This text was initially printed in August, 2012.
The New York Rangers endured one in every of sports activities’ longest championship droughts, as they went fifty-four years with out profitable the Stanley Cup. And whereas the Stanley Cup lastly made it to New York in 1994, the years between 1940 and 1994 didn’t move by with out nice moments and seasons.
A type of memorable seasons was 1971-72.
1971-72 Rangers’ Rise to the High
The yr prior, the Rangers established themselves as among the finest groups in hockey. Goaltenders Eddie Giacomin and Gilles Villemure shared the Vezina Trophy, and the Rangers gained their first playoff collection in twenty-one years.
After falling behind three video games to 2 within the Semifinal towards the Chicago Blackhawks, Pete Stemkowski scored in triple additional time of Sport 6 to tie the collection. Nevertheless, the Blackhawks gained Sport 7 in Chicago to advance to the Stanley Cup Ultimate.
The Rangers have been constructed to win in 1971-72. Along with the duo of Giacomin and Villemure, their protection was headlined by Corridor of Fame blueliner Brad Park. However the actual power of the Blueshirts was their offense.
The trio of Vic Hadfield, Jean Ratelle, and Rod Gilbert was the most effective line within the Rangers’ eighty-six yr historical past. They have been nicknamed the ‘G-A-G Line‘, which stood for goal-a-game line. In 1971-72, the road lived as much as its nickname.
1971-72 Rangers as an Offensive Powerhouse
Hadfield, Ratelle, and Gilbert grew to become the primary linemates in NHL historical past to every report 40 targets in a season. Hadfield grew to become the primary Ranger to attain 50 targets in a season, as he tallied two within the closing recreation of the common season. Gilbert, the Rangers’ all-time chief in targets and factors, had a profession yr, as he completed with a career-high 43 targets and 97 factors. However it was Ratelle who paced the trio.
In solely 63 video games, Ratelle scored 46 targets, added 63 assists, and set a Rangers report for factors in a season with 109 (the report stood till Jaromir Jagr scored 123 points within the 2005-06 season). Nearly as good because the G-A-G line was, they weren’t the one technique of offense for the Broadway Blueshirts.
The Rangers scored 317 targets in 78 video games in 1971-72 (4.06 targets per recreation common), and 7 gamers on the roster scored at the very least twenty targets. Moreover the highest line, two-thirds of the “Bulldog Line” scored twenty targets. Heart Walt Tkaczuk scored 24 targets and registered 66 factors, and Invoice Fairbairn added 22 targets. Park additionally had a breakout season, as he scored 24 targets and totaled 73 factors from the blue line.
Superstars within the Crease
The Rangers have been dominant at each ends of the ice. Giacomin performed in 44 video games, and gained 24 of them. Villemure gained 24 video games as properly, and posted a 2.09 goals-against common. Beneath head coach Emile Francis, the Rangers went 48-17-13, adequate for the second within the NHL in factors. Nevertheless, the Rangers weren’t at full power coming into the playoffs.
Late within the season, Ratelle suffered a broken ankle after being hit by a shot from teammate Dale Rolfe. The harm derailed Ratelle’s stellar season, and compelled him to overlook the final fifteen regular-season video games.
Regardless of the lack of their main scorer, the Rangers cruised by means of the primary two rounds of the playoffs. They disposed of the defending Stanley Cup Champion Montreal Canadiens in six video games within the first spherical, after which swept the Blackhawks in a rematch of the Semifinal collection from the season earlier than.
Rangers to the 1971-72 Finals
Within the Ultimate, the Rangers’ opponent was Bobby Orr and the Big Bad Bruins, the one group with extra factors than the Rangers within the common season. Ratelle returned for the collection, however even he would admit later that the restoration was rushed. The Rangers dropped the primary two video games in Boston, after which break up the 2 video games at Madison Square Garden.
Trailing three video games to at least one, the Rangers have been in a position to pull out a victory in Boston in Sport 5. The Rangers trailed 2-1 after two durations, however proper winger Bobby Rousseau scored twice within the third interval to offer the Blueshirts the victory.
Nevertheless, Orr took over Sport 6 at Madison Sq. Backyard. The Bruins defenseman scored the primary purpose of the sport, and assisted on the primary of Wayne Cashman’s two targets. The offense was greater than sufficient for Gerry Cheevers, who picked up the shutout in a 3-0 Bruins victory.
Closed Window of Alternative
The 1971-72 season was the Rangers’ finest probability to win given the core of gamers on that group. The group reached the Semifinal in every of the following two seasons, however have been eradicated by the Blackhawks in 1972-73, and the Philadelphia Flyers in 1973-74.
Regardless of all the nice issues the Rangers did in 1971-72, they weren’t in a position to convey the Cup to New York. “With Jean we’d have overwhelmed them, however with out him, Orr simply proved to be an excessive amount of,” Francis mentioned. “It was a disgrace. We did all of it besides win all of it.”
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