Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Lundqvist Back In Goal For Rangers vs. Jets Tonight

As the Rangers and Jets get set to faceoff in just a matter of minutes, Henrik Lundqvist will be in goal for the Rangers as they look to move five points ahead of the idle Pittsburgh Penguins tonight. This marks the second consecutive back-to-back series of games in which Lundqvist has started both games, and it's hard to envision a scenario in which Marty Biron will play again this year. I thought this may be the last game of the season where John Tortorella would try and get Biron some work, but it's clear the Rangers are planning to ride King Henrik the rest of the way heading into the playoffs. Personally, I think it's a smart move. Lundqvist is the type of goalie who thrives on competition and playing as much as possible, and with the recent funk he's been in I think this is the only way for him to snap out of it and get back to playing at the top of his game.

Same lineups for the Rangers tonight as last night in Minnesota. The Rangers are 3-0 so far against the Winnipeg Jets this season and will look to sweep the season series tonight.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Chris Kreider's Boston College Eagles Advance To NCAA Frozen Four

If the Rangers really want Chris Kreider to join their team this season, they're going to have to wait a little bit longer. With their dominating 4-0 win against Minnesota Duluth yesterday, Kreider's Boston College Eagles moved on and advanced to the NCAA Frozen Four for the 10th time in the last 15 years. That means, of course, that Kreider's college hockey season isn't over yet, and the Rangers cannot sign him until the season is officially over.

There's no guarantee that the Rangers will sign Kreider immediately after Boston College's season ends, but I'm sure that's their intention. Whether or not he actually plays for the NHL club or joins the Connecticut Whale for their playoff run remains to be seen. I know Glen Sather said he expects to sign Kreider as soon as his season is over and I'm sure the Rangers would love to have him as an addition to their roster for the playoffs, but they'll have to decide if it's worth it to waist an entire year of his Entry Level contract on less than half a season. It also would be a lot to expect the kid to go directly from playing a full college season to an NHL team in the middle of a Stanley Cup run while having to learn a whole new system for a head coach he's never played for before.

We'll see what happens. I don't want the Rangers to rush the kid along and risk stunting his growth just to add another offensive player to the postseason roster, though the Rangers have definitely played it smart with the way they've brought along their recent top prospects like Carl Hagelin, Ryan McDonagh, Tim Erixon and Derek Stepan. It's clear they have a plan in place and wouldn't stick the kid in the NHL if they didn't feel he was ready.

And let's face it - if the Rangers do in fact add Chris Kreider to their NHL roster and they go onto win the Cup this year, that alone will be all that matters and Glen Sather will look like a genius.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Rangers Beat Maple Leafs 4-3, Gain Two Points On Penguins

It wasn't in the prettiest of fashions, but at this time of the year two points is two points. The Rangers scratched and clawed their way to a 4-3 shootout victory last night against the Toronto Maple Leafs after trailing twice in the game, and were able to do it thanks in large part to the dominant efforts of the first line yet again. Marian Gaborik scored two goals in the game and Brad Richards had two assists and a shootout goal. Ryan Callahan scored the game-winner in Round 3 of the shootout, and Henrik Lundqvist stopped two of the three shooters he faced in the shootout.

The Penguins lost last night and the Flyers one, so the Rangers picked up a big two points on the Pens to give them a little bit of breathing room in the standings. They're now three points ahead of the Penguins for first in the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference. With last night's win, the Rangers are also now tied with the St. Louis Blues for the best overall record in the NHL.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Callahan Leads Rangers Over Red Wings 3-2 In OT

It was certainly a happy birthday for Captain Cally. Celebrating his 27th birthday, Ryan Callahan scored the game-winning goal (coincidentally, his 27th of the season) 2:42 into overtime to help lead the Rangers to a thrilling 3-2 victory over the Red Wings. The win moved the Rangers three points ahead of the Pittsburgh Penguins for first place in the Atlantic Division and first place in the Eastern Conference.

