Wednesday, December 15, 2010

After Losing Callahan Christensen and Frolov Spark Huge Comeback Win

The Rangers were coming off their biggest win of the season and getting Chris Drury back, so you just knew something bad had to happen and 4:08 into the first period Ryan Callahan would go down to block a Kris Letang shot on the penalty kill and would catch the shot in the hand, which unfortunately for the Rangers would result in a broken hand for Callahan.  In other years losing Callahan like that would have doomed the team to lay down and take the loss and for a while it looked like that might happen, but then the Rangers swung the tide in the third period and turned it into a laugher. This team keeps showing they are a different group this year and pretty soon people are going to have to believe it.  The question will certainly be asked over the next six weeks if the team can keep it up without one their leaders and the early results are good and so have the results without the other key guys so far his season

After losing Callahan early in the first the Rangers played a relatively even period with the Penguins until the last four minutes when they were absolutely dominated by the Pens not able to get the puck out of their own zone and finally Pittsburgh would cash in at 19:47 of the period when Malkin scored.  On the goal Dan Girardi made a horrible defensive decision being too preoccupied with Crosby who Marc Staal had covered and left the outside lane for Malkin to drive wide and he would beat Lundqvist.

Not much happened in the second period as the Rangers generated absolutely no offense  and they managed to keep the Penguins to the outside and not give them any really good chances.  The Rangers would come early in the third and show more life in their game but get unlucky as Brooks Orpik’s skate would save Johnson from two potential goals for Marian Gaborik.  

Finally after Matt Cooke took a bad penalty on Derek Stepan the Rangers would generate a goal.  The Rangers would take the puck from the defensive zone and Gaborik would play it to Christensen in neutral ice and he would skate in and take a shot from the circle that deflected off Michalek’s stick and over the shoulder of Johnson.  Frankly Johnson just whiffed on the shot, but it was now 1-1 10:10 into the final period.  The Rangers would keep the pressure on as 15 seconds late much-maligned Alex Frolov would take a rebound from the slot and backhand it in to give the Rangers a 2-1 lead.

With the score still 2-1 the Penguins momentarily would appear to tie the game when Evgeni Malkin would shoot and it would deflect off Crosby into the net, but the goal was disallowed for goaltender interference on Pascal Dupuis for not allowing Lundqvist the opportunity to make the save.  To say I was surprised a Penguins goal was taken off the board in Pittsburgh would be an understatement, but to the Rangers credit instead of sitting back on it they attacked.

The Rangers continue the onslaught as Brandon Dubinsky would a neutral zone draw back to Del Zotto who would play it to Rozsival and then it would move on to Anisimov who would take it in neutral ice much like last game and skate it into the offensive zone and rip it by Johnson again high to the glove on another one that Johnson probably should have stopped.  Just like last time the Rangers would keep the immediate pressure up and after a Pittsburgh turnover in neutral ice Marc Staal would feed it to Alex Frolov who would skate in and lay the puck over to Brian Boyle for the fourth goal at 16:29, just 1:34 after Anisimov’s goal.
  • Chris Drury played an excellent first game back.  He needs to take more faceoffs though
  • Alex Frolov played his best period as a Ranger in the third after stinking up the joint for the first two
  • Brian Boyle and his career high 12 goals just continue to get better and better
  • Artem Anisimov is back
  • Marian Gaborik needs to do more than he did tonight especially with Callahan out
  • Marc Staal did an excellent job on Crosby all night taking away his time and space

Ryan Callahan Suffers Broken Hand; Time For Zuccarello Call?

In the first period tonight Ryan Callahan during a penalty kill went down and blocked Kris Letang's shot off his hand immediately you knew it was going to be bad news.  Cally would skate over to the bench and after talking with trainer Jim Ramsay would head to the locker room.  Later in the period Ramsay would come back out of the locker room and Callahan would not which ramped up the fears more.  Finally between periods one and two the Rangers announced via twitter that the hand was in fact broken and that he would be re-evaluated later on.

Obviously it goes without saying this is an awful loss for the Rangers as Cally along with Dubinsky have been the best players for the Rangers this season and Callahan's loss will be felt in all aspects of the game and leadership in the room.  The immediate response was to put Chris Drury in his place with Dubinsky and Anisimov, which can work but the question becomes if this is the time to give Zuccarello the call to see what he can do at the NHL level.  I am very tempted by the idea, but I would wait through the weekend to see how Drury responds before jumping into the move.

