Sunday, January 29, 2012

Gaborik Hat-trick Earns All-Star MVP In Team Chara Win

Marian Gaborik scored three times and added an assist to earn MVP honors in the 2012 All-Star Game.  Gaborik continues to erase any memories of last season's struggles and take his place amongst the elite snipers in the NHL.  The fun party for Rangers fan today was that Gaborik went head-to-head with teammate Henrik Lundqvist.

After chirping all weekend with Lundqvist, Gaborik had the last laugh scoring two on Lundqvist during the first period.  Following his first goal of the game Gaborik brought back Artem Anisimov's rifle celebration at Lundqvist.  Coach John Tortorella said Gaborik will be fined $1,000 for the celebration, but for bragging rights alone, Gaborik will pay it with a smile.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Rangers' Hagelin Named All-Star Rookie Replacement

According to Josh Rimer, Rangers rookie Carl Hagelin has been added to the Rookies in the 2012 NHL All-Star weekend as an injury replacement.  No official announcement on who he is replacing, but Devils' defenseman Adam Larsson appears to be the player.

Tremendous work by Hagelin to play his way into this opportunity. Hagelin has eight goals and eight assists in 29 games for the Rangers this season, but the numbers do not reflect the full impact he has had on the roster.  His speed has added a different dimension to the Rangers roster and expect Hagelin to be showcasing it in the fastest skater competition, which he should win.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Lundqvist To Start As Biron Out With Flu; Chad Johnson Recalled From Whale

Earlier this morning, Steve Zipay at Newsday reported that Martin Biron would get the start against the Winnipeg Jets tonight, but now Biron is out with the flu and Henrik Lundqvist will get the nod.  According to Katie Strang of ESPN New York the Rangers recalled Chad Johnson from the Whale to serve as the backup tonight.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Gaborik Scores Twice In Rangers 3-2 OT Win Over Bruins

The matchup of the best two teams in the Eastern Conference lived up to the hype as the New York Rangers game against the Boston Bruins had everything you could ask for in a regular season game.  The first matchup between the two teams went to overtime with the New York Rangers winning 3-2 over the Boston Bruins on a Marian Gaborik power-play goal with 3.6 seconds left in the overtime period.  Tukka Rask made two great saves in Ryan Callahan and Brad Richards before Gaborik netted the game-winner, his second goal of the game, 25th goal of the season, to give the Rangers the extra point and maintain their lead in the Eastern Conference standings.  

The Rangers were on the power-play after Andrew Ference was assessed a five-minute major for charging when he ran Ryan McDonagh into the boards behind New York’s net 1:50 into the extra session.  McDonagh laid prone on the ice for several minutes before finally skating off the ice on his own and into the locker room.  Ference will likely face discipline from Brendan Shanahan in the coming days.

New York gets another win in the final seconds, but once again they are never in that position without stellar play from Henrik Lundqvist.  Lundqvist made 32 saves, including multiple of the highlight variety, to allow the team to stay in there when the Rangers were being outplayed.

Ryan Callahan got the Rangers on the board early in the second period when coming out of the box Brandon Prust found Callahan and he beat Rask far post 1:31 in.  The lead did not last long as Andrew Ference tied the game at 3:28 of the second off a beautiful cross-ice feed from David Krejci that left Lundqvist defenseless.

Marian Gaborik scored his first of the game, first in seven games, late in the second when he jumped on a loose puck and fired it past Rask for a 2-1 lead.  Carl Hagelin attempted a shot, but it was blocked by Dennis Seidenberg, dropping down to Gaborik’s feet and there was no hesitation to let the shot go.

