Friday, December 17, 2010

Pregame: New York Rangers at Philadelphia Flyers

The New York Rangers will be looking for their fourth straight victory, all over plus .500 clubs, when they travel to Philadelphia Saturday afternoon to take on the rival Flyers.  On the back of this current three game winning streak the Rangers now sit at 20-13-1 overall (5th in the Eastern Conference) while the Flyers come having won four straight and an posting an NHL best 21-7-5 mark, so this should be a great matchup.  In addition to the overall records making it intriguing the home and road marks of the respective clubs only adds to the intrigue as the Rangers are a league high of 12 road wins and 12-5 on the road overall while the Flyers have been a very good 11-5-2 at home.  This will be the second match up of the season with the Flyers having one the first 4-1 also in Philly.  Both teams will be without key players in the game as the Rangers just lost Ryan Callahan for 6-8 weeks with a broken left hand and the Flyers are without Chris Pronger who just underwent foot surgery and will be out 4-6 weeks.

New York Rangers (20-13-1) at Philadelphia Flyers (21-7-5)

Key Opposing Player: Claude Giroux (16-14-30)


Del Zotto-Rozsival


Scratches: Callahan (hand), Gilroy (healthy), White (healthy)

The Rangers will be looking to once again show this team is different and legit as a playoff and contending team as they have in their few outings.  Things are not always pretty in how the Rangers go about their business but there is a fight and determination in this club that has not been there in prior seasons.  For the Rangers to have a chance against a very good Flyers team their offensive superstar is going to have to perform and even in a three game winning streak that has not really happened.  Marian Gaborik other than a very good third period on Thursday has not been much of a factor in the last few games for the Rangers and they need that to change not only in this game, but long term, especially in the absence of Ryan Callahan.

If the Rangers defensive stalwarts Marc Staal and Dan Girardi have not been tested enough in the last week by Nash, Ovechkin and Crosby tomorrow they get an emerging star in Claude Giroux and a very balanced and deep Flyers attack which possesses five players with at least 10 goals and ten players with at least 15 points on the season.  I would expect Staal and Girardi to be together against the Giroux-Briere combination but that will not be enough as the Flyers do a very good job of moving Giroux around and the other weapons they possess in Richards, Carter, Leino, Hartnell all have the ability to kill the opposition.  With that the Rangers will have to play a very sound team game and get good performances out of all of their defenders.

In looking at the Flyers you have to account for all the forwards I mentioned and even without Chris Pronger there are plenty of defenders more than capable of getting the job done.  The fact is the Flyers have arguably the best defense 1-6 in the NHL and while the loss of Pronger is still big there is not team better equipped to handle it than Philadelphia.  Kimmo Timmonen and Matt Carle do not get the respect in the media they deserve and Andrej Meszaros has a huge bounce back start to the season leading the NHL in plus minus while playing a solid physical game.  Sean O’Donnell is the protypical third pair defender who never hurts his team in his own end, so the Rangers offense will have its work cut  out even with no Pronger, though none of those guys can match all that Pronger brings.

In the net the matchup is likely to be Henrik Lundqvist vs Sergei Bobrovsky.  Henrik Lundqvist will be back after sitting out Thursday against the Coyotes and he will look to keep up excellent work this month where he has compiled a 1.71 GAA and .932 save percentage in route to a 5-2 personal record.  Bobrovsky has been stellar in his rookie season with a staggering 15-4-2 overall record, 2.32 goals against average and .923 save percentage making Philly believe they have finally solved their goaltending search after countless tries.

Key to the game: The first period.  The Flyers have scored 32 goals in the first which ranks them tied for second in the league while the Rangers only have 23 which is tied for 18th on the offensive side.  Defensively the Rangers have only given up 17 first period goals which is the stingiest in the league Flyers have surrendered 24 which is tied for 14th best in the league.  If the Rangers can keep it tight early they will build on their ever growing confidence that they can compete with anyone in the league.

Prediction: Rangers 3-2 (Dubinsky, Drury, Gaborik)

Whale Win Fifth Straight On Backs Of Tim Kennedy, Dale Weise, Kris Newbury

For the Connecticut Whale everything seems to be going right these days.  With last night’s win they now have pulled off five in a row and are a staggering 7-0-0-1 since the name change almost three weeks ago now.  The first period was a goaltending duel between Cam Talbot of the Whale and Brian Stewart of the Phantoms in which both would turn aside all eight shots they would face.  If the fans thought the entire game was going to go that way after one then they were either sorely disappointed or elated at the offensive explosion that was the last forty minutes.

