48° Good Afternoon
48° Good Afternoon

Skating down memory lane to the 1973 Rangers-Bruins playoff series

Rangers goalie Ed Giacomin screams with joy as

Rangers goalie Ed Giacomin screams with joy as he walks to the dressing room after the Rangers defeated the Boston Bruins 6-3 in their quarterfinals round of the Stanley Cup playoffs at Boston Garden. (April 10, 1973) Credit: AP

This is how long it has been since the Rangers and Boston Bruins last tangled in the Stanley Cup playoffs:

Manhattan's Twin Towers officially opened that year.

The Yankees' Ron Blomberg became baseball's first designated hitter that year.

The Watergate scandal came to light that year.

Billie Jean King defeated Bobby Riggs in tennis' Battle of the Sexes that year.

Jason Kidd was born that year.


At the time, the Rangers and Bruins were in the midst of regular, bitter postseason scraps. The Bruins prevailed in the 1970 quarterfinals and again in the 1972 Stanley Cup Finals before the Rangers, clear underdogs in 1973, pulled off a four-games-to-one upset.

That '73 series was so long ago that virtually all NHL players competed without helmets. (The Bruins and Islanders were the last two teams to use all bareheaded players.) It was so long ago that the Islanders had just completed their first season as an expansion team (12 wins in 78 games), and the Bruins were relying on the first NHL goalie to have worn a mask. (Jacques Plante, then 44, had introduced the safety equipment in 1959.)

A pre-series, two-night Rangers training camp and strategy session in Fitchburg, Mass. -- roughly a marathon's distance west of Boston -- was later cited for having tipped the '73 series in the Rangers' favor.

They had figured out how to clamp down on defenseman Bobby Orr's ability to initiate offensive rushes, taking over games the way Wayne Gretzky would do years later. And they had set about matching the Bruins' penchant for rough play, mostly with tough guy Ted Irvine. (Another Rangers "policeman," obtained two years earlier for his willingness to bully the bullies, was a scrappy forward named Glen Sather.)

It helped that Orr, though only 24 at the time, already had undergone three major knee operations and continued to be bothered by knee trouble. It helped that Plante, in his 21st NHL season, at last had lost his Hall of Fame edge. He gave up six goals in the first game of the series, forcing the Bruins to turn to 11-year veteran Eddie Johnston and then 35-year-old rookie Ross Brooks.

It helped that Bruins center Phil Esposito, in the fourth of six consecutive seasons leading the NHL in goals, blew out a knee in the series' second game. When Newsday hockey reporter Tim Moriarty went to Esposito's hospital room before Game 3, Esposito, resigned to the fact that his playoffs were over, was watching the Boston Red Sox, on television, pound the Yankees -- just purchased that year by one George Steinbrenner.

Goalie Ed Giacomin excelled for the Rangers, as did defenseman Brad Park. Vic Hadfield, one season after he had scored 50 goals, was "dizzy and weak" from an apparent concussion and missed the third game, but Bobby Rousseau filled in capably on the top line with Jean Ratelle and Rod Gilbert.

The Rangers got significant production from Walt Tkaczuk, Pete Stemkowski, Steve Vickers and Bill Fairbairn. In the last two games, Giacomin's shutout and 6-3 Rangers' blowout sent three Bruins -- Derek Sanderson, Wayne Cashman and Mike Walton -- stalking into the offseason without having offered the customary post-series handshake.

That brought the Rangers' playoff series record vs. the Bruins to 3-6, dating to the 1927 semifinals -- a two-game, total-goals series in which the Bruins prevailed, 0-0 and 3-1.

Twice the Rangers have followed playoff victories over the Bruins with subsequent Stanley Cup titles -- in 1928 and 1940. Not in 1973, though, the year that the Mets came from 12 games under .500 to the World Series in less than two months.

Maybe "You Gotta Believe" applies now.

New York Sports