10) Starting on the Right Note
The Rangers’ struggles against the New York Islanders continued in 2016-17, as they still have yet to score a win at Barclays Center, the Isles’ new (temporary) home. But on opening night, the Rangers were able to start the season on the right note, scoring a 5-3 victory over their intracity rivals. Ex-Islander Michael Grabner opened the scoring, while Mats Zuccarello put the Rangers up 2-0. The other New York team tied it up early in the third, but a trio of unanswered goals, including a power play tally from Brandon Pirri, gave the Rangers the win in the premiere at Madison Square Garden.
9) Grabbing Three
Speaking of Grabner, his signing this past summer was overlooked, and perhaps understandably so. After scoring 34 goals in his sophomore season with the Islanders in 2010-11, Grabner’s tallies waned with each passing year, and he had just 17 goals over the past two seasons with the Islanders and Maple Leafs. However, he wound up putting in 27 for the Rangers this season, the most notable performance perhaps being two hat tricks. The first came in October, as he scored half the Ranger postings in a 6-1 win over Tampa Bay at MSG.
8) First Time For Everything
On a team stacked with talented rookies, it was a year of milestones for the players many in New York see as the future faces of the franchise. Jimmy Vesey scored his first NHL goal on October 17 in a 7-4 rout of San Jose five days before his first multi-goal game, scoring the tying and winning goals in Washington Pavel Buchnevich entered the NHL score sheet on October 26 in Boston, while stud defenseman Brady Skjei earned his first during the Rangers’ 5-0 blowout of New Jersey on December 11. Even Magnus Hellberg got in on the fun, scoring his first NHL win in the regular season finale on April 9 against Pittsburgh.
When Henrik Lundqvist struggled early to start the season and later missed time with an injury in early spring, Antti Raanta filled in very nicely for him, ending the season with a 16-8-2 mark with a .922 save percentage and 2.26 GAA. Raanta’s masterpiece…or masterpieces…of the season came in December, when he posted back-to-back shutouts in a weekend set against Chicago and New Jersey in December. At United Center on December 9, backup goaltenders put on a show, as Raanta went toe-to-toe with Scott Darling, making 26 saves in a 1-0 overtime win over his former team. Two nights later, Raanta’s workload was considerably lighter, though he showed more incredible things and earned another blank space, writing his name in a 5-0 win over the Devils at Madison Square Garden.
6) Rogue Two: A Dallas Stars Story
Less than a week later, while most of the country caught early screenings of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, the Rangers took on the Dallas Stars, and war broke out early when Cody Eakin laid down a cheap shot on Lundqvist, who was returning from an injury absence. Due to the hit, which earned Eakin a suspension, Lundqvist was analyzed by the Rangers’ training staff, during which Raanta manned the net. Though Raanta faced no shots, he and Lundqvist would go on to share a shutout, as Lundqvist returned to make 27 saves in a 2-0 Rangers victory. In the 90-year history of the Rangers, this was the first time two goalies shared a shutout.
5) “What Was His Name?” “Mr. Glass”
Ah, Tanner Glass, perhaps the most polarizing player of the Alain Vigneault era. After spending most of the season in Hartford, Glass joined the team in March and immediately drew groans when he would force youngsters like Buchnevich into healthy scratches. However, when the Rangers faced off with the Montreal Canadiens in the opening round of the NHL Playoffs, Glass got the cruel yet rewarding party that is the playoffs started off with a bang. Playing Game 1 at Bell Centre, a historic house of horrors for the Rangers, Glass scored not just the first goal of the series, but the first goal of the entire playoffs! So, for ever so brief a moment, Tanner Glass had more postseason goals than Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin and Patrick Kane combined. It was the start of a solid postseason for Glass, who acted as a bit of a spark plug to the Rangers lineup while picking up four points in seven games, entering this postseason with two points in his first 60 playoff games.
4) Blueshirts Over Blue Jackets
Some say that since their arrival in the Eastern Conference and Metropolitan Division, the Columbus Blue Jackets have developed a bit of a rivalry with the Rangers. The two teams had a couple of memorable contests this season, the first coming in November when the Jackets took a home game thanks to a goal by Matt Calvert, who rejoined the game after literally being stitched up thanks to an injury earlier. The other came in January, with Columbus, still sizzling from their 16-game winning streak, going up 4-1 on the Rangers at Nationwide Arena. Grabner would lead the way for the Rangers, putting in the first goal in the second period, before earning a hat trick with the game-tying and winning goals, the latter sending reeling Jackets fans back home with 17 seconds remaining. It was Grabner’s
Europe has given us fantastic imports over the years in music, food and of course hockey. One of the most prized visitors has been Lundqvist, the legendary goaltender who has been coined The King for his years of service in blue. Lundqvist concluded the calendar year in style, having a New Year’s Rockin’ Eve on December 31 at Pepsi Center in Colorado, making 25 saves in a 6-2 win over the Avalanche. The victory was the 390th of his illustrious career, allowing him to pass Dominik Hasek for most all-time by a European born goaltender. Rangers fans hope Lundqvist’s career can end like Hasek’s, with a Stanley Cup before #30 is inevitably raised in the Madison Square Garden rafters.
2) Mika Virus
The Rangers’ first-round series with the Montreal Canadiens provided some thrills, but the Rangers weren’t too pleased with the thrills as they found themselves down 2-1 to Montreal in the series, especially when Montreal won Game 2 in overtime after tying it with seconds to go in regulation and thoroughly owning Game3. at MSG. When the Rangers took Game 4, they knew their chances to win the series would rely heavily on a strong performance in Game 5. They would make up two separate deficits, forcing the game into a critical extra session. With just under six minutes to go, Mika Zibanejad, brought over in a summer blockbuster trade, caused the Tri-State area to exhale, scoring the winning goal to give the Rangers win and the series lead. They would return home to MSG and close out the series two days later in a 3-1 win.
1) A Win Fit For a King
Lundqvist probably wished he could’ve played the Colorado Avalanche 82 times a year this season, rather than the mere two times they did face off. In the second meeting, at MSG on February 11, Lundqvist entered goalie royalty, becoming just the 12th goalie in NHL history to earn 400 wins, making 32 saves in the Rangers’ come-from-behind win, earning it in 4-2 fashion. Despite not starting to his usual standards, Lundqvist found the groove Rangers fans have grown accustomed to over the years, and the 400th victory was a celebration of all he has done for the franchise since his arrival in 2005. Lundqvist would conclude the year with 405 wins, currently placing at 10th on the all-time list. Next up is Glen Hall with 407.
Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffMags5490