Sports

50 wins for the first time

Mark Messierof the New York Rangers, (Photo by Steve Crandall/Getty Images)

What happened on April 16 in the history of the New York Rangers

On this date in 1992, the New York Rangers won their 50th game of the season, the first time that the team had ever reached that milestone. They did it by beating the Pittsburgh Penguins 7-1 at Madison Square Garden in a game that saw Mike Gartner reach the 40 goal mark and Darren Turcotte and Sergei Nemchinov get their 30th goals.

Their Presidents’ Trophy season success didn’t translate to the playoffs as they lost in the Division Finals to the Penguins in six games.

50 wins became a realistic target when the league expanded the season to 78 games in 1970-71 and it took the Rangers 21 years to accomplish it. The Rangers were the third Original Six team to reach 50 wins after Montreal in 1971-72 and Boston in 1972-73. Detroit hit the mark in 2001 and Chicago in 2009. The Toronto Maple Leafs have never won 50 games in a season.

The 1971-72 Rangers had come closest, winning 49 games. Three other Ranger teams have topped the 50 win mark with the most in a season by the 2014-15 Presidents’ Trophy winning team that won a franchise record 53 games.

Of course, this is a mark that the Rangers hope to reach this season, with 48 wins going into their matinee meeting with the Detroit Red Wings.

A milestone season for Gartner

Mike Gartner is often overlooked when discussing great players from the long history of the New York Rangers. Though he came to New York late in his career, he was still a prolific scorer and he was a team leader and his character was impeccable.

On this date in 1992, Mike Gartner got the 500th assist of his career. In doing so, he became the first NHL player to score his 500th goal, get his 500th assist, get his 1,000th point and play in his 1,000th game all in the same season.

The assist came in a 7-1 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins at Madison Square Garden. Gartner scored a goal and had two assists.

The 1991-92 Rangers team was destined to win the Stanley Cup. They won the Presidents’ Trophy, Mark Messier won the Hart Trophy and Brian Leetch was the Norris Trophy winner. It all went south in the playoffs when an inadvertent Adam Graves slash broke Mario Lemieux’s wrist, but that is a story for another day.

For the 32 year old Gartner, it was his second straight 40 goal season and would top that mark again one year later. Consider this. The Rangers have topped the 40 goal mark only 24 times. Gartner is the only player to do it three times. In fact, Jean Ratelle and Marian Gaborik are the only Rangers besides Gartner do to it more than once.

One of the great tragedies of the 1994 Stanley Cup Championship was that the Rangers traded Gartner to Toronto for Glenn Anderson because Mike Keenan was convinced that Gartner was not a playoff performer.

Ironically, in 1994, Gartner scored five goals and had 11 points in 18 playoff games for Toronto. Anderson had three goals and six points in 23 playoff games for the Rangers. Would the Rangers have won the Cup with Gartner instead of Anderson? Only the hockey gods know.

Today’s birthdays

24 NHL players have been born on April 16, but only one wore a Rangers uniform.

Harry York was born on this date in 1974 in Ponoka, Alberta. York was a center signed by the St. Louis Blues as an undrafted free agent. He was traded to the Rangers for Mike Eastwood and played only seven games in New York over two seasons before being swapped to Pittsburgh. He was scoreless in his seven games with the Rangers.

Harry York, Mike York and Dan Newman are the only players to be named partially after the city they played in. Purists will argue that Igor Shestyorkin should be included. The Rangers actually drafted a player named Joe Ranger in 1986, but he never signed with the team.

the numbers

Only six wins in 15 playoff games on April 16.

Playoff games: 15
Wins: 5
Losses: 7
Overtime wins: 1
Overtime losses: 2
Winning percentage: 40%

Regular season games: 4
Regulation wins: 2
Regulation losses: 2
Point percentage: .500

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