On June 7 in NYR history: A Calder Trophy for Brian Leetch

What happened on June 7 in the history of the New York Rangers

On this date in 1989, Brian Leetch was named the winner of the Calder Trophy as top rookie in the NHL.  It was close to a landslide with Leetch getting 286 vote compared to 206 for Vancouver’s Trevor Linden.  Ranger teammate Tony Granato was third with 56 votes.  Leetch got 42 of the 63 first place votes and we will always wonder who the sportswriter was who cast one first place vote for Granato.  Mystifying.

Leetch set an  NHL record with 23 goals, the most ever for a rookie defenseman, while totaling 71 points in 68 games. Those 71 points were second only to Larry Murphy of the Kings who notched 76 points while playing in 12 more games.  Leetch missed two and a half weeks of play after breaking hit foot when hit by a shot.

Leetch was the eighth Ranger to win the Calder Trophy and the first since Steve Vickers in 1973. No Ranger has won the award since then.

Taking control of the Final and “The Save”

On June 7, 1994, you would have had a hard time finding any Ranger fan who was not sure that the Rangers were destined to win the Stanley Cup after they beat Vancouver in Game Four, 4-2, to take a commanding 3-1 lead in the series.  Winning two games on the road and headed back to  Madison Square Garden, a championship was inevitable.

But all of the optimism and joy in Rangertown would have evaporated if Mike Richter had not made the greatest save in team history.  With the Canucks leading 2-1, Brian Leetch had to trip Pavel Bure who was on a breakaway.  Referee Terry Gregson immediately awarded Bure and penalty shot and it was one of the greatest goal scorers in the NHL versus Richter.

Bure made the same move he had against Richter in the All-Star Game, darting left and trying a forehand shot.  Richter made the left to right move and made the pad save.  It held the score at 2-1 and gave the Rangers life.

Sergei Zubov scored a power play goal with 16 seconds left in the second period to tie the score.   Despite two third period Canucks breakaways, the Rangers held firm and took the lead when Alex Kovalev scored a power play goal with just under four minutes left. Three minutes later, Steve Larmer added an insurance goal an the Rangers had the win and the series lead.

A crushing double overtime loss

On this date in 2014, the Rangers lost Game Two of the Stanley Cup Final in double overtime to the Los Angeles Kings on a goal by Dustin Brown.  It was a devastating loss and was controversial due to an uncalled goalie interference penalty.

First, the absolutely crazy facts. Despite being down 0-2 in this series, the Rangers had led every second of the two games.  The Kings never had a lead in either game, winning both in OT.  The Rangers had leads of 2-0, 3-1 and 4-2 and couldn’t hold on for the. This from a team that over five years had taken a lead into the third period 103 times and had lost in regulation only once and in overtime only five times.

The controversy came when Dwight King scored 1:58 into the third period bring the Kings within a goal, 4-3. While King scored on a tip-in, he also prevented Lundqvist for making the save.  Here’s the play.  You decide.

The King goal gave Los Angeles new life and of course, it was Marian Gaborik who tied the game at 7:36 of the third period.

That wasn’t it for controversy. Just before Brown scored the game winner, a Kings defenseman shot the puck over the glass and into the stands, but the linesman ruled it had hit the glass.  Replays showed that it hadn’t, but like the goalie interference call, the play was not reviewable by video and the Rangers lost a power play opportunity.

Needless to say, without any puck luck and trailing 0-2 in the series, the Rangers appeared doomed as they headed back to New York.  The record of teams that swept their first two games at home in the Final was a pretty dominating 32-3.

Today’s birthdays

20 NHL players have been born on June 7 with three former Rangers and one future Ranger sharing that birthday.

Dylan Garand was born on this date in 2002 in Victoria, British Columbia.    The goalie was a fourth round draft pick by the Rangers in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft.  Garand has starred for the Kamloops Blazers in the WHL and due to COVID, he played some games for the Hartford Wolf Pack this season.  Still only 19, Garand will continue his development in junior hockey next season and will hopefully play a big role for Team Canada at the WJC.

Gilles Marotte was a defenseman born on this date in 1945 in Montreal, Quebec.  He played 13 years as a pro in the NHL and WHA and was with the Rangers for three seasons.  Nicknamed “Captain Crunch” for his hitting while with the Bruins and Black Hawks, he didn’t live up to that moniker in New York and Rangers announcer Bill Chadwick actually renamed him “Private Powder Puff.”   The Rangers placed him on waivers in 1976 and he was selected by the St. Louis Blues.

Matt Beleskey was born on this date in 1988 in Windsor, Ontario. He found his way to New York when the Rangers traded Rick Nash to Boston at the trade deadline in 2018.  It was a pure salary cap dump for Boston as they had signed the left winger to a big contract after he had scored 22 goals for Anaheim in 2014-15 and he had been a bust. Beleskey played only five games for the Rangers over two years spending most of the time buried in the AHL.

Leo Reise was born in 1922 in Stoney Creek, Ontario.  He was a defenseman who played two seasons for the Rangers in the 1950s.  He had been a Second Team All-Star while with the Red Wings and was traded to New York in 1952.  His father, also named Leo Reise, had played one season for the Rangers in 1929-30.

The numbers

Playoff games: 2
Wins: 1
Losses: 0
Overtime losses: 1
Winning percentage:  50%