Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Gilroy Moves To Wing In Absence of Callahan, Rangers Choose Flexibility over Callup

The initial response to the loss of Ryan Callahan indefinitely is to move Matt Gilroy from defense up to right wing and go with no spare forwards at the moment.  Gilroy has not played forward for any consistent time in years, so there is certainly some concern over the move and questions as to why there is not a callup for Kolarik, Zuccarello or even leaving Newbury here.  I agree that this seems like an awful time to start experimenting with new positions, but the reason this move might make more sense than a callup is coach John Tortorella has gone with mainly three lines for some time now.  Thinking in those terms one would have to figure Gilroy will be on the fourth line and playing very limited minutes at even strength anyway. 

What putting Gilroy in the lineup does do is give Tortorella flexibility in terms of positioning if a defenseman is struggling on a given night as he could move Gilroy in his spot or rotate defense to lessen the ice load amongst the group.  Gilroy also has the ability to play the point on power play and having him as hybrid forward/defender with limited minutes would allow him to play that role without having to worry about any defensive concerns they have about him.  He has not been great on the point, but he has an upside for that position that could make it an option for the team in the short term.  The move also allows Tortorella the option to double shift Gaborik with Avery and Christensen to help dictate matchups and get Gaborik more ice time.

If the Gilroy experiment isn’t working or the Rangers need more of a spark then the move can always be made later.  In the meantime I would expect the following lines for tomorrow’s practice:


Ryan Callahan Breaks Ankle, Out Indefinitely (w/video)

Injuries are nothing new to the 2010-11 New York Rangers season and it they have suffered another huge one with just days left in the regular season.  According to Bob McKenzie of TSN assistant captain and team leader Ryan Callahan suffered a broken ankle when he blocked a Zdeno Chara slap shot late in the third period of the 5-3 comeback victory on Monday night.

Update: The New York Rangers official twitter confirms the broken ankle for Callahan and has coach John Tortorella saying that the injury is long term with an indefinite return date.

To see Callahan get injured blocking a shot is no surprise as he was out for 19 games earlier this season from a broken hand he suffered blocking a shot against the Penguins.  It is that kind of courage to get in the way of that shot to preserve a one goal lead that makes Ryan Callahan the player he is and while we would all love for him to stay healthy if he did so by stopping playing like that we would not want that.

The Rangers have fought through injuries all season including Callahan’s earlier in the year where they went 10-7-2 without him and now they will have another test these last two games of the regular season and likely the playoffs without a key player in their team.  It will be up to other players to step up as this team has done all year when someone goes down.  The task is not easy, but this team has made no excuses and I do not expect that to start now.  The burden on Gaborik, and Dubinsky has just gone up to some extent, but they win as a unit so everyone has to do their part to replace a heart and soul player like Callahan.

FollowupRangers Way Forward Without Callahan Is As A Unit

Video of the play:

Rangers Resilency, Determination, Sacrifice Should Make All Fans Proud To Cheer

Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
The New York Rangers comeback win against the Boston Bruins is one of those that people will look at as season defining partially because of the time of year it happened and what was on the line at this point in the year.  Hopefully what will not get lost in the shuffle is how last night’s game was a product of the identity and system this team has been built on all season.  One thing you can rarely say with this Rangers team is that they lack effort, heart or fight.  They have their nights where it goes horribly wrong, but those are few and far between.  What you see with a much greater frequency is a team that no matter the situation battles and scraps their way until the final buzzer and more often than not that hard work and sacrificing mentality is rewarded with a result that leaves the players with the sense of accomplishment and satisfaction and the fans with a sense of pride for cheering for this particular group.
Last night against the Bruins was just one of those events.  Early in the game there was frustration and even despair for some at the way the team looked to be outclassed by Boston for the first period.  Having watched this team all year no fan should have given up them at that point because whether they completed the comeback or not you had to expect the effort to get there would be forthcoming and it was.  The resiliency and fight of this team is something that should never be discounted and once Vinny Prospal broke the seal on the scoring for the night you just had this sense they were going to find a way as they have many times before this season.
From Andrew Gross post-game wrap up last night:
“We’ve been this way all year long,” Tortorella said about the resiliency the team showed in coming back from a three-goal deficit. “We haven’t played a lot of bad games. This team has balls. It has had balls all year long.”
This team is certainly one that is certainly greater than the sum of its parts and uses those intangibles to get through the rough moments.  There is no denying they have a world class goaltender in Henrik Lundqvist who should be considered, but likely won’t win the Vezina and they have an All-Star defender in Marc Staal.  Outside of those two, with Gaborik having an off year, the talent level on this team is not nearly as high as just about any other team currently in playoff position.  They have to be a team that grinds you, that plays their system in order to have a chance each night, but it is their heart and determination that carries them more than anything else. 
You watch this team that is built on an identity which at its core is based on the idea of sacrificing for the rest of the guys in the room.  You see in how they forecheck and cycle the puck on offense with the willingness to take the punishment and you see it even more on defense where they constantly hurl themselves in front of shot after shot with no thought for their own health or safety.  The evidence of that is the last 90 seconds last night after the two huge goals to take the lead you have Brian Boyle and Ryan Callahan diving in front of Zdeno Chara bombs to preserve the comeback.  It is that kind of work that allows the comeback to possible at all.
“They are there every night doing that,” goaltender Henrik Lundqvist said. “I think everyone is doing a great job paying the price.  We are going to need it.  We are going to need guys to sacrifice their bodies.  That is the way we play…we play hard.  When we do that we have a much better shot to win.”
There will be ups and downs in a game or in the season as these are still the New York Rangers and they love to make it interesting, but this Rangers team is different than ones from previous seasons as they give you reason to believe and be proud nearly every night.  With the effort that they put in, the heart that they show and the resiliency they continue to reward the fans with there should never be a point where someone quits on this team.