If you watched Game 6 of the Rangers/Lightning series on Tuesday night then you likely know about the Rangers record in elimination games over the last four years because it was discussed at least once every five minutes throughout the broadcast. I was watching the game with a baby screaming in my ear and of the two, the constant mention of the Rangers elimination game record was by far the more annoying. Not because it’s not interesting, if you weren’t watching the game they’re now 14-3 in games when facing elimination since 2012, but because it doesn’t really mean all that much.
With elimination games the reality is pretty simple; a team can only lose one a season, that’s how elimination works. So as long as you win a couple elimination games before eventually bowing out, your record is going to look good. Do that over a couple of seasons and it’s going to start to look really good; like the Rangers record does. And what you’re supposed to infer from this, or at least what I think you’re supposed to infer, is that they’re somehow playing differently when their backs are to the wall, that they’re digging deep and coming up big when it matter most. Basically that they’re the clutchest team in the league.
And that’s a nice story to tell, but what an elimination game record like the Rangers’ really tells us is that a) they’ve played a lot of playoffs games - 75 and counting over the last four seasons, 11 ahead of the Blackhawks and Kings; and that b) they’ve come from behind to win a number of series - tomorrow will be the Rangers seventh Game 7 in four years, having forced a Game 7 twice after trailing three games to one, and now three times when down three games to two. It doesn’t tell us that they’re clutch or that they're doing anything different in these games. Believe me, if the Rangers had figured out a key to winning in elimination games they’d be applying it to non-elimination games too; games in which they’ve got a rather blah 25-33 record.
There are nights when a team plays terrible and still wins, as an fan of the Oilers I’ve seen this many times, but with a 14-3 record it’s probably safe to assume that the Rangers played quite well in most of these games. They probably also played quite well in a number of games that they lost too. I don’t recall the details of each of the 75 games the Rangers have played in the playoffs over the last four years but I really doubt that they’ve played all that different when facing elimination than they did earlier in the series. The difference being that on these nights they maybe got an extra bounce or two and came away with a win rather than a loss. Clutch had nothing to do with it.
Anyway, if you wanted to compare the Rangers to the rest of the league, the table below has the elimination game records over the last four years of all 27 teams who've made the playoffs during that time (you can click the column heading to sort). You know that the Oilers are one of the three who didn't, can you name the other two?
|New York Rangers||17||14||3||0.824|
|New York Islanders||3||1||2||0.333|