opportunity to head home with a 3-1 series lead in the 2022 Eastern Conference Finals. You can make a case that this game should be ranked ahead of a few others with that context. Instead of getting a chokehold on the series, New York was never really in Game 4, falling behind 3-0 before a late goal broke Andrei Vasilevskiy’s shutout.
With the loss, New York went home tied in the series at two games a piece, with more pain to come.
Let’s be real. The Rangers were never winning their series against the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2016. However, it’s easy to reminisce and forget that this was a series tied at a game a piece, with the opportunity to go up 2-1 with the following game at Madison Square Garden.
Instead of seizing the moment, the Rangers managed only 17 shots on net and lost 3-1.
Henrik Lundqvist got hurt, the Rangers scored only two goals on 37 shots on something called a Jeff Zatkoff, and any of the optimism heading into the series washed away with this loss.
Up 1-0 in the series, the Rangers fell apart against an impressive Tampa Bay Lightning offense and allowed a hat-trick to Tyler Johnson. If the Rangers won the series, no one would ever care about this loss. But in such a tight-knit, important seven game set, this loss was huge towards sending New York home.
Warning! From here on out, the games are far more painful than what you’ve seen on the list so far. This loss featured an OT winner by Dougie Hamilton, but more importantly it represented a major failed opportunity for the Rangers. Had the Rangers won, they would have been up 3-0 in the series with Game 4 and Game 6 at Madison Square Garden.
The Rangers played well, too! But they didn’t step on the gas quite enough, instead providing the Devils with just enough reason to believe to inflict more pain ahead….
The Rangers had no business losing to the Ottawa Senators in the 2017 second round. The Rangers were a better all around team, and they led two of the games going into the final minutes of the third period.
Still, somehow the Rangers were faced with being eliminated at home in Game 6. Everyone expected the Rangers to pull through thanks to Henrik Lundqvist’s elite performance in elimination games, but the Senators sent the Rangers packing.
It was a missed opportunity to get a chance to face the defending champion Pittsburgh Penguins in the Conference Finals.
While the series felt mostly over after a tragic Game 5 loss at home to the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Rangers just wouldn’t go down easily. Frank Vatrano scored late in the third period to tie the score at a goal a piece, but Steven Stamkos rifled home one of the worst goals Igor Shesterkin has given up to give Tampa the lead and eventual series victory.
Elimination games always hurt a ton, but being so close to the Stanley Cup hurt even more.
Another “missed opportunity” game saw the Rangers lose to Erik Karlsson and….well, mostly just Erik Karlsson. This was a painful loss, only to be magnified more by how the rest of the series went. This whole series might go down as one of the worst NY Rangers playoff losses.
Up 2-1 in the series against the arch-rival New Jersey Devils, the Rangers just…..didn’t show up. While the final score shows a close game, the Devils won all the battles, showed the fire you need to win in a playoff game, and played with urgency. Oh, and the Rangers were at the arena too.
This would help spell the end of the Rangers season far too soon. More to come.
I get the feeling this will be the most argued about ranking on this list. To me, the Rangers were eliminated in Game 5 of their series against the Devils. Sure, they went on to win Game 6 and force a Game 7, but the no-show against Akira Schmid and company knocked the Rangers out of the driver’s seat and set up the Devils to finish the Rangers season.
Game 7 was a travesty, still. The Rangers lost 4-0 and quite simply didn’t show up to play. Having little to no urgency in a Game 7 is a debacle in itself.
Up 2-0 in the series. Up 2-0 in the game. All the Rangers needed was a little bit of a killer instinct, and they would have been up 3-0 in the Conference Finals. Instead, the Lightning roared back and took the lead with less than a minute to go thanks to a goal by Rangers-killer Ondrej Palat.
Instead of being up 3-0, the Rangers were up 2-1, set to lose their remaining games in the series. If not for the 2017 Ottawa series, this might also go down as one of worst NY Rangers playoff losses.
Yet another Rangers-Devils loss where the Rangers failed to show up. Rather than peppering Akira Schmid with shots and opportunities, the Rangers laid an egg. As I said before, I feel this is when the Rangers lost the series. What a shame.
You know there’s been a lot of heartbreak when a game in which the Rangers led entering the final minutes, blew the lead, and lost in overtime to a player who scored four goals in the game barely makes the top 10. But here we are!
Without context, this loss was brutal. Going down 2-0 was brutal. But the Rangers won the next two and had every reason to believe they could come back from the loss.
Losing any game in the Stanley Cup Final is brutal. Getting shutout at home to go down 3-0 and essentially eliminate yourselves from contention? Ouch. A listless performance from the Rangers that felt like it ended the Stanley Cup before the Rangers could really get situated. What an ugly loss.
The Rangers played well in this all-important stalemate-breaker, but the Lightning showed the killer instinct necessary to come away with the win and the series lead. Ondrej Palat did it again for the Lightning, yet again scoring the game winner in the final minute of play.
The loss sent the Rangers to Tampa Bay down 3-2, where they would soon be eliminated.
Up late in the game. The chance to take a series lead. Alain Vigneault era hockey. What do you think the Rangers did next? That’s right, they gave up a game-tying goal and lost the game in overtime.
The next game would be a series loss, ending the 2017 season.
Yes, I know the Rangers blew another lead. Yes, I know the Rangers were playing in the Stanley Cup. And yes, I know the Alec Martinez goal will haunt us forever. But let’s be real. The Rangers were not coming back from a 3-0 deficit in the Stanley Cup Final. This game gets ranked 6th for that context alone. If it wasn’t Game 5, it would have been Game 6. The Kings were just more ready.
This time it was the Rangers coming back to tie the game late. Tied in the series 1-1, the Rangers had the chance to take a huge 2-1 lead against a super-talented Tampa Bay Lightning team.
Instead Henrik Lundqvist gave up what I will always argue was the worst goal against of his career, the Rangers went down 2-1, and the Rangers lost in 7 games.
No goals, a listless performance, the Rangers went down 3-2.
An early, blown lead. An overtime loss. The Rangers truly brought their brand of hockey to the Stanley Cup!
No goals, a listless performance, a chance at the Stanley Cup extinguished. It was an exact replica of Game 5, with the only difference being that people believed the Rangers were unbeatable in Game 7s going into the game. Whoops.
I still can’t talk about this game. Just spend some time researching goaltender interference. You’ll get it. Of the worst NY Rangers playoff losses, this takes the cake.