This NHL Saturday miniseries continues today to examine the other New York City team today: the New York Rangers. In 95 seasons, this Original Six franchise has made the playoffs 61 times—while winning just one Stanley Cup (see below) since World War II and only four overall. That’s pretty barren when you think about it. The post-expansion heyday for this franchise, as reflected below, came in the early 1970s, and it was a Cup-less peak, in truth … sad, in comparison.
No. 5: 1993-94 New York Rangers
This is the only Cup-winning squad in organizational history reflected on this list. With a 52-24-8 record and 112 points, the Rangers won the Atlantic Division with the No. 4 offense and the No. 3 defense. The team was No. 3 in the SRS as well. In the postseason, the Rangers swept the crosstown-rival Islanders to start before needing just 5 games to eliminate the Washington Capitals. Then, it got harder: two 7-game series followed, against New Jersey and Vancouver, both victorious.
Four players posted at least 79 points, led by defenseman Sergei Zubov (12G, 77A, 39 PIMs) and forward Mark Messier (26G, 58A, 76 PIMs). Goaltender Mike Richter held down the fort in net while appearing in a whopping 68 games: 42-12-6, 2.57 GAA, .910 S%, and 5 SOs. The two Game 7s at home defined this team: an overtime win against the Devils and a one-goal win over the Canucks. Richter gave up 3 goals combined in those huge games, as the Rangers finally won it all.
No. 4: 1970-71 New York Rangers
With a 49-18-11 record for 109 points, the Rangers finished second in the East Division. They were No. 4 on offense and No. 1 on defense—and No. 3 in the SRS. In the opening playoff matchup, though, New York needed six games to dispatch the Toronto Maple Leafs, and this left the Rangers perhaps a little taxed in the next round against the Chicago Black Hawks. Despite finishing with more points than Chicago, N.Y. lost Game 7 on the road to fall short of the Cup Finals.
No player surpassed a point-per-game pace on this Rangers squad: the best of the skaters were centers Walt Tkaczuk (26G, 49A, 48 PIMs) and Jean Ratelle (26G, 46A)—the only two players to top 70 points. The strength of this team was in net: Ed Giacomin (27-10-7) and Gilles Villemure (22-8-4) combined for a 2.22 GAA, a .921 S%, and 12 SOs. But in the Chicago series, the Rangers were outscored 21-14, losing that Game 7 by two goals on the road.
No. 3: 1991-92 New York Rangers
Winning the Patrick Division with a 50-25-5 record for 105 points, these Rangers were No. 1 in the SRS, No. 3 in offense, and No. 4 on defense. Expectations were high, but it took seven games to get past the Devils in the first round, and then New York had to play the defending champion Pittsburgh Penguins in the second round. It didn’t go well for the Rangers, as the Pens were on their way to a second-straight Cup championship. New York lost in six games to extend the misery.
Messier (35G, 72A, 76 PIMs) and D Brian Leetch (22G, 80A) were the big guns on this team; meanwhile, Richter (23-12-2) split time in net with G John Vanbiesbrouck (27-13-3). The Rangers outscored the Devils, 28-25, in the first round, needing an 8-4 win in Game 7 to advance. But the Penguins were a machine, and they scored at least 3 goals in 5 of the 6 games in the series. Just like that, the Rangers had to defer their dream once again … a long wait since 1940 for Cup glory.
No. 2: 1972-73 New York Rangers
The second-best team in modern organizational history finished just third in the East Division with a 47-23-8 record for 102 points—but the squad also ended up No. 3 in the overall SRS. That ranking was built on the No. 3 offense and the No. 2 defense. The Rangers knocked out the defending champion Bruins in the opening playoff round, needing just 5 games to do so. But in the next round, the Black Hawks returned the favor, eliminating the Rangers in 5 games as well.
The top skaters, by far, were Ratelle (41G, 53A) and right wing Rod Gilbert (25G, 59A), although the team did field 5 players with at least 62 points each. Giacomin (26-11-6) and Villemure (20-12-2) again were very good in the crease together, combining for 7 SOs. In the Chicago series, the Rangers won the first game before losing the next two by one goal apiece. Then, the offense disappeared in the last two games, as the Black Hawks held N.Y. to one goal each time.
No. 1: 1971-72 New York Rangers
At least the best team in franchise history reached the Cup Finals, only to lose to a legendary Boston team. The Rangers earned second place in the East, buoyed by a 48-17-13 record for 109 points. They were No. 2 in offense and No. 3 in defense—adding up to a No. 2 rating in the overall SRS. Opening the playoffs against the defending Cup champs from Montréal, the Rangers won in 6 games. After a sweep of Chicago, though, the Bruins triumphed in 6 games at the end.
Ratelle (46G, 63A), left wing Vic Hadfield (50G, 56A, 142 PIMs), and Gilbert (43G, 54A, 64 PIMs) paced the skaters with some serious scoring numbers; Giacomin (24-10-9) and Villemure (24-7-4) were a dynamic duo once more, combining for a 2.43 GAA overall. But Boston took a 3-1 lead in the Cup Finals with all three victories coming by 1 goal each, and the Rangers were out of gas by Game 6 on their home ice, losing 3-0. Who knew it would be another 22 years to wait? Ouch.