Bull Dog Line’s Best Series: Goaltending Edition

Longtime Bonehead Bull Dog Line (BDL) took it upon himself to write some rankings of players that he’s watched in his time as a Rangers fan. This was originally written during the all-star break, so I apologize for the delay in publication. Great job, BDL!

The recent top 100 players in the NHL list got me thinking about the Rangers, and their top players list. I thought I might compose my own list, based on players that I have seen play, and by their positions. So to start, here are the top 10 goalies I have seen play as Rangers. This covers from the early/mid-seventies to the present.

Honorable Mention: Doug Soetart
As a Ranger Soetart was mostly a back up, but gets on this list for one season, the ’80-’81 season. On a team that finished with 62 points, Soeatart won 16 games. He was not the playoff goaltender (Steve Baker), but without him holding the fort on an injury and retirement ravaged team, they would not have made the playoffs.

10. Steve Weeks
Weeks won 42 games in his career as a Ranger; always a very reliable back up.

9. Glen Hanlon
Hanlon was a 500 goalie in his time with the Rangers; playing to a 56-56 record. He is on the list because of one playoff series, a series the Rangers lost. The 1984 first round match up against the Islander dynasty. Hanlon was brilliant in this series, which included a game two shutout. The Rangers lost the series on the famous OT goal by Ken Morrow in the deciding 5th game. One of the things I remember about the end of the series was Billy Smith, who did not shake hands at the end of a series, but skated down to Hanlon and shook his hand when it was over. That’s how good Hanlon was in that series.

[Editor’s note: BDL originally forgot Talbot and asked that I add an entry for him at 8, so the following thoughts are mine.]

[Second note: What I originally wrote here was not published, for some reason.]

8. Cam Talbot
Talbot was found money.  An undrafted free agent from a then-unheralded collegiate hockey program, Talbot spent his first few pro seasons in the AHL, steadily improving each year.  He finally got the call to the show in 13-14 after Martin Biron was Hertled into retirement and immediately made an impact.  His play over the early part of the season while Lundqvist was struggling created the first hints of a goaltending/cap management controversy that still lingers today.  His best moment was the following season, when he filled in for a long stretch of the second half of the season while Lundqvist was out with a vascular injury from taking a puck to the neck. Signed to a backup’s cap hit despite playing strongly in a starting role, Talbot became a valuable trade asset.  However, his trade was poorly managed, resulting in the Rangers obtaining a middling return (essentially, Kovacs and Zborovskiy).  If we are truly witnessing Lundqvist’s decline, then moving Talbot instead of Lundqvist will be a long and hard lesson in cap management.

7. Ed Mio
Mio did not play as much for the Rangers as I originally thought, posting a 29-24 record. But it was two consecutive playoff seasons that put him at 7. Backstopping Herb Brooks smurfs, Mio beat the Flyers in two straight playoff seasons. Going 6-1 against them. However, he could not get them over the Islanders hump, losing to them in those same seasons.

6. Gilles Villemure
Villemure was a favorite of mine. He won 98 games as a Ranger, and had a very good GAA of 2.62. Gilles won some memorable playoff games, including game 5 of the ’72 finals, forcing a game 6; the Bobby Orr game. In the first handful of games I attended, I did not get to see him play, E3s guy played in every one. The first goalie I saw other than Giacomin, was Dunc Wilson. He’s not on the list.

5. John Davidson
JD was just above 500 as a Ranger, winning 93 games. He wore 3 different numbers as a Ranger. 35, 00, and 30. He also wore some very memorable masks. The red, white and blue and his Lone Ranger mask. Of course JD is most remembered for that magical playoff run of ’79. JD was just amazing during that run. He carried them past the heavily favored Islanders in one the greatest series in Ranger history.

4. John Vanbiesbrouck
Beezer won 200 games as a Ranger. He played his first game as an 18 year old; a 2-to-1 victory over the Colorado Rockies. Beezer won the Vezina in ’86. Now if you go and look at his GAA for that season, ignore it. He was fantastic that season. He carried them into the Conference Final, where they ran into a rookie by the name of Patrick Roy. Traded away after the ’93 season because of the expansion draft, Beezer missed out on a cup by one season.

