Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Shorthanded Penguins Top Healing Rangers 4-3 in Costly Loss For Blueshirts

The New York Rangers were riding high coming into Tuesday’s game against the Penguins based on all the positive health news and returns of Ryan Callahan, Brandon Dubinsky and Dan Girardi to the lineup.  Combine that with the Penguins being without Crosby, Malkin and Letestu and the Rangers should have walked out of MSG with two points tonight.  Instead, they would have to settle for one as they would fall in a seven round shootout with Dustin Jeffrey getting the winner and Marian Gaborik being stopped to end the game.

The Rangers scored early on a goal from Brandon Prust, but they did not play a very good first period in total.  You could tell John Tortorella was not happy from his in-game interview on VS during the action in the first.  The team came out much better early in the second period.  They started with multiple shifts of strong forechecking play and were back to playing Rangers hockey.  

The Rangers hard work would be rewarded as Artem Anisimov would score a beautiful goal 1:41 into the period.  The play started with Marian Gaborik entering the zone and firing a wrist shot that popped in the air.  Brandon Dubinsky would hit the puck out of mid-air and it would unintentionally direct into Artem Anisimov’s path where he would take it from mid-air and put it in the net.  Who says there are still a few weeks left until Spring Training?
Following the 2-0 lead Brandon Prust would drop the gloves with Derek Engelland in a fight that just was not a good idea at the time.  The Rangers had the momentum in the game and there was no reason for it.  I certainly understand Prust not backing down from any challenges, but there was little to be gained from the fight.  The reason for the fight was both at the opening faceoff of the game and the second period Prust and Matt Cooke were jawing at one another.  To start the second it looked like Cooke was actually going to drop them and fight Prust, but it never happened.  The next shift for Prust was when Engelland came to Cooke’s “defense” and challenged Prust.
As I said, following the fight, the Rangers went flat.  Kris Newbury took a penalty that was not a smart move elbowing Fleury outside the top of the crease and the Rangers would pay 10 seconds into the penalty when Dustin Jeffrey fired a shot that deflected off Dan Girardi and then took a wicked bounce off the ice and beat Lundqvist at 5:30 to cut the lead to 2-1 New York.
Just past the mid-way point of the period Henrik Lundqvist would give up a juicy rebound from a Max Talbot shot and Michael Del Zotto would fail to check Mike Rupp’s stick, which would combine to allow Rupp to convert an easy rebound goal to tie the game 2-2.  The Penguins would take the lead later in the second when Chris Kunitz would deflect a Michalek shot this time to beat Lundqvist at 14:12.
After the Penguins took the lead the fireworks really got going.  During a scrum in front of the Rangers bench Brandon Prust delivered a clean hit on Tyler Kennedy.  Jordan Staal came over, as he should, and gave Prust a clean hit back, but then Staal went to the next level.  Staal tagged Prust with left hook to the jaw, dropping Prust to the ice.  For the play Staal was assessed a match penalty, which meant the Rangers got a five minute major power play and Staal was ejected from the game.  In watching it I thought that Prust embellished it to an extent, but that did not change the fact it was a sucker punch.  After the game, Prust said that Staal caught him on the “sweet spot.”
After screwing up the power play for the majority of the five minutes, the Rangers would tie the game when a Michael Del Zotto shot would get deflected by Ryan Callahan.
The Rangers would dominate the third, but could not solve Fleury to get the winner.
  • Thought Dubinsky looked like he was struggling at various times to skate tonight.  He had an assist and created some chances in 23:10 of playing time
  • Callahan showed some rust in failing to convert early, but got the tying goal and looked pretty good in his return after missing 19 games.
  • Anisimov was the most noticeable Rangers forward tonight
  • Marian Gaborik is still invisible
  • Michael Sauer was excellent again, as was his partner Ryan McDonagh.

Jordan Staal Sucker Punches Brandon Prust (Video)

After a clean hit by both Brandon Prust and Jordan Staal in a pile in front of the Rangers bench, Jordan Staal nailed Brandon Prust with a left hand sucker punch to the jaw.  Jordan Staal was given a 5-minute match penalty on the play. The fact that there was a match penalty assessed means an automatic review by the league for possibly supplementary discipline.

I will not say that Prust did not embellish to an extent, but it was still a sucker punch and Prust is not known as a diver, so you decide.

Video: Brandon Prust VS Interview

Del Zotto In, Eminger Scratched; Dubinsky with Gaborik, Anisimov; Full Lines

With all the new bodies in the lineup tonight there were going to be changes in the lines.  This afternoon it was confirmed by the demotion of Evgeny Grachev that Brandon Dubinsky would be in the lineup.  After that, what was left was waiting to see whom he would play with. 

The only other question based on yesterday was whether Michael Del Zotto would be in the lineup and Steve Eminger would be a healthy scratch.  I am not in love with Eminger and he really has no long-term future with the club, but I do not think Del Zotto has really earned his way back in the top six at this point.  This feels like a move geared strictly for the power play, which is not what sending him down to Connecticut was supposed to be about.  We will see how it shakes out.