The Rangers seemed poised to head into the final period with the one goal lead, but Adam McQuaid had other ideas when he tied the game with 49 seconds left in the second.  McQuaid fired from the right faceoff circle having the puck deflect off Brian Boyle’s stick and over the shoulder of Lundqvist.
  • Great to see the Rangers bigger offensive players carry the load in a big game with Gaborik, Callahan and Richards being in on the winning goal.
  • Ryan Callahan played his best game in some time being impactful all over the ice and adding some offense back in.
  • Gaborik going to the front of the net is always the key to offense and today he got back to doing that more than he has in the past few weeks resulting in both his goals.
  • McDonagh was phenomenal all game and hopefully his injury is not too severe.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Rangers Inconsistency Continues In 4-1 Loss To Penguins

For much of the first half of the season the New York Rangers found ways to win games even when they did not play their best hockey for a 60 minute game.  Those results are not coming right now as the Penguins came into Madison Square Garden Thursday night and handed the Blueshirts their third loss in five games by a score of 4-1.  Evgeni Malkin led the way with two more goals to push his league leading point total to 54. 
Most surprising about the outcome of the game is the Rangers after struggling for much of the first period where they fell behind early on a Chris Kunitz goal, they dominated the second with Carl Hagelin netting the tying goal to send it to the final period even at 1-1.  The Rangers have dominated the final stanza much of the last two seasons, but tonight it was the Penguins beating the Rangers at their own game with three goals in the final 20 minutes to take the two points in the standings. 
Entering the third tied 1-1 the Penguins took the early advantage just 2:23 into the period when Richard Park scored the eventual game-winner.  The Rangers had all three forwards below the goal line, but Marc Staal still tried to pinch along the wall, leading to the Penguins breaking out for a 3-on-1 odd-man rush with Cooke, Engelland and Park leaving Lundqvist exposed.
Staal’s struggles in the third period continued when Evgeni Malkin took advantage of his turnover to stretch the Pens advantage to two.  Staal misplayed the puck along the wall by stepping out in front, walking around a sliding Michael Del Zotto and roofing a beautiful backhander under the bar to beat Lundqvist.  Malkin added the empty-netter with 1:40 left to give him 24 goals on the season and the Penguins the final 4-1 margin.
Hagelin’s goal in the second showed what the combination of speed between him and Marian Gaborik can provide the Rangers, if they stay together.  Ryan McDonagh fed the puck to Gaborik up the ice, where Gaborik flipped an area pass in front of the speedy Hagelin to skate into.  Hagelin collected the puck and fired on Marc-Andre Fleury watching the puck trickle through Fleury’s five-hole and over the goal line for the tie.
  • Bickel's fight in the first woke the team up, but this team has to be better early in games and it should not take him dropping the gloves to spark them.
  • Staal is clearly still a work in progress as he varies from showing signs of his former self and being a player who missed half the year and is looking for his game. Playing 24:58 tonight is certainly a step in the right direction for his conditioning, but he is still off in reading the play at times.
  • Hagelin is doing everything that the team can ask from him and then some.
  • Richards, Callahan, Gaborik and Dubinsky need to step up and lead this team offensively right now by putting some pucks in the back of the net.  Supporting players have been doing much of the work when the team actually scores.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Lundqvist Blanks Predators As Rangers Win 3-0

The New York Rangers continued their ability to put the rare bad performance behind them and take it out on their next opponent.  Following a 4-1 defeat Sunday in Montreal the Rangers got back to basics with their forechecking and defensive style en route to a 3-0 win over the Nashville Predators.

Henrik Lundqvist led the way with 27 saves for his fourth shutout of the season and 39th of his career.  The win was also the 20th of the season for Lundqvist who rebounded after two subpar outings in a row for the Rangers best player. 

Each of the Rangers three goals had help from the Predators.  Dan Girardi opened the scoring just 6:15 into the game when his attempted pass to the front of the net went off the Predators’ defenseman Jack Hillen and beat backup netminder Anders Lindback short side.

Mid-way through the second period John Mitchell scored for the second consecutive game when he beat Lindback short side from the right faceoff circle.  Mitchell circled along the wall and fired from the circle getting a screen from defenseman Roman Josi.  The goal was Mitchell’s fourth of the season as he continues to show he belongs in the lineup even as Wolski and Christensen are available.