What would you do?

Ethan Werek, Scott Stajcer Injury News; Hagelin Update

For those of you who follow the prospects of the New York Rangers you would know that this season has been tough with injuries and that a couple of prospects have been out recently with no reason given as to their absence.  As always in my attempt to follow the prospects I went to The Prospect Park where Jess Rubenstein does a great job keeping all of us informed on the play and in this case injuries of the Rangers prospects in Junior hockey.  In today's update Jess gives us some more background on the Scott Stajcer and Ethan Werek injuries and his take on the Carl Hagelin Story.

Werek who was scratched from last weekends games with an undisclosed injury is now said to be out with a "day to day" undisclosed upper body injury.  As Jess says for many that will be a relief since his prior injuries have all be to the lower body, specifically the knee so the fact that it is not another recurrence of that area is a positive sign, but I too am skeptical of injury reports and will just feel better when 25 is back on the ice for Frontenacs.

The story as described by Jess in relation to Scott Stajcer is bizarre to say the least and both of these scenarios do speak to a larger problem in hockey right now in terms of the top secret nature of injury reporting.  The injury for Stajcer at least at this point seems to be more serious since surgery has now become the course of action and it is also more serious for Stajcer's future with the Rangers since he needed to have a good year to ensure being offered a contract by the Rangers come this summer and now depending on how long his absence that might now happen.  Werek is a safe bet to get a contract either way, but the Rangers certainly want to see him out there playing as much as possible.

In following up on yesterday's Carl Hagelin story in which I pointed out that the report from Windsor did not track or make sense considering what Glen Sather told Pierre LeBrun just a few weeks earlier, Jess is reporting that the Rangers did in fact offer Hagelin a contract last summer, but he went back to Michigan for his senior season, so here is to hoping that since the Rangers do clearly want him that he wants them and signs before he becomes a free agent this summer.

I highly suggest you check out the The Prospect Park every day if you are not already doing so as for me it is the preeminent place to find out about the prospects nightly exploits.

Rangers Final Lineup: White Scratched; Lundqvist Start; Prospal Sent Home

Yesterday coach John Tortorella left the final spot in his lineup open for discussion when he said it would be either Erik Christensen or Todd White who was to be scratched to make room for Chris Drury’s return.  This morning Torts put an end to that speculation by saying it Todd White would be the one who was sitting at watching tonight and Erik Christensen will play with Drury and Sean Avery on the team’s fourth line.  As frustrating as watching Christensen is this is the right move for the club as White has brought little to nothing this year and there is always the chance that Christensen will have his lightning in a bottle moment tonight, especially against a former team.

In other news that should surprise no one it will be Henrik Lundqvist who will go tonight against the Penguins though I am more interested to see tomorrow’s goaltending choice because the Rangers really need to get Martin Biron back in there as tomorrow would be two weeks since he was pulled against the Islanders and if you keep letting him sit you can lose him.

Finally, Vinny Prospal was sent home and away from the team, but not due to any sort of injury, just the flu and they did not want him to put in through the team like it was earlier this season.

Today’s full pregame notes and thoughts can be found here:

Artem Anisimov: Finding His Game Just In Time

Jim McIssac/Getty
The New York Rangers have had a few different scenarios play out with some of their young players this season in terms of handling their struggles on one side of the ice and how the team has eventually had to try and spur them into getting their game back.  The most recent young player to lose his game for a stretch was Artem Anisimov and the question started to come to me as to whether Anisimov was going to go the Derek Stepan route of working through it and coming out the other side while staying in the lineup or if he had to get the recently enacted Michael Del Zotto treatment of sitting for a game to do some watching.  Add into the mix the impending return of the Rangers captain Chris Drury whom coach Tortorella said in the offseason he wanted to give him more offensive opportunities and Anisimov’s near term fate was up in the air.  Luckily for Anisimov he pulled the rip cord on his parachute in the nick of time and is now back to heading in the right direction.

