It’s rivalry week at SB Nation. As every fan of the New York Rangers knows, the Blueshirts have no shortage of rivals — although fans can’t seem to come to a consensus about which opposing the team is the most detested.
Over the years, individual players have earned the ire of the Garden Faithful for being exceptionally productive against the Rangers. Those players who shine the brightest while wearing an away jersey at the Garden and/or those who burn the Rangers in the playoffs are especially loathed. In some circles, these players are called ‘Ranger killers’.
A quick glance at the data of the players who have been the most productive against the Blueshirts at MSG offers few surprises. The names at the top of the list should be pretty familiar: Wayne Gretzky (1.96 Pts/GP), Mario Lemieux (1.83), Paul Coffey (1.35), and Mike Bossy (1.20). However, there are some names that stand out from the pack.
Peter Forsberg’s 1.64 Pts/GP in regular season play as a visitor at the Garden is the third-highest in history among players with at least 10 appearances (behind Gretzky and Lemieux). Similarly, former Islanders sniper Ziggy Palffy had a gift for scoring against the Rangers at MSG; he scored 12 goals in 16 regular games at the Garden. What a fantastically-named jerk.
Looking at all of this history got me thinking about active players who have a gift for scorching the Rangers. Here are four players who always seem to bring their best when they play the Blueshirts at the World’s Most Famous Arena and/or in the playoffs.
The Ranger Killers
In regular season play, Crosby has 38 points — 36 of which have been primary — in 34 games at the Garden. The NHL has kept 5v5 scoring data since the 2009-10 season. Crosby’s 3.96 5v5 Pts/60 is the best among all active players. By a lot.
He’s also scored 21 points in 22 playoff games against the Blueshirts and has gone 2-2 in playoff series against the Rangers. In 2016, Crosby’s Penguins defeated the Rangers in five games in the opening round of the playoffs on their way to winning the Cup.
When Crosby isn’t getting sprayed in the face by Henrik Lundqvist’s water bottle or being confronted by Lundqvist for diving, he’s making things happen. His production against the Rangers in the regular season and postseason speaks for itself. It also doesn’t hurt that he’s the captain of a division rival that has won three cups since the 2004-05 lockout.
Evgeni Malkin also deserves mention. His numbers against the Rangers in the regular season are a big step down from Crosby’s, but he has terrorized New York in the playoffs. The same can be said of Kris Letang who has a history of getting in the box score whenever he plays the Rangers.
Okay, I get it. It’s not surprising to see Crosby or Ovechkin make this list. But, like Sid, Ovi has thrived on the Garden ice in the regular season. Also, the playoff battles between him and the Rangers have been absolutely epic.
Ovechkin has averaged 0.68 goals per-game against the Rangers at MSG in the regular season; that’s 21 goals in 31 games. He also leads all active skaters in goals scored against New York in the playoffs with 21 in 31 games. In fact, just shy of one-third (32.3 percent) of Ovi’s playoff goals have been scored against the Rangers. Of course, that is a byproduct of the Rangers and Capitals meeting five times in the playoffs since the 2004-05 lockout. But hey, it’s still decent bar trivia.
Unsurprisingly, Ovi has scored more than twice as many power play goals (10) as any other active visiting player at the Garden. He’s also scored once in overtime and has three game-winners at MSG.
Ovechkin’s production at the Garden has slowed down in recent years, but he gets the nod here because he’s a legend, he plays for (and captains) a division rival, and he has a full catalog of amazing moments against the Rangers in the regular season and the playoffs. Interesting tidbit: Ovi has two regular season fights in his career according to hockeyfights.com; one of them was against Brandon Dubinsky on Dec. 12, 2010.
Chara has scored more points (23) as a visiting player at MSG than any other active defender. Three of Chara’s 23 points at MSG have been game-winning goals. He’s also played more games at MSG (38) than any other active player, which makes sense because he is 4,000 years old. You know Moses’ stone tablets? Chara’s flip flops.
Really, this spot could just as easily go to John Carlson, but Chara’s longevity makes him a compelling pick here. He’s also dropped the gloves against the Rangers five times in his career. It should also be noted that Carlson’s offensive impact against the Rangers in the postseason is dwarfed by Letang.
The rivalry between the Rangers and Bruins isn’t what it used to be — don’t let NBCSN fool you. The Rangers and Bruins haven’t been in the same division since the 1937-38 season. Still, it’s Boston and New York and it’s sports. Also, Chara entered the league with the New York Islanders and was involved in one of the nuttiest line brawls in Rangers history. He gets a ton of bonus points for that — and I didn’t want this to just be a list of Pittsburgh Penguins.
In 11 road starts in the regular season against the Rangers, Anderson has earned three shutouts with a jaw-dropping .950 save percentage. His all-time regular season stats against the Rangers (home and away) are only a little less ridiculous: a .939 save percentage and a record of 13-8-3. What in the hell.
Carey Price, Ben Bishop, and Jimmy Howard have all owned the Rangers in the regular season, but Anderson gets the nod here because, well, he’s Craig Anderson. He has a .913 career save percentage and has never finished higher than fourth place in Vezina voting in a 17-year NHL career.
Anderson had a sub-.900 Sv% against the Rangers in the 2017 playoffs at the age of 35, but posted a .938 Sv% against them in the first round of the 2012 playoffs. His overall playoff stats against the Rangers: a 7-6-0 record and a .920 Sv% while facing an average of 31.50 SA60.
Oh, did I mention his .950 Sv% on MSG ice in the regular season through 669 minutes of hockey? I did, didn’t I? Absolutely nuts.
Honorable Mentions: Evgeni Malkin, Ilya Kovalchuk, Kris Letang, Jordan Eberle, Carey Price
In case it wasn’t abundantly clear by now, my methodology for picking the players highlighted above was all over the map. Identifying the best Ranger-killers — active or not — is entirely subjective. Should Jean-Gabriel Pageau get the nod because he scored six goals in six playoff games against the Blueshirts? That’s up to you. The same goes for how important recency bias is and things of that ilk.
With that being said, who do you think are the biggest Ranger-killers still active in the NHL? Who are the all-time biggest Ranger-killers? Let us know in the comments.