Ryan Callahan capped the scoring with 50.9 seconds remaining when he was hooked by Martin Erat on a breakaway with the empty net. Callahan was awarded the goal because of the empty net, giving him 15 goals on the season.
  • Rangers forecheck was dominant in the third period as they were able to control the clock for much of the final 10 minutes.
  • The penalty kill was excellent, especially when Gaborik was wrongly assessed a double minor for high-sticking against Mike Fisher while the Rangers were on the power play late in the second period.
  • The power play at least threatened a few times tonight, but the conversion rate has to improve.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Rangers Nightmares Continue In Montreal With 4-1 Loss

The New York Rangers failures in Montral continued with an ugly 4-1 loss Sunday night.  The loss dropped the Rangers to 0-5-1 in their last six trips to the Bell Centre. 

After dominating the Toronto Maple Leafs top line last night the New York Rangers watched the Montreal Canadiens top line of Max Pacioretty, David Desharnais and Erik Cole dance circles around them for three goals and nine points in a 4-1 loss.  While the Rangers used Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh mainly against the Tomas Plekanec line, it was this line that made the Rangers defense look lost.

The Rangers certainly did not get the start they wanted as the Canadiens got on the board only 2:39 into the opening period.  Marc Staal had a number of fails leading to the Montreal goal as he turned the puck over in the neutral zone with a bad pass allowing the Canadiens to carry back into the Rangers zone.  Staal then could not stop Desharnais from getting behind the net with the puck.  With Desharnais behind the net failed coverages from Wolski, Bickel and Newbury left Lundqvist down and out when Max Pacioretty eventually ended up with the puck in the slot.

New York got back into the flow of the game when Stu Bickel dropped the gloves with Travis Moen directly off a faceoff.  The fight came just moments after Rene Bourque side swiped Carl Hagelin along the wall, which drew the ire of both Brian Boyle and Brandon Prust.

Getting even on the scoreboard came 12:49 into the first period when John Mitchell converted a Derek Stepan rebound from the crease.  The scoring play started with Gaborik working behind the Montreal net feeding Stepan in the slot for the initial shot which Budaj stopped, but bad rebound control left the puck laying there for Mitchell.  The assist for Gaborik was his 300th of his NHL career and first since December 20.

Montreal took the lead back early in the second when the Rangers once again failed to clear their zone against the Pacioretty -Desharnais-Cole line.  Following the failed clear Desharnais played the puck back to Erik Cole who let the shot go from just inside the blue line and it was deflected off Pacioretty in front.  Stu Bickel had an awful shift in failing to get the puck out, not clearing Pacioretty out from in front and helping screen Lundqvist.  Following the goal he got an earful from Tortorella on the bench and never saw the ice again on the night.

The deficit expanded to two when Scott Gomez found Mike Blunden in the right faceoff that beat Lundqvist short side.  Desharnais got his turn to finish one off when he beat Marc Staal down the ice in transition and had a tap-in goal to beat Lundqvist to push the Canadiens’ advantage to 4-1.

The Rangers will look to toss this one aside and get back at it Tuesday against Nashville.

Dubinsky, Fedotenko Both Out Against Canadiens

Both Brandon Dubinsky and Ruslan Fedotenko will miss tonight's hasn't against the Montreal Canadiens.  Tonight will mark the third straight game Dubinsky has missed with a sore shoulder he sustained Tuesday. The hope is a couple extra days rest will have him ready for Tuesday against Nashville.

Fedotenko will miss his first game of the season after leaving last night with back spasms.

Kris Newbury, who was recalled today, will take Fedotenko's spot in the lineup.

Newbury Recalled With Dubinsky, Fedotenko Hurting

Andrew Gross reports that the Rangers have recalled Kris Newbury for tonight's game in Montreal.  Newbury is likely just precautionary in case both Brandon Dubinsky (shoulder) and Ruslan Fedotenko (back spasms) cannot play this evening. 

