NHL: New York Rangers Top 15 Moments of the Season
For someone as young as I (I was four back in 1994), this season has been the New York Rangers' most enthralling one yet.
From acquiring the league's most coveted free agent this summer, starting the season overseas, playing their first seven games on the road, participating in their first Winter Classic and battling key injuries while being broadcast up, close and personal on HBO, this has been quite the memorable year thus far.
Every week, the Rangers' website attempts to put the spotlight on one moment from the previous seven days that stands above the rest by having the fans vote. Fifteen weeks into the season, there have been 15 moments.
Here they are, ordered from least to most memorable. Enjoy...
Moments are through January 15, 2012
15. Brandon Prust Wraparound vs. Islanders (Oct. 15, 2011)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
With less than two minutes to go in the second period and the Blueshirts trailing by one, Brandon Prust's hard work behind the net paid off with this wraparound goal to the tie the game, 2-2.
The Rangers would go on to lose the game 4-2, but the goal was a perfect reward for Prust's rough and tough style of play.
14. Stepan Gets the Game-Winner Late in the Third vs. Lightning (Dec. 3, 2011)
Paul Bereswill/Getty Images
Derek Stepan always seems to be in the right place at the right time.
On this play, with the score tied at two and 3:19 to go in the game, Stepan moves the puck to the point off the faceoff, then follows the play to the net where a rebound bounces right to the 21-year-old for an open-net goal.
New York won the game, 4-2.
13. Richards Rockets Home Game-Winner vs. Islanders (Nov. 15, 2011)
After a mediocre start to the season, the Rangers exploded with a seven game winning streak that started with a 5-2 victory vs. the San Jose Sharks on Halloween.
Their potential seventh win was up in the air as they entered the final five minutes of their game vs. the Islanders, whom they lost to the month before.
Tied 2-2, Brandon Dubinsky keeps the O-zone attack alive by snagging an airborne puck with his glove. He then then slides it over to the Rangers' big-time free agent signing, Brad Richards, who solidified his role as a clutch performer by burying a slapper from the faceoff dot into the back of the net.
Rangers win, 4-2, and match their longest win-streak since 2009.
12. Callahan Helps End Long Road Trip on a High Note vs. Jets (Oct. 24, 2011)
Due to the summer renovations going on at Madison Square Garden, the Ranger's started the season on the road for seven games. The trip began with two games in Sweden and ended with four games in western Canada. After losing their first three games, the Rangers won two of three in Canada and were looking to make it three for four with a win vs. Winnipeg.
Halfway through the third period with the game tied at one, an end-to-end rush by New York is capped off by Ryan Callahan—who looks for Erik Christensen but instead finds the skate of a Jets' defenseman. The puck ricochets off the skate and into the net to put the Rangers up 2-1.
They would would win with a final score of the same tally.
11. Del Zotto Dekes and Carl Hagelin Banks It Home vs. Islanders (Dec. 26, 2011)
What better way to celebrate the day after Christmas than a Rangers win over the Islanders?
And what better way to start the scoring than a nasty toe-drag by 21-year-old Michael Del Zotto to beat Frans Nielsen followed by a bank shot by 23-year-old Carl Hagelin to put it in.
Rangers defeated the Islanders (for the second time in five days) 3-0.
10. Stepan Roofs It in the 6th Round of the Shootout vs. Coyotes (Jan. 10, 2012)
Apparently, the Phoenix Coyotes bring out the dramatic side of the Blueshirts (see later in this list).
In this installment, Lundqvist and Coyotes' goalie Mike Smith battled it out through three periods and an overtime. Neither would budge, so- tied at one- the victor would be decided in a shootout.
After goals from Radim Vrbata and Marian Gaborik, the shootout went to extra shooters. Finally, in the sixth round, Derek Stepan glided in down the left side and released a powerful and precise wrister that zoomed right over Smith's glove and into the net.
Lundqvist stopped the next shot and the Rangers reached 58 points in 40 games, their best start since 1994.
9. Callahan's Shorthanded Semi-Spin-O-Rama vs. Sabres (Dec. 10, 2011)
What is truly great about Ryan Callahan is his drive to get the job done by any means necessary. It may not always look pretty, but the results show up on the score sheet.
On this play in Buffalo, with the game tied 1-1 and the Rangers on the penalty, Callahan pokes the puck out of the zone, skates into the offensive zone with one defender on him, spins around and backs that defender down as if he was a power forward. He then spins back and snaps a shot that catches goalie Jhonas Enroth off-guard, the puck sneaks through his five-hole and across the goal-line making the score 2-1 Rangers.
