Rangers’ Karma Gonna Get ‘Ya?

AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File

The 2021-2022 NY Rangers are having a terrific season and hope to have a long run in the playoffs. When you’ve been watching the Rangers as long (58 years) as I have, you can’t help but have that feeling of “What could go wrong?” because it’s happened too many times before.

The Rangers have won one Stanley Cup championship in the last 82 years. There have been flirts with winning the Cup but, with one exception, something always seemed to happen to stymie the Rangers from winning.

Even when the Rangers won in 1994, they had to overcome the negative karma that seemed to attach itself to this beloved franchise.

Who could forget that punch to the gut when Valeri Zelepukin scored with 7.7 seconds left in game 7 of the ‘94 Conference Finals against the New Jersey Devils. You can reflect back on that moment and smile because of how it panned out in double overtime.

In the Final against the Vancouver Canucks, the Rangers had a 3-1 lead in the series, yet there was game seven at the Garden. As a Ranger fan, you earned your joy and delight in the moment when captain Mark Messier raised the Cup

When Artemi Panarin and Andrew Copp left Tuesday night’s game in the second period, my thoughts turned to what best could be described as “Rangers Karma.”

I hearken back to the “Rangers’ Karmain the 1971-1972 season. Like this year, the Rangers were having a fantastic regular season, led by the famed “GAG Line” of Vic Hadfield, Jean Ratelle and Rod Gilbert. Two Hall of Famers and a terrific left wing, who were having memorable years and gave fans hope that the Rangers would end the Cup drought, which had reached 32 seasons at that point.

Ratelle was on his way to his greatest season. On March 1st, 1972, Ratelle had 46 goals, and 63 assists for 109 points and was leading the NHL in scoring when the Rangers hosted the California Golden Seals at Madison Square Garden.

Early in the second period, Rangers defenseman Dale Rolfe let go of a slap shot. As Ratelle was skating across the goalmouth, looking for a deflection, the puck caught him on his ankle. X-rays showed a break and Ratelle missed the remainder of the regular season, along with the first two rounds of the playoffs.

The Rangers were able to get past the Montreal Canadiens and Chicago Black Hawks to earn a spot in the Stanley Cup Final vs the Boston Bruins. Ratelle returned for the Final but was not the same player as he had only one assist in the six game loss.

Jump ahead to February, 1979 and the hit by Islanders defenseman Denis Potvin on Rangers’ center Ulf Nilsson that produced the chant that is heard to this day at MSG. It wasn’t a dirty hit, but it seemed to go right along with the program.

Nilsson missed the rest of the regular season and came back for the first two games of the Cup Final loss to Montreal. Like Ratelle, Nilsson was not the same when he returned and he didn’t play in the remaining games. 

The Rangers made that Final thanks to the stellar goaltending of John Davidson. After the Rangers stunned the favored Canadiens in game one, Rangers’ Karma struck again, as a knee injury that Davidson was dealing with, got worse and began to affect his play. The Rangers failed to win another game in that series.

Before winning in 1994, Brian Leetch could not escape the karmic effect of wearing a Ranger uniform.

In December, 1992, Leetch sustained a neck injury that kept him sidelined for nearly three months. When he returned in March, 1993, Leetch played five games before the Rangers’ Karma struck once again.

Leetch was getting out of a cab near his Manhattan apartment when he slipped on black ice and fractured his ankle. After the injury, the Rangers lost 11 of their final 12 games, including seven straight to end the season. The collapse cost the Rangers a playoff spot and even the great Messier was getting booed at the Garden.

Has the Rangers Karma” struck again?

Panarin, the Rangers’ best player, suffered an upper body injury in Tuesday night’s loss to Carolina. Trade deadline acquisition Copp sustained a lower body injury.

Both were scratched from last night’s game against Montreal, but head coach Gerard Gallant did not seem too concerned. I don’t expect they’ll play in Friday night’s regular season finale, but until they show that they are not seriously hurt, that Rangers’ Karma will be in play.

I don’t know if this Ranger team is good enough to go all the way, but they’re good enough to be a very tough out in these playoffs.

The current drought is 28 years……and counting?

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