3. Eddie Giacomin
“Eddie, Eddie, Eddie!” 266 career victories for Giacomin, and the Vezina in ’71. The Rangers, and Giacomin, just could not get over the hump during that era. Losing in the final in ’72, and to the Flyers in the semis in ’74. Eddie was a great handler of the puck, nearly scoring on more than one occasion. Giacomin was famously waived, and claimed by Detroit in ’75, and his first game for the Wings was at the Garden the next night. Watching the game on cable channel 6, which carried the Ranger home games (when the Knicks or Rangers were not on, this channel was a black and white clock), I cried my eyes out during the “National Anthem”, and to this day I still get chills when thinking about it.

2. Henrik Lundqvist
The career leader in pretty much every goaltending category, Hank currently has 395 victories [Editor’s note: now 400], as well as another 55 in the playoffs. He was the Vezina winner in 2012. Pulled the franchise out of the dark the day he arrived. The only thing keeping him from being at the top of the list is the Cup. If he were to win one, not only would he be at the top of this list, he would be at the top of the all time Ranger players list.

1. Mike Richter
The first time I saw Richter play in person was a New Year’s Day matinee against the Russians. They called him up to play the game, and if it wasn’t for him a 5-to-1 game would have been 20-to-1. He was just brilliant. 301 victories, and Stanley Cup champion, Mike Richter is the best goaltender I have seen play for the Rangers.

73 thoughts on “Bull Dog Line’s Best Series: Goaltending Edition”

  1. I know many are mentioning Hank being the fastest to 400 victories. However, The King hasn’t known a day in the NHL that did not allow for Shootout wins.

    BDL – Nice job on the list. Just a couple of quibbles based on personal preferences – I might have found a spot for Steve Baker based on his 1980-81 playoffs.

    What amazes me is that you didn’t put Terry Kleisinger, Dave Tataryn or my personal favorite Gratoony the Looney (Gilles Gratton) 🙂 I remember being at the game when Gratton unveiled his tiger mask.


  2. Great job, BDL. Enjoyed it.

    Honorable mention to Dan Cloutier. Don’t know his record but he gave me a great Ranger Goalie memory.


  3. Good morning, boneheads!
    Very well done, BDL. I only watched a few of them play, so can’t really comment much. But I think Richter, in his prime, had much better teams in front of him until it all fell apart. Hank, on the other hand, won a few seasons on his own at the beginning of his tenure until they put a real team together. But I won’t argue the SC factor.


  4. AnthonyM- I saw this live yesterday at Wicky’s place. This was as intentional as it gets. He could’ve destroyed this guy’s life by taking his eye out. If this happened on the street, and he damaged his eye, he’d get a jail time. The NHL ( and the NHLPA) need to show they’re serious about.


  5. I can’t quibble with the list. I would have put the King 1, but there is the Cup. I think Hank carried the team in more games than Richter did. Eddie was arguably as good as both but it was a different time


  6. That’s the published rumor. But why else would Sprewell show up? Last time we saw him, 12 or so years ago, right after he was traded out of town, he spent the entire game at MSG screaming and cursing at Dolan.


  7. Henk has 50 Shoot out victories along with 3rd highest Save %
    Before this season started
    Lundquist; 685 Games; 374-229-72 ( 1 Vezina)
    Richter; 666 Games; 301-258- 73 (1 Cup)
    Richter came into the league; goals/game were – 6.91 and deceased every year after
    Henk came into league; goals/game – 5.76 and has decreased to 5.4


  8. Carp, I you agreeing or disagreeing with me 😊
    Speaking of which. I find it much easier to disagree with Wicky on the blog than in person. And I don’t believe it has anything to do with him being McIlrath’s size. 😊


  9. Well, it must be admitted that all those old goalies did have the advantage of Dmen who could and would take out the enemy in front of the net one way or another.


  10. Carp – Great point of debate swapping Lundqvist and Richter. I think it would make a great column topic for you. An interesting thing to add to the debate is how GM Neil Smith would have acted if his goalie choices were Hank and John Vanbiesbrouck. Would he have kept Beezer and dealt Hank or does he deal VBK?

    I’d love to see how Richter would have fared in the Shootout era because he was one of the best in terms of stopping penalty shots.