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Biron Shutouts Leafs As Rangers After Poor Performance With 3-0 Victory

The New York Rangers got back on the winning side with a dominant 3-0 victory against the Toronto Maple Leafs Saturday night.  The Rangers were unhappy with their team effort on Thursday in their loss to the Ottawa Senators, but they corrected those mistakes early and often in this one.  The lack of energy and effort that plagued large portions of the game Thursday were gone as the team played with high energy and physicality from the opening drop of the puck until the final horn.  On the defensive side the team did an excellent job of minimizing the chances Toronto had to get their own offense going.  

Martin Biron made 20 saves for his second shutout of the season while Mike Rupp, Brian Boyle and Derek Stepan provided the scoring.  The win for Biron improved him to 9-2 on the season only furthering the notion that he can play any game that coach John Tortorella wants to keep Henrik Lundqvist rested.

Rupp got the Rangers on the board early in the second as he combined with Derek Stepan and Wojtek Wolski to convert the 3-on-1 rush.  Ryan McDonagh caught the Leafs in a line change by stepping up in the neutral zone, fed the puck ahead to Stepan who went to Wolski, back to Stepan and finally to Rupp for the finish.

Late in the second Brian Boyle scored for the first time in 23 games by roofing a shot behind Gustavsson.  The look of relief on Boyle’s face told the story of just how much the drought was weighing on the 27-year-old forward, but to Boyle’s credit he has been doing everything else of late.  Boyle was excellent all-around again tonight as his line had the responsibility of playing against the Lupul-Connolly-Kessel line and they shut them down along with Girardi and McDonagh.

Early in the third the Leafs appeared they might have gotten on the board when Martin Biron slid across during a scramble, but the referees ruled that their was no goal and replays showed no conclusive evidence it had gone in.  The goal cam replay appeared to show it might have gone in, but with no conclusive evidence the Leafs remained off the board and the Rangers added to their lead moments later. 

Derek Stepan capped the scoring with his 10th goal of the season after Carl Hagelin tipped ahead the Martin Biron outlet pass.  The assist was Biron’s third of the season.
  • Have to feel good for Boyle getting off the snide when it appeared he could not buy one no matter what he did.  He has deserved one for a few weeks with his overall game level and maybe now he will stop pressing so much, leading to a few more.
  • Ruslan Fedotenko left the game early in the second period and did not return because of back spasms.  No word on whether he will be able to play tomorrow against the Canadiens.

Dubinsky Out, Biron To Start Against Toronto

According to Andrew Gross at Ranger Rants Brandon Dubinsky will miss his second straight game (right shoulder), while Martin Biron will get his 11th start of the season tonight against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Dubinsky was clearly missed on Thursday night against the Senators, but the Rangers are trying to be smart with his shoulder to make sure that it does not become something more serious and linger throughout the season.  Brandon Prust is likely to take Dubinsky's spot with Callahan and Richards, but the entire lineup has to do more than they did on Thursday.

Starting Biron tonight is an interesting decision given Lundqvist's career struggles in Montreal, where the Rangers play tomorrow, but Biron did struggle earlier in the year in Montreal as well. 

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Spezza Scores Twice, Anderson Stops 34 In 3-0 Win Over Rangers

The same day the Rangers had Henrik Lundqvist, Dan Girardi and Marian Gaborik announced 2012 NHL All-Stars the Ottawa Senators All-Stars stole the show in Madison Square Garden.  Jason Spezza scored two twice and Milan Michalek while Craig Anderson stopped all 34 Rangers shots in a 3-0 victory.  The loss snapped the Rangers five-game win streak before they head to Canada for a weekend set against Toronto and Montreal.

The Rangers played very well in the first period, but could not solve Anderson before Ottawa got their own offense going.  Jason Spezza opened the scoring 8:54 into the second he used Dan Girardi as a screen from the left faceoff circle to beat Lundqvist.  The play was in transition after Artem Anisimov failed to get the puck deep in the Senators zone, which promptly got Anisimov benched for the remainder of the period.

Michalek made it 2-0 on another transition goal.  After Brian Boyle seemed poised to tie the game before Jason Spezza got his stick in the way to deflect the shot wide, Erik Karlsson pushed the puck up the ice and found Michalek in the slot for the wrist shot that beat Lundqvist.