That's what a captain does. Rangers win, 4-1.
8. Carl Hagelin Formally Introduces Himself vs. Flyers (Nov. 26, 2011)
Not many people had heard of Carl Hagelin before this game (I certainly hadn't). That shouldn't be too surprising considering the 23-year-old Swede was a sixth-round pick that played his last four years at the University of Michigan.
However, after this game, Hagelin was most likely the main topic of conversation among Ranger fans.
In just the second game of his career, Hagelin demonstrated his determination and poise when he rushed toward the net for a rebound, was stopped on his first attempt, but waited patiently for the puck to drop right in front of him. As soon as vulcanized rubber hit ice, his stick was already snapping it past Bobrovsky, and giving the Rangers a 2-0 lead over the Flyers.
They would win by the same score as Hagelin has tallied seven more goals since then.
7. Gaborik's Pretty Deke Propels Rangers in Shootout vs. Ducks (Nov. 3, 2011)
In case you've forgotten, Marian Gaborik is pretty good at hockey.
This moment comes at the end of another hard-fought, low-scoring game. Lundqvist and Ducks' goalie Jonas Hiller only gave up a goal each after three periods and an overtime, which lead them back to the shootout.
In the third round, with each team scoring once already, Gaborik—who was only 2-for-19 in shootouts before this attempt—skates right at Hiller and then puts on what I can only describe as the closest thing to a real-life "triple deke" I've ever seen. Using every part of his body, Gaborik stuttered, faked and twisted as Hiller's knees buckled.
He easily goes around Hiller and puts it in on his backhand to give the Rangers a 2-1 win.
6. Avery Gets His First of the Season vs. Hurricanes (Nov. 11, 2011)
It was a rough start to the season for Sean Avery. After being waived and deemed just not good enough to play for the Rangers by coach John Tortorella, Avery spent the month of October in the minors.
But after some early struggles for the team, Avery was called back. In the first period of their game against Carolina, Avery hustles for a lose puck in the neutral zone, blows by two defenders and perfectly roofs it on Cam Ward.
Needless to say the crowd enjoyed that one.
And although it's turned back into a little bit of a rough ride for Avery this year, at least he had his one moment in the spotlight on the MSG stage.
The Rangers went on to crush the Hurricanes, 5-1.
5. Dubinsky Ends Long Scoring Drought vs. Islanders (Dec. 22, 2011)
Nobody's offensive struggles have been more surprising this season than Brandon Dubinsky's.
It took the 25-year-old Alaskan native 15 games to notch his first goal of the season. He then promptly went into another drought that lasted about a month-and-a-half. Despite his lack of scoring, however, Dubinsky maintained a high-intensity style of play.
Seventeen games after his first goal, in the first period of a scoreless bout against the Islanders, Dubinsky's intense play pays off as he rushes from behind his own net, past two defenders and into the Isles' zone before ripping a perfectly placed wrist-shot from the left face-off dot.
That put the Rangers up 1-0 on the way to a 4-2 win.
Dubinsky has put up three more goals since then.
4. Richards Makes an Impact Early with Late Goal vs. Ducks (Oct. 8, 2011)
There were a few big story-lines surrounding the Rangers entering this season.
Perhaps the biggest was the anticipation of their big offseason acquisition, Brad Richards.
Obviously there was a considerable amount of pressure on Richards to make a good first impression, and he didn't disappoint. After tallying an assist in the first game of the season against the Kings in Stockholm, the 31-year-old came up even bigger in their second game.
With the Rangers trailing the Anaheim Ducks 1-0 with just over two minutes remaining in regulation, Richards receives a pass on the Ducks' goal-line, makes a quick move out in front of goalie Jonas Hiller and puts the puck in the only spot it could have gone in: right over the short-side shoulder.
New York would lose in a shootout but it was just the kind of play the organization and the fans were hoping for.
3. McDonagh Wins It with 1.5 Seconds Left in OT vs. Flames (Oct. 20, 2011)
One of the more important characteristics of the New York Rangers that makes them stand out this year is their consistent, hard-working style of play right to the final buzzer of each and every game.
As a result the Rangers have been able to not only win games just in the final minutes, but win them in the final seconds.
The first instance of this came against the Calgary Flames during the team's western Canada road-trip in October.
With the score tied at two and under five seconds to go in overtime, Dan Girardi took a weak shot from the point that easily sailed wide.
Except it wasn't a shot.
It turned out to be a bank-pass off the back boards to Ryan McDonagh who buried it with just 1.5 seconds remaining.
It is a style of winning that would grow on the Blueshirts.
