The 1985-86 New York Rangers, IMO, may be the strangest playoff cinderella of the divisional playoff era.
I know most people associate playoff cinderellas of that era with the 1990-91 North Stars, but that team had some potent scorers in Modano, Bellows, and Gagner.
The 1985-86 Rangers, OTOH, did not.
Their top scorer, Mike Ridley, had fewer points than Brian Leetch had assists in his 1991-92 Norris Trophy winning season.
Ted Sator- not exactly one of the greatest coaches in Ranger history.
It still stuns me that one of the more mediocre Blueshirt teams went farther than the 1991-92 team (other than the Beezer, who else was on both teams?)
IMO, the fact that they beat Philly and Washington is a hocey miracle.
BTW, one fact: Patrick Roy's famous OT game against that team in the Wales Conference Finals; overrated game, because he looked good against a team that wasn't exactly known for great goal-scoring.
HOW DID THIS TEAM GET THAT FAR?
Even if they were at the end of the road, Wilf Paiement and Pierre Larouche were still solid players at that time. If they would have played the whole year in NY, they would probably have had more points than Ridley.
Simply put, great team defense and a great goalie.
That team couldn't score a lick, but were 3rd in the NHL defensively. Vanbiesbrouck had a ridiculous year - won the Vezina, and NYR were 31-21-5 with him in net as opposed to 5-17-1 with his backups getting the decision.
For the playoffs, a few things happened. Pierre Larouche, the team's best goalscorer, returned from injury (he'd scored 20 goals in just 27 regular-season games) and had a huge playoffs. Wilf Paiement was aquired at the deadline and chipped in 10 playoff points. And Bob Brooke, an unsung checker, turned in the performance of his career with 15 playoff points. The extra offense from those three guys was enough to turn a .500 regular-season team into a legitimate playoff threat.
During the playoffs last season there was a commercial running on The Score Network concerning playoff memories where a former Ranger who played in that series (Mark Osborne I think) talked about how when Philadelphia won Game 4 (by a 7-1 score) the Flyer players were really rubbing it in and making fun of the Rangers. He said that made beating the Flyers in Philly in Game 5 to win the series all the more satisfying.
It's not uncommon to see a team who makes it to the Final get knocked out early the following year. I think Bob Froese was unfairly made a scapegoat that loss. Keenan and the other Flyers deserved some of the blame as well.
That was Beezer at his best so to speak. He really only has two years that went against his playoff choking label and those are '86 and '96. He was a big game goalie that year and was the best in the league at that particular time. Pierre Larouche still had 17 points in the '86 playoffs, so his veteran leadership helped as well
Usually the simple answer to cinderella runs is one thing...great goaltending, that's what's great about hockey moreso than any other sport can a great goaltending performance influence a game, In football the quarterback doesn't have the ball all the time, in baseball really one player can't steal you a game you don't deserve to win, same in basketball sans the real great players.
In hockey you can be totally dominated and win if your goalie steps up.