Before gametime, with everything that could possibly be discussed already discussed:
I have covered every one of the four all-time Rangers-Capitals series, and some things stick out—in addition to the fact that all four were played at the old, dark, dank dump of an arena known as the Capital Centre, originally, in middle-of-absolutely-nowhere Landover, Md.
1986—I had to miss Game 2 in beautiful Landover because my sister was getting married (Happy 23rd Anniversary Dana & Rick). Didn’t matter. The Rangers lost 8-1, but they won the series in six and went to the conference final as a huge underdog.
1990—John Druce, John Druce, John Druce, John Druce.
1991—This was the series that changed Rangers history. although not many remember it that way. After being eliminated, Neil Smith spoke to the press while sitting on a folding table in the basement of the Cap Centre (that was the 51st anniversary of the 1940 Cup, too, 4/13/91). He was seething, talking about how he felt he had built a car to win the Indy 500 only to have somebody crash it in the first turn. It was the impetus to purge all the existing veterans—Bernie Nicholls, Kelly Kisio, etc.—and ultimately led to the summer-long discussions that brought Mark Messier to New York the following October, preceeded by Adam Graves.
1994—Two things stand out. One, the Rangers led 3-0 in the series, and had won their first seven playoff games, when the Capitals took Game 4 and were physically beating up the Rangers and threatening to extend the series. But Brian Leetch completely took over the series in Game 5 and began his run to the Conn Smythe Trophy. Who knows? If the Capitals had extended that series, maybe the Rangers would have run out of gas in the conference final (they were going on fumes by the middle of the Stanley Cup final). The other snapshot was Esa Tikkanen kissing the generous proboscis of Caps pest Keith Jones during one of many run-ins.
The Capitals (and some other teams, I think the Rangers included) have stolen our Playoff Beard idea. Or maybe we stole their idea. Whatever.
But on the Caps site you can build your own beard in case you can’t grow your own (grow your own?). So I thought I’d give it a go.
So that’s what I’ll look like for the Stanley Cup parade.
I also wanted to point out, completely unrelated, that I have yet to find a single print media person who picked the Rangers. Me, Jane, the News, the Post, Newsday and USA Today all picked the Caps.
If you’re around and interested, the Rangers are hosting two viewing parties tonight, at local pubs in Manhattan and in Hoboken, N.J. Here’s the release:
New York, April 15, 2009 – The New York Rangers will provide fans with an opportunity to gather and cheer on the Blueshirts as they take on the Washington Capitals in Game One of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals of the 2009 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Fans will have the chance to watch the game on big-screen televisions at Stout, located across the street from Madison Square Garden, and at Black Bear Bar & Grill, in Hoboken, NJ. Former NY Rangers great Glenn Anderson will greet fans at Stout while Nick Fotiu will be on hand at the Black Bear Bar & Grill giving away playoff tickets, autographed merchandise and Rangers products. The game will be telecast live on MSG Network at 7 p.m. Pre-game coverage begins at 6:30 p.m.
(FYI, the Black Bear is at 205 Washington St. in Hoboken; Stout is at 133 West 33rd, between 6th and 7th and across the street from MSG, in the city).
I’ll be right here in the comments section with you throughout tonight’s game. Enjoy it.