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SportsColumnistsColin Stephenson

Former Newsday beat writer Steve Zipay writes book on Rangers' history

Rangers captain Mark Messier hoists the Stanley Cup

Rangers captain Mark Messier hoists the Stanley Cup over his head to celebrate his team's win over the Canucks on June 14, 1994. Credit: Newsday/Paul J. Bereswill

Former Newsday Rangers beat writer Steve Zipay has written a new book on the Rangers titled “The Big 50: The Men and Moments that Made the New York Rangers.’’

The book is a collection of the 50 most significant players and moments in the franchise’s 94-year history, as rated by Zipay. It tells well-researched and fascinating stories from the franchise’s entire history, including features on most of the key players from the 1994 Stanley Cup championship team. It also highlights players and key figures from all eras of the franchise, including the 1930s and 1940s, the Emile Francis years and the post-’94 years, starring Henrik Lundqvist.

“There’s been tons of stuff written on the Rangers over the years,’’ Zipay said over lunch a few weeks ago. “A lot of it stops at ’94. It was a momentous occasion, so you have to include that. That is one of the greatest moments in the franchise’s 90-something-year history, right? But what I told the publisher, and we agreed, is that the Rangers had a great run starting from 2005. And there were moments and players that were just as significant.’’

The book has a foreword by former Ranger Pete Stemkowski, and each player, or moment, gets his/its own chapter (Stemkowski gets his own, in addition to the foreword). Mark Messier, who helped deliver the ’94 title that ended a 54-year drought, gets the first chapter, and Brian Leetch — who wore jersey No. 2 — gets chapter No. 2.

But it’s not just about Cup winners. There’s a lot written about Francis, the general manager who built the late 1960s Rangers that were so good and came so close, and the stars of those teams: Rod Gilbert, Jean Ratelle, Vic Hadfield and Eddie Giacomin.

And there’s a chapter on Frank Boucher, the Hall of Famer who played on the 1928 and 1933 Stanley Cup champions and then coached the 1940 team to the championship.

The book is published by Triumph Books and is 288 pages. It’s a quick read, with each chapter being three to five pages long. It’s easy to read for a while, put down for a while and then pick up again and learn about another era.

“It’s not like a social media thing, where you pick the 10 greatest left wings,’’ Zipay said. “These are more about moments. And again, it’s essays of what I saw, and that decade — or more than a decade — when they were in the playoffs, 11 out of the 12 years [from 2006 to 2017]; the one run to the Cup Finals [in 2014], the one run to just missing [in 2015].

“They were great moments and great characters. There’s [Mats] Zuccarello; there’s [Jaromir] Jagr. There is Lundqvist, of course. So I have about 25% of the essays are about that era from 2005 to the current day, because they were great, you know?’’

The book is available at all major bookstores in the tri-state area and is available online through amazon.com and triumphbooks.com.

Offensive defense

The Rangers have been wildly up and down this season, which is to be expected with a team as young as they are. And mostly, when they are bad, it is their inadequate defense that bothers coach David Quinn the most. He’s complained about his team’s lack of commitment to playing defense on more than one occasion this season, as he did after Thursday’s 3-2 win over the Blue Jackets in Columbus, Ohio. The Rangers were outshot 47-19 and managed to win because goaltender Alexandar Georgiev was positively heroic.

“We just were not committed to playing defense and we were not committed to supporting each other coming out of our end,’’ Quinn said that night.

But if the effort in his team’s own zone has been inconsistent, one thing that has been consistent is that the Rangers keep getting offense from their defensemen. When Jacob Trouba scored on the power play Thursday, it was his fourth goal of the season and the 24th goal scored by a defenseman in 27 games. That led the league entering Friday night’s play.

The total includes two goals scored by Brendan Smith, who plays forward at even strength and defense on the penalty kill, but even subtracting the goal Smith scored while playing forward, the Rangers still would have the most goals (23) by defensemen in the league.

Tony DeAngelo led the blueliners with seven goals entering Friday’s game against Montreal, followed by Adam Fox, the rookie from Jericho, who had five. Trouba and his current partner on defense, Brady Skjei, each had four.

Among the eight defensemen on the roster (including Smith), only rookie Libor Hajek has failed to score a goal this season. Even defense-first veteran Marc Staal and rookie Ryan Lindgren have scored. Staal, in fact, scored the first goal of the season.

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