Spezza continued his work on the power play collecting his own rebound for the final goal of the night.  The Rangers were pressing for a goal to get them back in the game, and it led to a 2-on-1 the other way when Spezza initial stop fell between Lundqvist’s legs, but Lundqvist had no idea where the puck was when Spezza tapped it in.
  • Wolski was noticeable through the first half of the game and solid for his first action in weeks.
  • Anisimov has to raise his level back to where it was earlier.
  • Dubinsky and his energy was clearly missed at different points tonight.

Rangers Lundqvist, Gaborik, Girardi Selected To All-Star Team

This afternoon the NHL announced the remaining All-Star Game roster and the New York Rangers were rewarded for their tremendous first half with three All-Stars on the roster.  Henrik Lundqvist, Marian Gaborik and Dan Girardi were those selected to represent the Rangers in Ottawa at the end of this month.  Lundqvist's first half and Gaborik's resurgence in goal scoring made both of them locks to make the squad, but Girardi was one where it was unclear if his value would truly be noticed. 

The efforts of all Rangers fans to put his name in the conversation through their write-in voting certainly did not hurt Girardi in getting the league recognition he deserves.  Girardi was the key to holding the defense together in the absence of Marc Staal through much of the first half. 

Ryan Callahan and Michael Del Zotto likely got significant consideration for the team, but the combination of others deserving to go and each team needing to be representing left them off the roster.  Next comes the All-Star fantasy draft on January 26.

Carl Haglein was left off the rookie team, but the injury to Ryan Nugent-Hopkins could give Hagelin an outside chance to be a replacement selection later if RNH is not ready to return yet.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Stepan Sends Rangers To Fifth Straight Win Sixth Round Shootout Winner

The New York Rangers and Phoenix Coyotes played yet another tight game Tuesday night with the Rangers coming away with a 2-1 shootout victory this time.  Derek Stepan scored the deciding goal in the sixth round of the shootout to give the Rangers their fifth consecutive win.  The Rangers appeared like they were going to win with 1:50 left in the overtime period when Marian Gaborik had Mike Smith twisted in multiple directions on a shootout, but Smith somehow made the sprawling save with his goal stick. 

Tortorella made the right decision in going right back to Gaborik in the third round of the shootout with the Rangers needing to score to stay alive and Gaborik sped in, slammed the brakes and beat Smith the second time. 

Lundqvist was not overly tested on the night, only needing to make 18 saves, but a number of them were on quality chances.  The win was Lundqvist’s career-high seventh consecutive victory.  Only Radim Vrbata was able to beat Lundqvist on the night as he scored in both the shootout and regulation.

The Rangers offense came from Ruslan Fedotenko who scored 2:27 into the third period.  His line with Brian Boyle and Carl Hagelin had numerous chances on the shift and Fedotenko finally converted from the slot with Boyle creating a tremendous screen.  It was the production that coach John Tortorella called for from his bottom six as the Rangers top two lines have been carrying the offense this season.  The other lines have played well within games, but their contributions have been missing from the scoresheet.

The Vrbata tying goal came mid-way through the third period.  After Marc Staal blocked a shot off his foot the Rangers defense was in scramble mode the rest of the shift when Marc-Antoine Pouliot found Vrbata in the faceoff circle for the goal high glove.
  • Each line had dominate shifts during the game, and the Rangers only scoring once was more about Mike Smith tonight than any failures of Rangers offense to generate.
  • Marc Staal is looking more comfortable with each passing game.

Video: Mike Smith Sprawling Save Robs Marian Gaborik On Penalty Shot

Phoenix Coyotes goaltender Mike Smith was excellent all night against the first place New York Rangers, but his best save of the night came in overtime against Marian Gaborik on a penalty shot.  With 1:50 left in the extra session Gaborik was awarded a penalty shot and seemingly had Smith beaten, but Smith sprawled to rob him with the goal stick for a save of the year candidate.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Video: Bruins, Canucks Have Line Brawl In Stanley Cup Rematch

For those that thought the bad blood from last year's Stanley Cup finals would not carry over to the regular season where proven wrong rather quickly during today's game between the Boston Bruins and Vancouver Canucks.

