From The Silver Fox to The King: The New York Rangers Goaltending Lineage
Unless you have been trapped underneath a Zamboni for the last couple of years, I am sure you’ve heard of the next Rangers goaltending prodigy currently playing in Russia. His name is Igor Shestyorkin, or Shesterkin depending on which pronunciation you prefer. His career KHL stat line is straight out of a video game. In 111 regular season games, the 23-year-old acrobatic goalie has come out victorious 74 times and has a .933 SV% and a 1.74 GAA. The future Ranger has also posted a ridiculous 25 shutouts in those 111 contests. That is roughly one blanking of the opponent every four games. The hope of Rangers fans and management is that Shestyorkin will carry on the legacy of quality netminding that dates all the way back to the inception of the franchise back in 1926.
In the Rangers second year of existence, they were able to advance to the 1928 Stanley Cup Finals where they battled the Montreal Maroons for the right to hold Lord Stanley’s chalice. In game two of that series, starting goalie Lorne Chabot was knocked out of the game and needed a stand-in. Because of the NHL’s archaic, draconian rules pertaining to goalies in that golden era, teams did not have a backup goalie, per se. Instead, a goalie du jour would be summoned from the stands to replace the fallen netminder.
To make a long story short, the Maroons forbade the Rangers from being able to slot in an actual backup goalie from the crowd and head coach Lester Patrick, who was 44-years-old at the time, donned the goalie equipment of the unconscious Chabot. Patrick, amazingly, backstopped his team to a 2-1 overtime victory and the Rangers would go on to win their first Stanley Cup. Patrick’s relief performance would forever go down in NHL lore as one of the greatest achievements in hockey history and a stellar Rangers goaltending tradition was born.
Dave Kerr: 1934-1941
157-110-57, 40 Shutouts
Dave Kerr was the goalie who backstopped the team to the, look away Rangers fans, 1940 Stanley Cup championship. Kerr’s run on Broadway was filled with success and consistency as he only missed one game in a six-year span during the pre World War II years. Remember folks, goalies didn’t wear masks during that time period. So to just miss a single game when pucks and sticks and skates were flying towards his uncovered and vulnerable cranium was astounding and remarkable.
Chuck Rayner: 1945-1953
123-179-73, 24 Shutouts
Chuck Rayner’s win/loss record may look underwhelming on the surface. But, the fact of the matter, is Rayner played on some really brutal Rangers teams as the 1940s progressed. The Rangers roster was depleted of most of their better talent because of the wars in Europe and Asia. Once the fighting ended and players returned home to North America, the Rangers were finally able to build a decent team around the Saskatchewan native. In the 1949-50 season, Rayner would not only lead his team to game seven of the Stanley Cup Finals, but he would also win the Hart Trophy as league MVP. He is, still today, the only Ranger goalie to do so and only eight goalies have ever accomplished that extremely rare feat.
Lorne “Gump” Worsley: 1952-1963
204-270-101, 24 Shutouts
One of the better nicknames you’ll ever see, “Gump” Worsley was a Ranger mainstay between the pipes for over a decade. The diminutive Montreal native might not have had the playoff successes of Kerr and Rayner. However, Worsley was beloved by the Garden Faithful and he gave his inferior teams a chance to win more often than not. Worsley would go on to play for his hometown Canadiens where he would be a part of several Stanley Cup winning teams that helped solidify his Hall of Fame career.
Eddie Giacomin: 1965-1975
267-172-89, 49 Shutouts
“Edd-ie, Edd-ie, Edd-ie”
To this day, some 44 years since he last donned a Rangers uniform, any time Eddie Giacomin steps on the Garden ice, you can hear that rhythmic, Pavlovian chant reigning down from the rafters. Giacomin was a fan favorite, a Vezina Trophy winner, an All-Star, a hockey Hall of Famer and held most of the important goalie records for the Blueshirts at the time of his retirement. He is, in my view, the Godfather of all Rangers goalies, the patriarch if you will.
John Davidson: 1975-1983
93-90-25, 7 Shutouts
The on-ice career of Rangers goalie John Davidson, or “JD,” was marred by one injury after another. He appeared in just 222 contests over his eight-year Ranger stint. He is far better known for his broadcasting acumen than his rather pedestrian goaltending stat line. However, his contributions to the 1979 Stanley Cup Finals team still resonates throughout Rangerstown. JD played a major role in their shocking upset of the heavily favored New York Islanders. And, for that, Davidson belongs on this list and any other lists regarding the lineage of the Ranger goaltender.
John Vanbiesbrouck: 1981-1993
200-177-47, 16 Shutouts
Another great nickname, “Beezer” as he was known, was a stalwart between the pipes for the Blueshirts for 12 years. In that time span, Vanbiesbrouck earned the respect of Rangers fans with his hard work, consistent play, and outgoing personality. In 1986, Beezer would win the Vezina Trophy as he backstopped his very average team to an improbable run to the Wales Conference Finals before bowing out to the Montreal Canadians and their rookie goalie, Patrick Roy.
Mike Richter: 1989-2003
301-258-73, 24 Shutouts
Mike Richter is, simply put, a champion. His inspiring play in game six of the 1994 Eastern Conference Finals against the Devils routinely gets overshadowed. But, if not for Richter’s heroics holding down the fort while the Rangers were searching for offense, Messier would never have had his “called hat trick,” and it is quite possible that the 1940 jinx would still be daunting and taunting the Ranger organization today. Richter was a career Ranger whose appeal and accomplishments transcends generations. His #35 was the first sweater to be retired from that 1994 cup winning team. And, if you asked his teammates from that era, they would all say, to a man, that he was most deserving of being the first to have his number hanging from the iconic Garden ceiling.
Henrik Lundqvist: 2005-Current
443-287-90, 63 Shutouts
“The King,” “Hank,” or as I like to call him, “The Franchise.” Henrik Lundqvist is the undisputed, unquestioned greatest Rangers goalie of them all! And, he is arguably, the best overall player that the franchise has ever had. Until, and unless, Lundqvist backstops his Rangers team to a championship, the 4000-pound proverbial, ubiquitous elephant in the room will always linger over the finely coiffed hair of the Swedish netminder, and that is his absence of a Stanley Cup ring, which I find to be incredibly unfortunate. If Lundqvist played for the venerable All-Star teams that Richter had during his tenure in goal, there is no doubt in my mind that Lundqvist would have multiple championships to hang on his crown by now. It’s not his fault that the Ranger hierarchy never surrounded him with players good enough to win it all. Be that as it may, there will always be a large sect of Rangers Nation that would rate Lundqvist behind Richter in the all-time great department and that, in my view, is unfair. But, to each their own.
As the impending and expected arrival of Igor Shestyorkin grows near, the hope is that one day he will join this list of esteemed Rangers goalies and carry on the lineage that began when the “Silver Fox” Lester Patrick replaced the fallen Lorne Chabot in the 1928 Stanley Cup Finals.