New York Rangers record, stats, and oddities for season openers

NHL: Tampa Bay Lightning at New York Rangers
Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports

On Oct. 12, 2023, the New York Rangers will play their 98th season opener when they hit the ice at KeyBank Center in Buffalo. This year will also be the 68th time New York has started a new season on the road. 

Historically, the Rangers are 40-43-13 in season openers, dating back to their first one on Nov. 16, 1926. Unfortunately, their below .500 record for season openers is due to a 28-31-8 mark on the road. The franchise is currently on a one-game win streak in openers, defeating the Tampa Bay Lightning at Madison Square Garden in 2022.

Considering the Rangers are visitors again to start the 2023-24 season, we sorted through 97 years of openers to give you an in-depth look into one of the most important games on the NHL schedule.

Related: New York Ranger vs Buffalo Sabres Preview

New York Rangers Opponents and Matchup Records

rangers prospects
Bruce Bennett/Pool Photo via USA TODAY Sports

Interestingly, the opening night matchup between the Buffalo Sabres and Rangers will be only the third meeting between the clubs to kick start a season, with each team owning a victory in the series. During the first meeting in 1995, the Rangers dropped a 2-1 contest at home, eventually getting their revenge 15 years later with a 6-3 win in Buffalo in 2010. 

As one of the Original Six franchises, most of their season openers came against the five other teams from the era, 1942 to 1967, with the Detroit Red Wings topping the list with 15 games. These two teams initially met for the first time in 1928 and haven’t faced each other in an opener since 1981. 

After the Red Wings, the Chicago Blackhawks came in second with 14 games, the only other team the Rangers have faced more than ten times in season openers. Of course, the remaining clubs in the top five are the Boston Bruins (nine), Toronto Maple Leafs (eight), and Montreal Canadiens (six). 

Since expansion in 1967, New York has taken on the Washington Capitals in six contests, with the Hartford Whalers/Carolina Hurricanes next on the list with four. Interestingly, the Rangers have only faced their long-time rivals, the New York Islanders, in three openers, the same amount as the Philadelphia Flyers and Montreal Maroons. 

Boston93-5-1Los Angeles10-1-0
Toronto84-4-0Min Wild10-1-0
Mtl Canadiens72-3-2Nashville10-1-0
Washington64-2-0Stl Eagles10-1-0
NY Islanders31-1-1Min North Stars11-0-0
Phi Flyers31-1-1Phi Quakers11-0-0
Mtl Maroons33-0-0Vancouver11-0-0
New Jersey21-1-0Home2912-12-5
Stl Blues21-1-0Away6728-31-8
Tampa Bay22-0-0

Furthermore, New York has been outscored in openers, trailing their opponents 270-274 in 96 games, getting shut out in 1946 (Bill Durnan), 1954 (Terry Sawchuk), 1995 (Sean Burke), 1998 (John Vanbiesbrouck), and 2021 (Semyon Varlamov). Interestingly, they pitched five shutouts in 1926 (Hal Winkler), 1928 (John Ross Roach), 1930 (Roach), 1937 (Dave Kerr), and 1956 (Gump Worsley).

For those keeping track, the team failed to score in an opener as recently as two seasons ago and hasn’t shut out an opponent to start a season in 66 years.

NY Rangers: Streaks, Records, and Other Oddities

Currently, the franchise record for most goals in an opener, seven, occurred on Oct. 7, 1955, against the Blackhawks at Chicago Stadium. Interestingly, the most goals surrendered in a first game is also seven, a mark achieved by the Maple Leafs (1942) at Maple Leafs Gardens and the Bruins (1980) at Boston Garden. Statistically, New York averages 2.81 goals for and 2.85 goals against in openers while averaging 29.7 shots, a number the league started to calculate in 1959.

After playing their first game on home ice at Madison Square Garden III (1925-1968), the Rangers did not skate in a season opener in front of the home crowd until 1960, a span of 33 years. Immediately following the 1960 win over the Bruins, New York took to the road again in 1961, finishing the decade on the road from 1967 to 1972.

Surprisingly, since 1972, the Rangers have had three additional streaks of five or more years with road openers, including 1988 to 1992, 1999 to 2005, and 2008 to 2015. Moreover, the longest stretch of home season openers occurred between 1980 and 1987, with shorter times from 1971 to 1978 and 2016 to 2021.

During their openers, New York has scored a power play goal in 54 contests, with a franchise-best of three taking place in 1933, 1964, 1976, and 1978. Meanwhile, they have scored a shorthanded goal in seven matches, with a record of three in a game against the Devils in 1983.

Interestingly, their most penalized night came against the Blackhawks in 1990, with 48 minutes. Additionally, the team has collected more than 40 shots in an opener, with a franchise-best of 43 against the Capitals (1974), followed by 41 in contests against the Lightning (2008) and Blackhawks (1976).

Considering their below .500 record for season openers, you may find this next bit of information somewhat surprising. The Rangers won their first seven openers from 1926 to 1932, a streak still unmatched almost a century later, with a four-game win streak from 2005 to 2008 coming the closest. Meanwhile, the club has six three-game losing streaks, with the record remaining at six straight losses, set between 1949 and 1954. Overall, the franchise is 2-1-1 in the years that they win the Stanley Cup and have a total record of 4-4-3 when appearing in the Stanley Cup Final.

Finally, there are many fascinating statistics involving individual players and their achievements on opening night. As expected, Rod Gilbert owns the record for most appearances in an opener with 15 games from 1962 to 1978 while sharing the top spot with 13 points along with Walt Tkachuk (1969-1981) and Andy Bathgate (1954-1964). Interestingly, only two players have scored hat tricks in an opener, with Ron Murphy becoming the first in 1955 against the Blackhawks and Derek Stepan joining him in 2010 against the Sabres.

Meanwhile, the most points in a single opener belongs to Bathgate, who had a goal and four assists for five points in 1955 in a 7-4 win over the Blackhawks, the same game Murphy had a hat trick. Also, the current record for most game-winners in an opener is a mark shared by Bill Cook and Butch Keeling, who each have three, with Keeling owning the record for most goals with seven in ten contests.

Heading into the 2023-24 opener, Chris Kreider is about to skate in his 11th game, with Mika Zibanejad playing in his eighth. Together, these veteran leaders are looking to end another championship drought that is about to reach 30 years, slowly creeping up on the historic 54-year drought from 1950 to 1994.

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