Last season New York Rangers coach John Tortorella and New York Post columnist Larry Brooks had their share of issues, but they have been pretty good with one another this season, until maybe tonight. In discussing the hit by Derek Stepan on Mike Green Tortorella made it clear that he thought it was a clean hit. Brooks continued to press Tortorella on the hit to which he responded, "Larry, you write what you want."
During the presser Torts also praised the play of Michael Sauer, Ryan McDonagh, discussed Erik Christensen, the injury to Ruslan Fedotenko and why the Rangers have been successful against Ovechkin this season.
Friday, February 25, 2011
|Mitchell Layton/NHLI via Getty Images|
The Rangers walked into Washington, D.C. a wounded group without their top offensive player in Marian Gaborik and their top defender in All-Star Marc Staal and for one night at least they did not miss either one. New York would embarrass the Capitals for the second time this season with a 6-0 laugher that should make the Rangers feel good, but hopefully not satisfied as they have to bring this effort again on Sunday against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Having Henrik Lundqvist playing in top form certainly helped the result tonight as his made 35 saves, some of the gorgeous variety, en route to his league leading eighth shutout.
The bigger worry than Gaborik being out as the Rangers have faced that before this season was how they would do without their defensive stud. The loss of Staal meant that Ryan McDonagh would have to take on the challenge of facing Alex Ovehckin, Nicklas Backstrom and Mike Knuble and McDonagh did it beautifully. The reaction of McDonagh to the assignment was the same as it has been to everything in his 22 games as an NHL player, to just play his game and show he has the strength and poise of a ten year veteran.
On the offensive side the night would belong to an unusual suspect in Erik Christensen. There has never been a debate about the talent that Christensen possesses, but that talent is also the source of much frustration in that he fails so often to exercise it. Tonight was one of those nights where he let the talent show as he scored a career high four points including two goals and two assists. If Christensen did this more often, then the Rangers would not need more offense, but since he doesn’t all I could think to myself with each passing point was how it increased his trade value and Glen Sather should sell high.
New York struck first at 5:56 of the first period when Steve Eminger beat Neuvirth from the right point with the help off a Capitals deflection. Earlier in the shift Mike Green cross-checked Derek Stepan behind the net, but no call was made. As play continued the puck went back to the corner where Derek Stepan hit Mike Green in the head and there is going to be controversy here. On the live look it appeared he hit him with his elbow, but I did not see that on the replay. Regardless there is head contact and discussion of whether he will get suspended. Check out the video and discussion here.
The Rangers did not let off the gas this time as late in the first Erik Christensen scored his first goal since returning to the lineup from his injury. The goal itself was really a tap-in for Christensen off a beautiful saucer pass feed from Michael Sauer. The goal was Christensen’s seventh of the season and the beginning of a huge night for the talented but inconsistent forward.
Just like the first period the Rangers struck early and then late. Christensen was the culprit again this time with the early goal in the second period, this time on the power play on a beautiful passing play by the Rangers. Prospal worked the puck along the boards, feed it down low to Callahan at the left side of the net and he threw a behind the back pass to Christensen on the other side to shoot into an open net.
The goal to close the period came from Derek Stepan and gave the Rangers their second on the power play. This play was purely the work of beautiful puck movement and a shot/pass from Del Zotto that missed the net, nothing new there, but this time the bounce came to Stepan and he roofed it on a prone Neuvirth.
Third period thankfully saw more of the same with Vinny Prospal getting in on the act 6:16 in with his third of the season. Like with all Prospal goals the celebration is equivalent to winning the Stanley Cup, but that is the enthusiasm you love about Prospal. Christensen picked up the primary assist on the goal to give him his third point of the game.
The Rangers rubbed some salt in the wound with a goal by Brian Boyle with 33.7 seconds left in the game. The goal was Boyle’s 20th of the season and came off a gorgeous backhand pass from that Christensen fella to give him a career high four point night.
- Stepan was the most visible forward tonight other than Christensen with his willingness to play a physical game. We shall see if he gets disciplined for the play with Mike Green, but he plays better when he is physical.
- Michael Sauer was also phenomenal in this game as he continues to improve on an already stellar season.
- Del Zotto, Eminger and Gilroy were all solid tonight, which might give New York enough confidence to not feel the need to bring in another defender, at least not an expensive one.
- Ruslan Fedotenko would have to leave his first game back from shoulder/appendectomy caused absence with an injury to that same shoulder.
Early in the first period, on a play that would result in the New York Rangers goal, Derek Stepan and Washington’s Mike Green had multiple altercations. Early in the shift Green would cross-check Stepan behind the net, which went uncalled, and then when the puck worked back to the corner Stepan and Green would collide with Green tumbling to the ice after being contacted in the head. So was this a headshot? Will Stepan be subject to suspension?
