For Rangers' Richter, it's a big turnaround

December 19, 1993|By Gary Miles | Gary Miles,Knight-Ridder Newspapers

New York Rangers goaltender Mike Richter, the same guy who couldn't get his record over .500 last season, is in the middle of a dream season.

He even had his coach, Mike Keenan, comparing him to the late Pelle Lindbergh, one of Keenan's earlier goalie successes.

Richter tied the Rangers club record for an unbeaten streak by a goalie Wednesday when he beat the Hartford Whalers, 5-2, at Madison Square Garden.

Richter, a native of Flourtown, Pa., went from being saddled with a 0-4-0 record at the start of this season to producing a 19-game unbeaten streak.

Going into the Rangers' game against Detroit Friday, Richter was 16-0-3 in his last 19 games and had gotten a tie with Davey Kerr, who was 14-0-5 in one stretch for the Rangers in 1939-40, in the team's record book.

Richter was yanked by Keenan after giving up two quick goals in New York's 6-4 loss Friday, but the Rangers later tied the score, and it was Glenn Healy who got the loss, leaving Richter's streak intact.

No one expected Richter, 19-4-3 overall, to have this kind of season. He was 13-19-3 with a 3.82 goals-against average last season. But Keenan showed confidence in him even when things were rough, and it paid off.

Keenan, known more for yanking goaltenders than coddling them, compared Richter's success after a poor start to that of Lindbergh, who played for him in Philadelphia.

"It reminded me of Pelle Lindberg's situation," Keenan said of Richter's. "[Lindbergh] had lost his confidence to a certain extent the year before, and he was sent to the minors. Once he was told he was the No. 1 goaltender, he ended up with the Vezina Trophy and took our club to the Stanley Cup finals. He never faltered at all."

The best part of all this for Richter and the Rangers is that things might still get even better. Richter is as confident as Keenan.

"I feel my play can improve," he said. "I certainly don't feel as if I've reached my potential at all."

Tired but victorious

Curtis Joseph wouldn't mind playing against the San Jose Sharks every night if only they wouldn't take so many shots.

The goaltender for the St. Louis Blues faced 38 shots Wednesday night and still came away with a 3-1 victory in San Jose.

In nine meetings between the teams since the Sharks joined the NHL last season, the Blues are 9-0-0, and Joseph has been the winning goalie in each of those games.

"Joseph is one of the top five goalies in the league," assistant coach Wayne Thomas of the Sharks said.

The Sharks have outshot the Blues by 76-42 in the teams' first two meetings this season but have managed three goals.

Tough times

The Montreal Canadiens are hanging tough in the Northeast Division of the Eastern Conference, but things are still far from running smoothly.

Before last night's game against Detroit, the Canadiens were winless in their past four games, and coach Jacques Demers was gloating over a 3-3 tie with the expansion Florida Panthers.

"I wasn't happy about the tie against Tampa Bay [a 1-1 tie on Tuesday], but this one I'm happy about," Demers said. "I told the guys before the game, 'Nothing's going to bother us. We're Stanley Cup champs. We know how to win.' "

So far, though, they're having trouble showing it.

Quotable

Anaheim coach Ron Wilson, on the Mighty Ducks' being underdogs: "We enjoy playing where we're laughed at. We want to go out there and prove we're a hockey team and nothing else."

* Detroit coach Scotty Bowman, on Sergei Fedorov, after the center scored two goals and added two assists in Tuesday's 5-2 victory over the Mighty Ducks: "He might be the best player in the NHL right now."

Questions and answers

How bad are the Edmonton Oilers? They won back-to-back games for the first time this season last week.

* Why have the Dallas Stars drawn so well at Reunion Arena in this, their first season in Dallas? They are 11-2 in their past 13 games at home.

* How could the Toronto Maple Leafs possibly lose to the Mighty Ducks on Wednesday? The Leafs were 0-for-9 on the power play.

Learning to win

Center Dave Tippett said any success the Flyers have had this season has come because they are slowly learning what it takes to win.

"There is a real thing about learning how to win," Tippett said. "All the real great teams know how to win.

"The old Islanders teams would be up 3-2 in the third period and the other team would think they were still in it.

"But the Islanders would get a power play -- say, with 15 minutes to go in the game -- and no one would think it was significant. But the Islanders would say, 'If we can get one on this power play, it's our game.' And then they would.

"That was a team that knew how to win."

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