Since the start of the 2005-06 season, the organization never played a single game while out of playoff contention until this past Wednesday’s contest in Washington. That’s 1,026 consecutive meaningful regular season games!
One hundred twenty-nine playoff games since the spring of 2006, which stands second in the entire NHL behind only the Pittsburgh Penguins. Six memorable Game 7 victories. Three trips to the Conference Finals. One Stanley Cup Final appearance. And one Presidents’ Trophy.
Despite not reaching the ultimate goal, falling three wins shy in 2013-14, the last 13 seasons have provided lifetime memories for a generation of New York Rangers hockey fans. Don’t forget, the team missed the postseason for seven straight seasons prior to 2005-06.
The backbone of the club for the last 13 seasons has been 2017-18 Steven McDonald Extra Effort Award winner Henrik Lundqvist.
Henrik Lundqvist is presented the 2017-18 Steven McDonald Extra Effort Award by the McDonald family before the Rangers-Lightning game.
Quick story: Henrik attended the 2000 NHL Entry Draft in Calgary along with his twin brother Joel. The Dallas Stars selected Joel with the 68th overall pick early in the third round. After heading down to the Stars’ table for a meet-and-greet with members of their front office, Joel headed back up into the stands to sit with his brother.
I am told that the Stars came THIS CLOSE to selecting Henrik over the next few rounds, and would have definitely chosen him with their 7th round pick had the Rangers not drafted him 205th overall.
Oh, how the fortunes of two franchises would have changed. And by the way, none of the five players drafted by Dallas in between the 68th and 205th overall picks ever played a game in the NHL. Henrik told me during his rookie season that the biggest thing on his mind during training camp was where he was going to live in Hartford. He never made it to the Nutmeg State and was the Blueshirts starting goaltender by November.
I like to give some of the credit for the run of 11 playoff appearances in 13 seasons to my radio broadcast partner – the former Captain of the Rangers, Dave Maloney. Dave’s first game as a full-time member of the MSG Network broadcast crew was on October 5, 2005 – the season opener in Philadelphia. Most hockey “experts” thought the team had no shot at a postseason berth. Jaromir Jagr scored two third period goals that night to lead Tom Renney’s Rangers to a 5-3 win over the Flyers – the first two of a franchise record 54 goals for Jagr that season, as the Rangers stunned the hockey world with a 100-point season.
So many memories. Marian Gaborik in triple overtime in D.C. in 2012. Coming back from a 3-games-to-1 deficit to defeat both Pittsburgh in 2014 and Washington in 2015. Marty St. Louis’ goal on Mother’s Day 2014. The roar of the crowd as the final seconds ticked down in Game 6 of the Conference Final against Montreal later that same month. Derek Stepan in overtime to eliminate the Capitals in Game 7 in 2015.
As the organization re-tools with a plethora of draft picks and prospects, here’s to the next great era of Rangers hockey.