Here’s the video:
Larry Brooks of the NY Post is reporting that the NHL will review this hit by Stepan and he indicates that he expects a suspension. When I watched the video live I thought it was an elbow to the head, but on the video it does not appear it was the elbow that contacted Green. It does look like Stepan was expected to battle with him and clearly swings out the elbow. I do not know if that will matter because there clearly is direct contact to the head.
The fact that Green was coming off concussion/inner ear trauma the last few weeks and that he did not return to the game certainly works against Stepan here. The NHL might take into consideration the cross-check which could have injured Stepan earlier in the shift, but I would not be surprised if with the heightened caution over concussions to see Brooks be right and Stepan get a punishment.
What do you think?
Full Game Recap
The Rangers received a mixed bag of news this morning in that it is great to have Ruslan Fedotenko back in the lineup tonight against the Capitals, but no offense to Feds every New York Rangers fan would rather have Marc Staal in there. For the first time in 248 games the Rangers will take the ice tonight without #18 Marc Staal in the lineup. Staal, who was supposed to take part in the morning skate to test out his injured left knee was unable to do so, and was ruled out of the lineup. Any game with the loss of Marc Staal is a huge deal for the Rangers’ defense, but against Alex Ovechkin the fear of his absence is only heightened.
The Rangers will be forced to mix up their defense pairings in the absence of Staal and will bring Steve Eminger back into the lineup. Coach John Tortorella has decided to break Ryan McDonagh and Michael Sauer apart and place McDonagh with Dan Girardi to match the Ovechkin line. It is obviously a big challenge for McDonagh, but everything he had done to this point shows that he is up for that task. Sauer will team with Matt Gilroy and those two have worked well together in the past. Being with Sauer should allow Gilroy more freedom to join the rush, pinch and just be more aggressive than he has been since being paired with Del Zotto. Eminger and Del Zotto will make up the final pairing.
With Fedotenko returning the Rangers have placed Kris Newbury on waivers because he hit the magic number to have to clear waivers before being send back to the AHL. With Newbury being so close to the limit it only furthers the questioning of why he was the one called up for Tuesday’s game because while not a great player the Rangers are now left to risk losing him for nothing if another team claims him.
The trade deadline is now just over three days away and the rumormill is on fire with what the New York Rangers might do. Add to that fan desire and panic in overdrive both for what their team might do and what other teams have already done. Out of the woodwork come armchair general managers who all have ideas about what Rangers GM Glen Sather should and will do before Monday's deadline. I am guilty of it myself, at least in telling them what I want them to do, and speculating on what could happen is half the fun of the deadline, but reality is only Sather and his closest people know what is going on inside the room. Only they know who they are talking to about which players and the cost associated with them no matter how much others outside pontificate with their "sources."
Rick Carpiniello over at Rangers Report had it exactly right yesterday when talking about how team Sather is great and playing their cards close to the vest and not having information come out publicly.
Here’s why, and I said this in the comments the other day. When is the last time a Glen Sather trade was leaked before it happened? The Jokinen-Prust deal got out only because it was done when Kotalik caused a delay by trying to invoke his no-trade clause. And even when it got out, nobody—nobody—had Prust in the deal until it was announced.So nobody outside his office knows what Sather is going to do, and if they say they do, they’re full of it.
As I said, the speculation is fun for all of us, but the moment someone claims they have a source on Sather side of the equation is the time where I stop believing what comes next. Whatever is leaked in terms of specific players and/or negotiation is leaked for a reason and it is not to allow anyone meaningful access to the deals in progress. Sather has laid out his general plans for all of us to know, and that he does not plan to pay anything except his price, but the specifics of what players he thinks fits that mold and the cost he is willing to place on them are meant to be kept in the dark.
In some sense it makes me wonder if the Bryan McCabe deal will happen at all. I say that because the idea this deal has been speculated about so wildly at this point in connection with the Rangers. That fact does not fit the Sather model of making a trade under the cover of darkness and only having the public find out once it is done. The possibility for this one to play out differently is there because of the broken jaw McCabe suffered, which supposedly derailed a deal that was about to be made. In the intervening time the media has had a chance to catch up to what would have been a surprise move then, or is all this McCabe chatter a well-designed smoke screen while Sather works behind the scenes on something completely different?
While the rumors fly about names that fans might like and ones that might make fans cringe, Sather will be working behind the scenes on whatever his plan. The reason he has done so well in trades recently is how well he can control the message within his group and keeping the talks quiet helps to control price. Sather could go in any number or combination of directions over these last few days, but what one knows for sure is that he is not going to get caught flat footed, he is not going to panic and he is not going to let anyone know what he is doing. The only time we will be privy to what Sather planned on doing is when it is done. Enjoy the speculation, and we will do our fair share of it, but realize no one really knows anything except those in the room no matter how many times they try to tell you something different.