This question is not as easy to answer as one might think, because names like Giacomin and Richter are not ones that Ranger fans take lightly. Giacomin was a great goaltender for the Rangers during 54-year period when they just couldn’t seem to win the Stanley Cup. He was an All-Star in 1967 while he was with the Rangers, shared a Vezina Trophy with Gilles Villemure in 1971 and his number 1 now hangs in the rafters of the illustrious Madison Square Garden due to the 11 years of spectacular play that he gave the team. He is also in the NHL Hall of Fame.
And who can call themselves Ranger fans without knowing Mike Ricther, who started between the pipes with the Rangers from 1990 to 2003. He was the goalie that broke the Rangers’ 54-year Stanley Cup drought in 1994. He was also elected to three All-Star teams, won a silver medal at the 2002 Olympics with the United States and was enshrined into the U.S Hockey Hall of Fame. His number 35, like Giacomin’s, hangs in Madison Square Garden, never to be worn by another Rangers player.
So does Lundqvist, a 2012 Vezina Trophy winner, three-time All-Star and now shutout and win leader in Rangers history, earn the title of greatest goaltender in the history of the New York Rangers? I think he has. Giacomin had players like Jean Ratelle, Rod Gilbert, Brad Park and Vic Hadfield – all great goal scorers – to help him out on his off days. Lundqvist has rarely had that in his career with the Rangers. New York has lacked the ability to score for years now, and Lundqvist has had to stand on his head constantly with little offensive help and has still managed 30-plus wins a season in his first five years in the league, the only goaltender in history to do so.
The one thing Richter has that Lundqvist doesn’t is a Stanley Cup, but even that is not enough to put him ahead of Lundqvist. Aside from that spectacular Cup season, where he had 42 wins, Richter surpassed the 30 win mark only once more, in 1996, and had a goals against average that hovered around 2.90 and a save percentage of .904 on his career. Lundqvist, although he has not won a Cup yet, has consistently won 30 or more games each year in the league, aside from last year’s lockout shortened season, where he had 24 wins in 43 games, and has a 2.25 GAA and a .920 save percentage in his career.
Giacomin and Richter are Rangers greats. There is no denying that, and being in the same sentence as them should be an honor for Lundqvist. But the King has done more than just earn the right to be in the same sentence as them; he has earned the right to be considered the greatest Rangers goaltender of all time. While Lundqvist has had a great defense around him throughout his entire career, he has been a top tier goaltender in the league year in and year out despite not having much scoring help. Winning a Stanley Cup would without question put Lundqvist as the greatest goalie in New York Ranger history, but with his body of work thus far I feel he has already proven himself worthy of that title. And I wouldn’t be surprised to see number 30 up in the rafters with Richter and Giacomin when Lundqvist retires.
Anthony Pucik is Assistant Sports Editor at The Fordham Ram.