Coming into camp it was unclear what exactly the role for Anisimov would be, but injuries during camp to Chris Drury and Vinny Prospal gave Anisimov a chance to prove he was worthy of and capable of handling a top six forward role this season.  Anisimov began the year with Brandon Dubinsky and Ryan Callahan on his wings and the line clicked beautifully to start the season being the team’s best line from the first game of the season, and then Marian Gaborik and Chris Drury both got hurt in the home opener leaving many to wonder who was going to provide the Rangers offense.  The responsibility would fall to Dubinsky, Anisimov and Callahan to become the teams number one line and luckily for the Rangers all three took the challenge on and thrived in with the increased responsibility.

For his part Anisimov would register 14 points in the Rangers first seven games evenly split between goals and assists.  In just about every game Anisimov was a force on both ends using his improved speed and strength to be more involved in all aspects of the game and it appeared as if the Rangers had found a top flight center they had been searching for over the last number of years.  Then approximately a month ago, just a few games after the return of Marian Gaborik to the lineup the line of Dubinsky-Anisimov –Callahan was creating less offensively and as the coach put it, had gotten stale. 

Once that happened Torts started moving pieces around between games, during games and the guy at least of that line that was moved the most was Anisimov as if he was the cause of the struggles.  There is no denying that his game had slipped but so had the games of Dubinsky and Callahan but in wanting to keep those two together Anisimov was moved around the lineup spending various games or parts of games on the fourth line.  Anisimov handled the moves by the coach in a tremendous way never saying anything out of turn and when asked about it taking the blame on himself and saying he needed to be better, which is a great sign for a young player.

With the impending return of Chris Drury and understanding to some extent the natural inclinations of Tortorella’s line moves I began to see a scenario being put in place that Drury would be slotted into that second line center position with Dubinsky and Callahan as his wingers.  This was shown last week in fact during practice when Drury was taking shifts with the wingers along with Anisimov following the latest round of lineup changes.  The combination of these facts and the enacting of the Del Zotto respite had me wondering how long before they attempted the same on Anisimov. 

Against Ottawa Anisimov played a pretty good first two periods, but was again relegated down during the third so the suspicions about him maybe getting a Del Zotto were growing, but then came the Columbus game.  In the game Anisimov was as active and involved in the offensive zone as he had been three weeks to a month and while he had no points to show for it the line of Dubinsky-Anisimov-Callahan created more chances then they had maybe since Gaborik had been back.

On Sunday against the Capitals I was watching Anisimov very intently to see if the play in the Columbus game was a fluke or the beginning of him getting his game back to full steam and he went out and showed that he was back in form not just because he scored the goal and had an assist in the game but because of his activity level in the offensive zone.  The interesting thing for Anisimov similar to the case of Derek Stepan earlier this year was that even when the offense was not there, the defensive side of the game never wavered for either which is tremendous thing to see in young players.  I believe that Anisimov is on the Stepan like path of having found his game and will keep it there and for his sake he better because the leash now that Drury is back in the lineup will be short, but at least momentarily the recent resurgence of AA’s game has Drury the one who will start tonight relegated to the fourth line.  Where they will end this game no one can say for sure, but one can say for certain that even in his struggles Anisimov has shown through the rest of his game and his professionalism that the belief he can be a top center of the future is fitting for this young player.  

Personally I cannot wait for him to get hot and show his skills just so all those who were so willing to toss him overboard during the struggles will then claim they knew he had it in him all along, and they will; see Dubinsky, Brandon.

Video: Colton Orr Pummels Zack Stortini

If anyone wondered why fans in New York still miss Colton Orr since he signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs tonight would be a great example of the reason.  Orr is not the most skilled hockey player, though he is not paid to be.  He is not even the best fighter but what Colton Orr is first and foremost is an excellent teammate and tonight when Zack Stortini of the Edmonton Oilers took a two minute penalty for kneeing Mikhail Grabovski early in the second period you knew it would not go unanswered with Colton Orr in the lineup.  The answer would come 12:19 into the second period as Orr after talking with Stortini and MacIntyre before the faceoff would eventually drop them with Stortini and by the time it was over Stortini looked like a version of Catcus Jack with the blood on his face and the smile to boot.  There is still a role for "goons" or "enforcers" in this game but it only works if they are willing to take on the role of protecting there teammates and sadly some of them just are not.  New York misses you Colton if only the two guys signed to replace you understood the role the way you do.

BTW the commentary on the fight is great as well between the boxing and MMA references.