Saturday, April 2, 2011

Now Is Where Rangers Need Ryan Callahan To Rise As Their Leader

Justin K. Aller/Getty Images
Since coming into the NHL Ryan Callahan has been a heart and soul player for the New York Rangers who works tirelessly, takes hits in order to make a play gives hits to prevent them, and sacrifices his body constantly in order to aid his team each night.  If Callahan never became more than what he was entering this season he would be a valuable player for any of the 30 NHL teams because of what he brought to an organization both on and off the ice.  But that is not all Callahan is this year.  He has raised his game to an entirely new level and has been leading the charge to the playoffs for the Blueshirts both with his leadership and overall play from before, but also with a dramatically increased scoring output.  Now the Rangers need him to see an even greater level in the final four games of the regular season.

Callahan has been the definition of the Rangers identity and his self-sacrifice and lead by example mentality is why he will be the next captain of this proud original six franchise.  Right now is the moment where that leadership will be tested the most as the Blueshirts have lost two straight and the fears about their standing in the playoffs is in question with just four games to go.  In those last two games the team has struggled to find the energy and desire necessary for this time of the year one of the most surprising things has been how much that has applied to Callahan himself.  I expect him to come out leading the charge on Sunday as he and the team look to regroup from this bump in the road on their way to securing a playoff birth over the final stretch of the season.

The now 26-year-old Ryan Callahan is having a career year in all offensive categories despite missing 19 games earlier in the year with a broken hand that he, not surprisingly, sustained blocking a shot.  On the year he has 23 goals and 24 assists in just 58 games, but in this last five game stretch where the team has scored only five goals he has only accounted for one point.  He has transformed from a guy where the offense he provided was seen more as a bonus and secondary thing to one that the team relies on if they are going to produce, so they need him to score.  As true as that is, the team needs him to give that energy and effort he was famous for even before the year began.  If Callahan gets back to playing his game, tough, physical, grinding style, then the goals will come again and when the Rangers start to score they have a tendency to loosen up and watch the floodgates open up.

In the Rangers last meeting with Philadelphia it was Callahan who set the tone early and often with four goals and an assist in the 7-0 rout on March 6.  The Rangers do not need him to have that kind of career game against Philly on Sunday, but they do need him to combine his skill and leadership to bring this team to where it needs to be both on and off the ice.