With Bathgate and Howell still in their prime, a Rangers Renaissance took hold in the 1960s under the leadership of Coach and General Manager Emile Francis. Beginning in the last Original Six season of 1966-67, the club made the playoffs nine consecutive seasons and was the only NHL team of the period to do so.
Led by Rod Gilbert, who eclipsed Bathgate's club scoring records, and linemates Jean Ratelle and Vic Hadfield, the Rangers became a perennial NHL powerhouse for the first time since World War II had begun. It also didn't hurt t o have Hall of Fame goaltender Ed Giacomin and defenseman Brad Park in the ranks.
When the GAG (Goal-a-Game) line of Ratelle, Gilbert and Hadfield didn't deliver, Giacomin or Park did.
The apex of that dominating stretch came in 1971-72, when the Rangers finished 48-17-13 and eventually lost a tough six-game Stanley Cup Finals to Bobby Orr and the Boston Bruins. During that year, Hadfield became the first Rangers player to score 50 goals in a season. At the end of the season, the Rangers learned they would not be New York's only hockey team any longer, as the NHL announced the formation of the Islanders, who would quickly emerge as the Blueshirts' most bitter local rival.
Following a two-year absence from post-season play in the mid-1970s, another Cup Finals team emerged in short order.
After the hiring of Fred Shero as head coach and general manager in 1978, the Rangers quickly signed Swedish superstars Ulf Nilsson and Anders Hedberg, who had dominated the old WHA. Hedberg and Nilsson were joined by future Hall of Famer Phil Esposito and a cast of young, hungry up-and-comers that included Ron Greschner, Dave and Don Maloney, Don Murdoch, Ron Duguay and Mike McEwen. These players rode a tremendous goaltending performance from veteran NHLer John Davidson all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals in 1979, defeating a heavily-favored Islanders team in the semifinals before bowing to the Montreal Canadiens in a five-game final.
The trip to the 1979 Finals was the second of nine straight Rangers playoff appearances stretching from 1978 to 1987. During this time, the team added many colorful characters and fan favorites, including defensemen Barry Beck and Reijo Ruotsalainen and forwards Mike Rogers, Mark Pavelich, Pierre Larouche and Jan Erixon. Toward the end of this era, the Blueshirts also made a fateful draft pick, selecting defenseman Brian Leetch No. 9 overall in 1986.
It was not, however, until 1989 that the Rangers truly took their first step down the road to a long-awaited Stanley Cup championship in 1994. The Rangers' biggest moves came in 1991, when they signed free-agent forward Adam Graves and then acquired future Hall of Famer Mark Messier from Edmonton. Messier proved his worth immediately, leading the club to the top of the league and winning the Hart Trophy for 1991-92. The Rangers' season ended abruptly when they lost a disappointing playoff series to Pittsburgh.