Just under four minutes into the game a line brawl erupted with Shawn Thornton and Alex Burrows smacking each other with their sticks in front of the two benches. During the brawl Vancouver's Dale Weise and Boston's Nathan Horton squared off in the only true fight.  

When all the penalties were sorted out the Canucks ended up with a 5-on-3 which Ryan Kesler scored on.  Milan Lucic was also given a game misconduct for engaging in a secondary altercation while there was already one going.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Lundqvist Dominates With 37 Saves In 3-1 Rangers Win Over Penguins

Christian Petersen/Getty Images
The New York Rangers continued their outstanding play with their fourth consecutive victory by defeating the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-1 Friday night.  The Rangers extended their league leading point total to 56 and expanded their domination within the Atlantic division to an impressive 8-1 this season.   

Henrik Lundqvist was outstanding all night stopping 37 of 38 shots fired his way.  The Penguins spent much of the night firing for Lundqvist glove hand, but the Rangers goaltender proved once again that the glove is no longer a weakness for him.  The win improved Lundqvist to 18-7-4 on the season, including six straight wins.  With the team success this season Lundqvist is in position to finally be recognized as the best goaltender in the league this year.

Once again the Rangers were not great for 60 minutes, but they have found the formula to continuing winning games.  The collective effort and willingness of everyone to give their body up was on display as the game went on and frustrated the Penguins.  The Rangers and Bruins certainly seem to be separating themselves as the class of the Eastern Conference right now.

Ben Lovejoy gave the Penguins the early advantage when he jumped into the rush and beat Lundqvist five-hole from the slot.  The goal was all about Penguins transition after Matt Niskanen and Brian Boyle went down along the wall in the Rangers offensive zone and Lovejoy beat Ruslan Fedotenko the other way for the open shot.

The Rangers were dominated for almost the entire first period, managing only one shot in the first 18:08 of the period, but thanks to the work of Henrik Lundqvist were only down 1-0.  Brad Richards would erase the deficit with 1:43 remaining in the first when he scored a very similar goal to his tally in the Winter Classic.  Richards won the draw, McDonagh pinched down the boards and fired the puck across from the goal line, and after hitting Dubinsky in front, the puck came to Richards for basically an empty-netter.

The Rangers were able to play their game much more effectively in the second period and it showed on the scoreboard very early.  With Marc Staal in the box for a high sticking penalty, Callahan and Dubinsky worked their magic in Pittsburgh again with Dubinsky scoring the shorthanded goal.  Callahan creates the opportunity by breaking up the right side, doing a curl and drag around the Penguin defender and feeding Dubinsky for an easy finish.  The goal was almost a carbon copy of the overtime game winner Callahan got in Pittsburgh last season, just reversed.  Dubinsky’s two point night gives him 200 career NHL points.

Opening the third the speed of Marian Gaborik created the Rangers two goal advantage when he forced Penguins netminder Marc-Andre Fleury to come out and play the puck.  Fleury fanned on his attempt leading to Gaborik firing the puck off the post and eventually ending up on the stick of Derek Stepan for his ninth goal of the season.

Towards the middle of the third it appeared momentarily that James Neal had cut the Rangers lead in half, but the goal was quickly waved off when it was ruled that Chris Kunitz interfered with Lundqvist in the crease.
  • Dubinsky had another excellent game and is continuing to show he has found his game.  Hopefully the improvements in Dubinsky’s game can quell some of the calls for the Rangers to go out and trade for another top-6 forward.
  • Enjoying the trust that Tortorella has in his fourth line to stick them out the shift after goals.  They do not play a large number of minutes, but the situations in which Tortorella is using Prust-Mitchell-Rupp is showing he believes in them.
  • Marc Staal certainly isn’t playing as if he is concerned about taking hits to the head as he dished out a few and is getting involved in a number of scrums after the whistle.