Rangers Greatest Hits: Mike Richter’s Stanley Cup Winning Season

Mike Richter remains the last netminder to lead the New York Rangers to a Stanley Cup championship, achieving the feat during a historic 1993-94 season. Besides ending a 54-year title drought in the Big Apple, the Abington, Pennsylvania, native also collected 42 wins during the regular season, a franchise record unbroken three decades later. 

Unfortunately, Richter has never received enough credit for his time in professional hockey, only earning an induction into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame (2008) thus far. Considering he’s won a Stanley Cup, a World Cup gold medal, and three All-Star Game MVP awards, he was one of his generation’s best statistical netminders. 

Furthermore, Richter became the first goalie in Rangers history to win 300 games and was one of six NHL back stoppers to reach that plateau between 1988 and 2003. Even though Henrik Lundqvist would come along and break many of Richter’s team records, there’s one mark he could never overtake: winning 42 games. 

Let’s revisit Richter’s historic 1993-94 season that ended with a parade down the Canyon of Heroes. 

Mike Richter and Rangers start slow

Mike Richter
Rangers goalie Mike Richter and defenders protect the goal against Vancouver during game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals at Madison Square Garden June 14, 1994. The Rangers won the game 3-2 and the Stanley Cup. Rangers Win Stanley Cup

When the Rangers started the 1993-94 season on Oct. 5, they lost to the Boston Bruins 4-3 at Madison Square Garden. Although Glenn Healy would get the team’s first win against the Tampa Bay Lightning two nights later, Richter lost his next start against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Oct. 9. 

Interestingly, Healy put together a few wins (4-1-0) while Richter struggled to keep pace. Through his first five starts, he went 0-4-0 with a .873 save percentage (SV%) and a 3.40 goals-against average (GAA). However, despite his early struggles, Richter was about to turn it around and take over the net, something he wouldn’t relinquish again for the rest of the season. 

On Oct. 24, Richter would get his first win against the Los Angeles Kings and wouldn’t lose another game until Dec. 22, a span of 23 games, where he went 17-0-3. Statistically, he produced a .922 SV%, lowered his GAA to 1.95, and earned two shutouts (against the Washington Capitals and the Buffalo Sabres) during the run. Heading into the new year, Richter had a record of 18-5-3 through 30 games, with a .911 SV% and 2.26 GAA, surrendering just 68 goals. 

Richter had two lengthy win streaks, a seven-game one in October and November, followed by a six-game one from late November into December. He beat the Hartford Whalers, New Jersey Devils, Vancouver Canucks, Quebec Nordiques, Lightning, Winnipeg Jets, and Capitals during the first streak, producing a .940 SV% and 1.57 GAA. 

Within two weeks, he would start another lengthy streak with wins over the Lightning, Montreal Canadiens, Capitals, Devils (twice), and Toronto Maple Leafs, earning a .906 SV% and 2.42 GAA. Unfortunately, Richter had one clunker during this stretch, getting pulled in a game against the New York Islanders on Nov. 27, not factoring into the contest’s outcome. 

Richter rides the momentum into January, keeping the Rangers at the top

As the calendar flipped to January, Richter kept winning, earning a 7-1-0 record in ten games that month, producing a .900 SV% and a 2.10 GAA. At this point, through 40 games, he was 25-6-3, while the Rangers were 33-13-3 with 69 points. Meanwhile, Healy, who started the season on a hot streak, had skated in only 11 games since Oct. 16 and compiled a 4-6-0 record with a .904 SV% and 2.09 GAA. 

Even though Richter was amid a career year, he had a few setbacks in February, going just 6-3-1 in 11 games. Although he earned a shutout and produced a .912% and 2.36 GAA, his numbers suffered because the Rangers went 7-5-1, scoring only four more goals than they gave up, 39-35, in the shortest month of the year.

Sadly, things didn’t improve for Richter or the Rangers in March, where the netminder pieced together another 6-3-1 record that month, but his statistics were the worse of the campaign. In 11 games, he had a .894 SV% and 3.00 GAA, the lowest and highest numbers in a month outside of October. 

Meanwhile, the Rangers were mediocre in March with a 7-5-3 record, scoring 54 goals and giving up 52, with Healy producing a 1-2-0 record. As the season wound down and with the race for the top spot in the Atlantic Division on the line, Richter finished the campaign strong. 

During his final six starts, he went 5-0-1 with a sparkling .938 SV% and 1.83 GAA. Interestingly, with a win against the Edmonton Oilers on Mar. 23, he started a season-high eight-game win streak that ended with a 2-2 tie in the season finale against the Philadelphia Flyers. 