2. Richards Pulls off the Ultimate Buzzer Beater vs. Coyotes (Dec. 17, 2011)
You've seen the moment in basketball a million times.
An inbound pass at half-court with five seconds to go; they dish it to their star shooting guard who then he pulls up for a jumper and sinks it as the buzzer sounds.
The rules of hockey make it impossible for there to be a literal buzzer beater, but Brad Richards came as close as humanly possible to achieving one back in December.
It appeared that your average scrum for the puck was playing out behind the net with just a few seconds left in a 2-2 tie between New York and Phoenix. As you watch it, Rangers' play-by-play announcer Sam Rosen is getting the audience ready for overtime.
Of course he is. With 1.5 seconds left, Ryan McDonagh has the puck in the corner behind the goal-line. Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, the play goes nowhere from there as the teams get ready for overtime.
But this time, McDonagh sees Richards and puts the puck on his tape. Richards pulls off the basketball equivalent of a last-second hook shot, which deflects off a Coyote defender's leg and sneaks by goalie Mike Smith on the far side with the buzzer sounding simultaneously.
Watching it the first time around, it would appear that the buzzer sounded. But as Sam and Joe broke it down on replay, they—along with their audience—began to realize that the puck had crossed the goal-line with 0.1 seconds remaining on the clock.
After the announcement, the reaction was shock but the result was final. Rangers win, 3-2.
It could be quite some time before you see a finish like this again.
BONUS: Gaborik Ices Bruins in Ovetime's Final Seconds (Jan. 21, 2012)
OK, so technically this isn't a "Moment of the Week" yet, but I'd be willing to stake my reputation on this being voted one in a few days, and when it is, this is where it would be.
Easily the second-most hyped game of the year, this was the first match-up of the season between the Rangers and Bruins. The hype was due to their placement in the standings.
Going into the game, New York and Boston were the top two teams in the East.
The game was in Boston and the general sentiment was that Boston had the edge, especially with the recent play of New York.
The first three periods certainly lived up to the hype. The game went back and forth and then into overtime with the game tied at two.
With just over two minutes to go in overtime, Andrew Ference takes a major penalty for a hit he put on Ryan McDonagh. The Rangers sent their struggling power play onto the ice, and for the next two minutes, it continued to struggle.
Then, with under ten seconds to go, NYR gets the puck down low.
Ryan Callahan takes a shot; save by Rask. Brad Richards follows up and fires the rebound back toward the net; stoned by Rask.
The puck pops in front once more, and with 3.6 seconds remaining, Marian Gaborik puts it over a sprawled out Rask and in the net. Rangers win in the final seconds of overtime yet again.
But this time it was against their biggest competition in their conference, firmly cementing New York as the team to beat at the moment.
1. Lundqvist Saves Penaly Shot and Winter Classic vs. Flyers (Jan. 2, 2012)
The biggest game of the regular season was set in stone long before its start.
January 2, 2012. The New York Rangers were to face off against the Philadelphia Flyers at Citizens Bank Park in Philly.
Press conferences were held. Previews were plentiful. HBO was present.
The hype didn't shrink with the games arrival, as the Rangers had recently passed the Flyers in the Atlantic Division.
After the puck was dropped, Philadelphia struck first, taking a 2-0 lead. Mike Rupp answered quickly with a goal of his own for New York, making it 2-1 at the end of the two.
Rupp struck again in the third to tie it, then Brad Richards scored shortly thereafter to put the Rangers ahead for the first time. They would hold onto that lead going into the final minute of regulation.
Then, with the clock under 30 seconds, there's a pile up in the front of the net. The puck gets behind Lundqvist and is sliding toward the goal-line. Ryan McDonagh slides into the crease and knocks the puck out of harms way.
However, the referee calls for a penalty shot, stating that that McDonagh covered the puck with his glove.
A penalty shot.
With 19.6 seconds to go.
I was there. Sitting in the upper deck on the opposite side however, I had no clue that a penalty shot was called until I noticed the puck at center-ice with Danny Briere standing behind it. Before I even had time to ask "WHAT?!?!? WHY?!?" Briere was already crossing the blue line.
Lundqvist stayed calm and did what he has done all season long...win the game.
A pad save stopped Briere's attempt to go five-hole, and 20 seconds later, the Rangers had won the Winter Classic.
Whatever the outcome of this season for the Rangers, people will look back and say that this was the moment where they realized they were for real. There's a lot of time left, but I'm not sure there is a moment (in the the regular season) that could top this one.
It was truly a classic Classic.
So there you have it. Disagree with my number one? Disagree with my order in general? Agree? Let me know in the comments.