  11. I’ve always said this about Richter/Lundqvist: Lundqvist has been consistently better than Richter throughout their respective careers. That being said, Mike Richter is the best “big game” goaltender I’ve ever seen, in terms of how much he raised his level of play from his baseline play to those moments. His play in the 94 and 97 playoffs was phenomenal, not to mention the 1996 World Cup, perhaps the single greatest international ice hockey competition ever held.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Since someone brought up that Cloutier fight, allow me to repost this story, as told by PJ Stock (who was part of the melee):

    PJ Stock tells a great story surrounding the 98 melee where Cloutier challenged the Islanders bench. He and his linemates were basically riding the bench for the second half of the third period. They didn’t even have their skates tied. Instead, they were just eating a bunch of Bazooka Joe, betting each other on what flavor and comic would come out next. Then, with the Rangers down 3-0 with about 7:30 left in the game, Milbury calls a time out. Muckler takes exception to this, and sends out PJ Stock’s line. Stock has so much Bazooka Joe in his glove he can’t even fit his fingers into the holes. Then the melee happens and when it’s over, there was a delay to restart the game because there was Bazooka Joe all over the ice that had spilled out of his gloves.

    An addendum to the story: It was at that moment, AV dedicated his life to coaching at MSG, so he could find the lost treasure trove of Bazooka Joes.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Anthony,
    I wanted to put Baket on the list because of 81 being one my favorite Ranger teams, but he really did not play all that many games for the Rangers. Plus my memory of Baker in the 81 playoffs was, I just hope the puck hits him.


  14. Great job BDL! IMHO I think Hank may be the better goalie. But no one can deny the fact that good or bad team in front of them when the chips were down and it counted the most Richter kissed the cup! Until Hank does the same my vote goes to Mikey!


  15. BDL wrote “Plus my memory of Baker in the 81 playoffs was, I just hope the puck hits him.” sadly, that is my memory of many Rangers goalies – even Hank a couple of times this year 🙂


  16. Good read for those of you who may have an extra few cycles to read about Lundqvist, with quotes from Benoit Allaire.
    Carp, any idea why Allaire no longer does official medial interviews?


    Interesting take on everyone’s opinion about Richter vs Henrik, swapping places, etc. Honestly, as a fan just blessed that we’ve had upper echelon goaltending, compared to some teams we’ve been gifted. Flyers may have a cup or two had they had someone of Lundqvist’s skill set. Bottom line, Richter and Lundqvist played in differing eras. Shooters have much great skillset, league skating ability is through the roof today compared to maybe as little as 10 years ago. And yes, goalies are a higher skilled group than ever.


  17. The Flyers always seemed to want to thumb their noses at conventional wisdom in terms of goaltenders. It was as if they wanted to show they could do their way. 1998 was the perfect example. They had a chance to bring Mike Richter back “home”, but they chose to sign John Vanbiesbrouck because it was cheaper and because it went against the grain.


  18. The piece of trivia that I love about Mike Richter is that while he only ever played for the New York Rangers, he was a member of the Nashville Predators and Edmonton Oilers. Nashville drafted him in the 1998 Expansion Draft. Richter re-signed with the Rangers and the Predators got a compensatory draft pick (2nd rounder) – which they used on Adam Hall.

    In 2002, again as an UFA, Richter gets dealt to Edmonton. Richter re-signs with the Blueshirts. The Oilers received a a compensatory pick (3rd rounder) and the Rangers received a 4th ropunder for their troubles – which was used to draft Corey Potter.


  19. I rewatched some ’94 Finals games this past summer. Hard to believe how much goaltending and defensive schemes have changed since then. I feel that Lundqvist is the best Ranger goalie, but Richter had to contend with an era of higher scoring.


  20. Ilb
    But I can’t skate as fast as mcilrath and he’s better on his edges;)

    I always thought Roy was the best big game goalie.

    Gorton gives up 1st round pick, ronning, and vesey for burrows…big traid news 😉


  21. That rangers isles cloutier brawl was one of my faves (along with the rangers isles one that started with barnaby asham I think and then Simon scared the crap out of Hamrlik I believe, the messier verbeek graves line brawl…my fave ranger line ever…against the flyers, and the simon chasing brashear all over the ice and nedved jumping on the pile game)


  22. Don’t know how far we want to got back but Cerny’s list was all time. If you go back all time Gump Worsely has to be on the list. He kept some awful teams in a lot of games. We never appreciated how good he was until he went to other teams (Montreal and Minny?) who played defense. Then he became a HOF goalie.


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