Tonight’s Lines:

Brandon Dubinsky-Artem Anisimov-Marian Gaborik
Mats Zuccarello-Derek Stepan-Ryan Callahan
Wojtek Wolski-Brian Boyle-Brandon Prust
Sean Avery-Kris Newbury-Chris Drury

Marc Staal-Dan Girardi
Ryan McDonagh-Mike Sauer
Michael Del Zotto-Matt Gilroy

The lines are fine for me, though I will be curious to see how Wolski meshes with Boyle and Prust when Wolski enjoys playing a skill game and not a grinding type.  Playing with two bangers like Boyle and Prust should open up space for him though. Zuccarello, Stepan and Callahan has the potential to be a very good line when you combine the talent and willingness to do the dirty things necessary to score.

On defense the pairing of McDonagh and Sauer as two defensive defenders can be a tremendous shutdown pair, but to do that and then have Del Zotto play with Gilroy as two that have had their defensive abilities questioned seems strange.   

Grachev Sent Down To Connecticut; Dubinsky Will Play.

According to the AHL transactions page The New York Rangers have sent Evgeny Grachev back to the Connecticut Whale (AHL), which should mean the Brandon Dubinsky is going to play tonight since the team only has 11 other healthy forwards with Grachev out.

Ryan Callahan Return Gives Rangers Their Captain Back

Chris McGrath/Getty Images
When he makes his return tonight, after missing 19 games due to a broken hand, Ryan Callahan will bring the New York Rangers their true captain back to the lineup.  The Rangers did an admirable job in his absence, compiling a 10-7-2 in those 19 games.  This team found out in those 19 games that the values and identity that Callahan helped instill in the hockey club he has taken leadership of are still there and is the reason they could survive in his absence.  Record alone will never tell the story of what the Rangers have done without since December 15 when Callahan broke his hand blocking a shot against the same Penguins he will return to the lineup against tonight.
Asked what it meant to have him back, coach John Tortorella said, "He does everything for us. He's one of our leaders. He’s one of our leaders. I wasn’t sure, and I give our team a lot of credit...when we lost him, that’s when I worried about where the team was going to go. And I give our guys a lot of credit for hanging in there and finding a way. Cally’s that important, so it will be good to have him back in the room first of all, and then on the ice."

Brandon Dubinsky Could Return Early; Is It Too Soon?

Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
The impending returns of Ryan Callahan and Dan Girardi this evening were not surprising when they were announced yesterday, but the possibly return of Brandon Dubinsky to the Rangers lineup tonight certainly was somewhat shocking.  It was just two weeks ago when Dubinsky, the team’s leading scorer with 38 points (17 goals, 21 assists), was diagnosed with a stress fracture in his leg that was feared to keep him out of action for a month.  The answer as to whether he will actually suit up tonight will not be known until later this morning when they see how his leg responds to the hard skate and full practice he participated in yesterday.  The response yesterday from both Dubinsky and coach John Tortorella was to not rule anything out.  One has to wonder about the thought process of considering letting him return this soon.

Daily Recap: Callahan, Girardi Back, Others Close; Keys To Stay In Playoffs; Should Staal Keep “A”?

Lots of news coming out of the Rangers first practice back from the All-Star break and for a change it was all of the positive variety when it comes to the health of the roster.  Early in practice it was clear that both Ryan Callahan and Dan Girardi were back and would be playing tomorrow.  With the return of Callahan it meant that there were going to be new lines, which are in the linked story along with my thoughts on those combinations.

Along with that there was the positive news that Brandon Dubinsky, Vinny Prospal and Erik Christensen were all taking part in practice.  Originally due to the orange jerseys they were wearing it was thought they were just there in a non-contact capacity to take the skate, and do drills, but obviously without contact.  Later in practice it was revealed that they were fully participating in practice which was somewhat surprising for all three.  In terms of Dubinsky it has only been two weeks since he was said to be out a month with a stress fracture.  For Prospal he had yet to take part in a contact practice this season.  With Christensen there was no set time on when he would be back practicing.

The good news only got better as following practice Dubinsky, Prospal, Christensen and Fedotenko were all given scheduled return dates or timetables on when to expect them back in the lineup.  All four are expected back in short order with one possibly against the Pens and one definitely against the Devils.

Other than all of that good news there were a couple stories on the site today.  The morning I took a look at eight keys to keep the Rangers in the playoffs these last 30 games.  Half of the list consisted of things that the team needed to sustain from the first “half” and the rest were things that needed to improve.  One of them is already looking much better and they have not even played a game yet.

The other story was about Marc Staal, Vinny Prospal and the “A” that Staal got when the Rangers realized Prospal was going to be out long term.  Based on certain things it appears that the “A” is going to go back to Prospal as soon as he is in the lineup, but should it?