The offense would kick into gear five minutes into the second period when while on a five-on-three  power play with the help of Time Kennedy and Jeremy Williams it would be Kris Newbury scoring on the rebound at 5:04. 

The Whale would keep the pressure up looking for that all important second goal, but Brian Stewart was up to the task for a while until while once again on the power play it would be New York’s favorite son, Wade Redden scoring from the point with the helpers coming from Newbury and Dale Weise at 13:13.  As has been the trend in this hot streak the Whale would once again score in bunches as just 11 seconds after Redden made it 2-0 Whale, Tim Kennedy would score to put the Whale up commandingly at 3-0 just past the midway point of the second. 

The play saw Kennedy steal the puck on the ensuing faceoff and drive in for the goal which was his first since November 20th.  Kennedy who has been in the rumor mill a lot the past week for the conflicting reports on whether he can get out of Connecticut and look for another NHL team that will bring him back up would have his best scoring game in over a month with his 1 goal and 2 assists to bring his season totals up to 4 goals and 14 assists in 24 games.

With the Whale seemingly in control the afore mentioned Syvret would inject life back into the struggling Phantom’s when he would score at 14:35 of the period on a one-time shot from the circle.  The Whale would take momentum back before the end of the period when off an Evgeny Grachev rush in the final minute would lead to a Kelly Tessier one timer that made it 4-1 with just 42.7 seconds left in the middle frame.  The goal was big for momentum and gave the Whale a seemingly commanding hold on the game at 4-1 after two.

I say seemingly commanding because after the Phantoms would fend off a few prime chances from Chad Kolarik and Niemi they would get it to within two on a Denis Hamel goal just over 4 minutes into the period after a turnover by Ryan McDonagh.

The Whale like their affiliate New York Rangers would answer quickly as just one minute later Kennedy would set up Dale Weise on the power play for a shot from the slot and he would not miss.  The goal for Weise was his third in two games and his fifth point in the last three giving him a total of 11 points in 12 games this season.  For me he is likely the call-up from the Whale in the absence of Callahan.

The Whale thanks to some bad penalties in the third would fail to put away the Phantoms as they would give up power play goals to Erik Gustafsson and Ben Holmstrom to allow them back to within just one for the final 3:15 of the game.  Finally Mats Zuccarello would put the final nail in the game scoring an empty-netter with just 26 seconds remaining in the game.  For Zuccarello the goal extended his point streak to four games, giving him seven points (4G, 3A) in the four games and improved his season number to 13 goals and 10 assists in 30 games.

Overall not the prettiest game, but the win streak stays alive and the most likely of the call-ups in the wake of Ryan Callahan’s injury both got on the score-sheet.

Update: This originally was to go up Thursday so I have not yet lost my sense of days.  Also since I originally wrote this the Rangers said there would be no call-ups and then today Dale Weise was called up

Rangers Recall Dale Weise

In a move that I expected to be the first the Rangers made, but did not expect after the comments by coach John Tortorella the New York Rangers have recalled Dale Weise from the Connecticut Whale for tomorrow's game against the Philadelphia Flyers.  Weise, 22, has 6 goals and 5 assists in 12 games this season and should be a great fit for a third or fourth line role.

From the Rangers twitter feed
Torts on Weise: "We're looking for some jam on that 4th line...I like him & thought he had good that role, it's an easier call up"

A game against the Flyers is the type of game that is perfect for Weise who is talented, but also has a feisty side to his game.  Look for him to be on the fourth line with Todd White going back to the press box.  Another aspect of the reason for making the move after saying there was no one in Connecticut that was ready is because Brandon Prust's shoulder is still barking and maybe this helps Prust avoid having to drop the gloves since he is really the only fighter in the lineup.  Weise is not a great fighter, but not afraid to drop them when the moment arises, especially to protect a teammate.

Brandon Prust: The Guts Which Make Up The Core Of The New York Rangers

The New York Rangers like all teams are a complex combination of things that make them who they are. The Rangers have the heart and soul guys like Callahan, the skill guys like Gaborik and Lundqvist and guys like Dubinsky who fits part way in both, but what gets overlooked when discussing the Rangers is Brandon Prust who is the guts that holds this team together.  Yesterday in discussing the loss of Callahan I talked about how he brings things that the boxscore cannot replace and that was evident at times during last night’s game.  What was also evident in last night’s game is that the Rangers have another guy with many similar qualities to Cally.  One of the biggest differences in this team this year is how they stick up for one another.  With all due respect Cally, and I gave plenty yesterday, he is not the guy that leads that particular charge, Brandon Prust is.

Video: Tortorella Press Conference - "Prust Is Part of Our Core"

This press conference for Torts sets up tomorrow's story on Prust perfectly so thanks coach.