When the regular season ended, Richter established a new Rangers record for wins in a season with 42, finishing with 12 losses and six ties. Statistically, he gave up 159 goals to finish with a 2.57 GAA, the lowest total of his career. Additionally, he made 1599 saves on 1758 shots for a .910 SV%, the best mark of his career at that point, later surpassed in 1995-96 (.912%) and 1996-97 (.917%). 

Richter led the Rangers to the President’s Trophy that year, eventually hoisting the Stanley Cup in June. During this legendary playoff run with memorable moments like Mark Messier’s guarantee win, Stephane Matteau’s overtime winner, and Richter’s penalty shot save, he went 16-7 in 23 games. Furthermore, he gave up 49 goals for a 2.13 GAA and made 574 saves for a .921 SV% while earning four shutouts. 

Inside the numbers of Richter’s record season

Richter played 91 games that season between the regular season and playoffs, earning a 58-19-6 record, all franchise records to this day. Despite his Hall of Fame resume, Lundqvist’s best season came in 2013-14 when he led the Rangers back to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 1994. However, he only skated in 88 games and compiled a 46-35-5 record, coming several games short of matching Richter’s performance from 1993-94. 

At the time, playing in 68 games during the regular season only ranked as the eighth most appearances in franchise history, behind 70 games from Johnny Bower (1953-54), Gump Worsley (1955-56), and Ed Giacomin (1968-69 and 1969-70), 69 from Chuck Rayner (1949-50), and 68 from Worsley (1956-57) and Giacomin (1966-67). In the seasons since then, Richter and Lundqvist have surpassed those totals, and his 1993-94 season now ranks 15th all-time. 

During the regular season, Richter’s worse performance came against the Chicago Blackhawks on Mar. 3, when he gave up a season-high seven goals, making 26 saves on 33 shots. Ultimately, he finished the night with a .788 SV% and an 8.57 GAA. Outside of that performance, he didn’t give up more than four goals in any other game. 

Overall, his numbers broke down like this: nine games with four goals against (2-4-1), 24 with three (14-6-3), 16 with two (11-1-1), 12 with one (10-0-1), and five shutouts against the Capitals, Sabres, Ottawa Senators, Whalers, and Dallas Stars. Ultimately, Richter skated in eight other games and did not factor into the outcome, with the Rangers going 2-5-1 in those contests. 

Regarding Richter’s place amongst other NHL goalies in 1993-94, he played in the seventh most games, was the only player to surpass 40 wins, and had the fourth most shutouts. Additionally, he had the ninth-best GAA and 12th-best SV% numbers while playing the ninth-most minutes and making the 11th-most saves. 

Historically, Giacomin had held the franchise record for wins in one season, collecting 38 in 1968-69 until Richter broke it on Apr. 2, 1994, with a 4-2 victory over the Devils at Brendan Byrne Arena (New Jersey). As mentioned, he still maintains that record despite Lundqvist’s attempts to break it with 39 wins in 2011-12 and 38 in 2008-09. 

Furthermore, before the 1993-94 season, Richter had 69 career wins and picked up his 100th victory in a 4-1 win over the Flyers at Madison Square Garden on Feb. 28. By achieving the milestone, he became just the sixth goalie to reach the plateau in a Rangers uniform. 

What happened to Richter after the 1993-94 season?

NHL: Winnipeg Jets at New York Rangers
Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports

After one of the most memorable runs in New York sports history, Richter never duplicated the success from 1993-94 over the final nine seasons of his career. At that point, his career totals were 111-61-23 in 215 games (.516 win percentage); however, in the next 451 games, he compiled a 190-197-50 record for a .421 win percentage.

Although he would break his own record for most games played with 72 in 1997-98, Richter would never win more than 33 games (1996-97) in any of those final campaigns. Despite those numbers, he became the first netminder in the franchise to win 300 games in 2001 and remains in second place behind Lundqvist, who has 459 victories.  

Internationally, Richter found great success earning a World Cup gold medal with the United States in 1996 and winning the tournament MVP honors. During the NHL’s second stint at the Winter Olympic Games in 2002, he backstopped the U.S. to a silver medal on home soil in Salt Lake City, losing to Canada in the finale. 

Upon retiring in 2003, the Rangers honored Richter by retiring his number 35 to the rafters, becoming just the third player in team history with a banner behind Rod Gilbert and Giacomin. Although he had one of the most decorated careers as an American-born goalie, Richter has yet to enter the Hockey Hall of Fame, which he’s been eligible for since 2006. 

Despite what the hockey world thinks of Richter and his accomplishments, he’ll always have a special place in the hearts of Rangers fans everywhere. Whether it was the Statue of Liberty helmet, the acrobatic glove saves, or the penalty shot save on Pavel Bure, he’ll always be one of the franchise’s best netminders, as he dazzled the fans on a nightly basis for 14 years. 

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