With the Rangers’ regular season in the rear view mirror and the 2015 NHL playoffs fast approaching on the horizon, let’s take a quick moment to look back and enjoy some of the best moments from what was a Presidential regular season for the Broadway Blueshirts.
5) Klein to the Rescue, Part 1
On October 21st, the Rangers headed across the Hudson with a 3-3-0 record to faceoff against the rival Devils. Trailing by two with approximately 11 minutes to play, Chris Mueller and Rick Nash both scored for the Rangers to force overtime, and when it came time for the extra frame, Chris Kreider and Kevin Klein connected on a pretty play to finish off New Jersey.
Not many would have predicted the breakout year Kevin Klein would go on to have this past season. In just 65 games this season with the Rangers (he missed 17 games due to injury), the 30-year-old blue liner set career highs in both goals (9) and points (26), and tied a career high in assists (17). His smart play and steady presence on the Rangers back end cannot be understated, and he’s responsible for the Rangers’ fifth best moment of the 2014-15 season.
4) Klein to the Rescue, Part 2
Believe it or not, Kevin Klein will take home number four as well on this season’s list of top moments. During the team’s December 8th tilt with the Pittsburgh Penguins, Klein exited the contest during the first period when he took a high-stick to the ear. A few stitches and a chunk of his ear later, Klein returned only to score yet another overtime winner…
Watch the video below and say with a straight face that hockey isn’t the greatest sport on the planet. Go ahead, I dare you.
That win propelled the Blueshirts on an eight game winning streak, beginning their rise to the top of the League’s standings.
3) A Rivalry Renewed
With both the Rangers and Islanders back in full form this season, the cross-town rivalry approached the levels that it once was in decades past. After the Islanders took the first three games from the Rangers this season, the Blueshirts responded with a pair of dramatic wins of their own on Coliseum ice to close out the season series. The first of those wins came on February 16th in a game that the Rangers trailed by two goals twice, but continued to battle back and eventually walked away with a 6-5 victory. And, surprise surprise, it was Klein who again scored the game winner late in the third.
The guy’s got a flare for the dramatic, eh?
The electric atmosphere combined with the back-and-forth nature of the game made this one worthy of the third spot on this list. If those highlights didn’t make you salivate at the possibility of a second round meeting between these two teams, you might need to see a Doctor.
While we’re talking about the Rangers and the Islanders, this goal from Kevin Hayes against Jaroslav Halak in the final regular season meeting between the two teams is certainly worth mentioning. Notice the unbelievable patience and strength Hayes shows on this goal. Truly remarkable for a rookie.
Also noteworthy from this season was the incredible play of Cam Talbot during the absence of star goaltender Henrik Lundqvist. In 23 games without “The King,” Talbot filled the void admirably, going 16-4-3 over that span. Thinking the Rangers would’ve won the Presidents’ Trophy without him is just foolish.
And finally, we’d be remiss if we failed to mention one of the nicest off-ice stories from the Rangers’ season, and that was the signing of 15-year-old Chris Falzone to a one-day contract back in December. Falzone, who was diagnosed with cancer at the beginning of his freshman year of high school and has since been cleared to start skating again, was given the opportunity to sign and practice with the Rangers thanks to the great work of the Garden of Dreams Foundation. It was one of the really great feel-good stories of the year.
2) A Wild Comeback
On October 27th against Minnesota, the Rangers arguably played their worst 40 minutes of of hockey this season. Being out-shot by a 24-8 margin, the Blueshirts headed into the final period trailing the Wild 3-0, but by the 15 minute mark of the third, the Rangers had clawed their way back within one. While the Wild did retake the 4-2 lead for a time, the Rangers responded with three more goals, including two from Anthony Duclair and Mats Zuccarello in the final four minutes of regulation, to cap off the stunning comeback by a 5-4 final.
Anthony Duclair has since been traded to Arizona as part of the deal that brought Keith Yandle to New York, but you can bet he’ll always remember his first NHL goal as the one that tied the game in that remarkable October comeback at the Garden.
1) The Stepan-Kreider Connection
Topping this list of best moments from this year’s Rangers regular season was the recent win over the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Closing in on the Presidents’ Trophy, the Rangers played host to the then red-hot Blue Jackets. In a game which had it all, from great saves, blown leads, and former Rangers scoring against their old team, it was Derek Stepan who stole the show late. Trailing by one goal late, Stepan tied the game with 28 seconds remaining in regulation to send the game to overtime thanks to a brilliant pass from Chris Kreider who was in front of the net. Then with just 50 second to play in the extra frame, it was Stepan again who lit the lamp to win the contest and move the Rangers within two points of clinching the Presidents’ Trophy.
Stepan finished the night with two goals and an assist for three points.
Onward and Upward
It was a special regular season for the New York Rangers. A franchise record 53 wins and the Presidents’ Trophy is nothing to sneeze at, but now the real work begins, for the Stanley Cup is the only prize that history will remember.
Game one between the Rangers and Penguins at Madison Square Garden is set for 7:00 p.m. on Thursday.
Jake Gittler is now in his second season as a contributing member of The Hockey Writers. After spending the 2014-15 season working in Communications for Adirondack Flames of the AHL and covering the New York Rangers here for The Hockey Writers, Jake’s coverage has been switched over to the Colorado Avalanche for the 2015-16 season. Jake can be reached via email at Jakegittler@gmail.com, or on Twitter @Jgittler_hockey.