If you ever wanted one game to use an example to show just what kind of a player Ryan Callahan is, this game is probably one of the best. I thought this was easily Cally's best game of the year and one of the best of his entire career. He finished with a game-high 8 shots on goal in 23:02 of ice time with the game-winning goal and was a plus-1 rating. Not exactly numbers on a boxscore that would jump out at you upon first glance, but as Rangers fans have come to learn, Callahan is one of those guys that does so many little things beyond what shows up in the stats sheets. The boxscore from tonight's game won't tell you about the amazing hustle Callahan showed in the third period to skate all the way across the ice and slide to block a slap shot from the point in a tie game. It also won't tell you the unreal job of backskating Cally did in the third period to dive and breakup a Pavel Datsyuk breakaway when the Rangers had a shot blocked on the powerplay and the Red Wings broke out the other way, or the awareness he showed all night long to break up passes, chip pucks in deep and work along the boards. In other words, it was just another day at the office for Ryan Callahan. Tonight was a game in which the Rangers needed their leaders to step up big, and they followed the lead of their captain. All night long it just seemed like it was a matter of when, not if, Callahan would be involved in the game-winning goal. He's that type of player that just comes up big, and he showed it once again tonight.

Simply put, tonight was just a good ole fashioned hockey game by two fundamentally sound hockey clubs.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Sean Avery Officially Retires From Hockey

Some surprising, yet unsurprising news broke earlier today that Sean Avery has retired from hockey. It's not surprising that Avery is calling it quits considering the fact that no team in the league wanted him, but it's still sort of surprising to see it happen so suddenly.

Here's what Avery told the New York Post:

The one-time Rangers winger told The Post on Tuesday morning he will embark on his post-hockey career next month with an advertising agency that has a venture capital wing after announcing his retirement Monday night on the online “After Show” of Bravo TV’s “Watch What Happens Live.”
“I am officially retired,” Avery said on the show. “I threw my skates in the Hudson [River].”
Tuesday morning, Avery told The Post, "No, that wasn't a joke; yes I'm retiring at the end of the season, and it's OK.
"I guess that was my retirement press conference."

Avery hadn't played for the Connecticut Whale since January and was recently left off their playoff roster. It seemed like something weird was up for a while, and I think most people eventually were able to read between the lines and figure out that the Rangers were paying Sean to stay at home. He obviously had no interest in playing hockey in the AHL anymore, and the Rangers had no interest in keeping him around.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Del Zotto, Callahan Miss Practice; New Forward Lines

Coming off last night's thrilling 4-3 overtime victory against the Islanders to snap a season-long four game losing streak, the Rangers were back on the ice at practice tonight with new line combinations. Michael Del Zotto (right hip) and Ryan Callahan (right foot) both missed practice, and I would assume both will be out for tomorrow night's game against Carolina.

Here were the lines from practice today:

Carl Hagelin-Brad Richards-Marian Gaborik
Artem Anisimov-Derek Stepan-Brandon Dubinsky
Ruslan Fedotenko-Brian Boyle-Brandon Prust
Mike Rupp-John Mitchell-Mats Zuccarello/John Scott

Ryan McDonagh-Dan Girardi
Marc Staal-Stu Bickel
Steve Eminger-Anton Stralman

Friday, March 9, 2012

Rangers vs. Blackhawks Tonight at 8:30

The Rangers face the Blackhawks tonight at 8:30 and will be looking to avoid losing three straight games in regulation; something they have avoided doing all season long thus far.

When the Rangers played the Blackhawks earlier this season on Feb. 16 at Madison Square Garden, they were trounced and found themselves in an early 4-0 deficit that they never overcame. I really do think that was the start of this funk the Rangers are in and the first real signs of concern that their play might be dipping. They've managed to tread water since that game and have gone a mediocre 5-3-2 over that span. It's clear that the Rangers need to clean up their play and overcome this inconsistent stretch if they want to get back to form as the No. 1 team in the East.

I think the first period will be key for the Rangers tonight. If they come out slow and sluggish the way they have the past few games, then Henrik Lundqvist could be in for a very long night. Getting an early lead and establishing pressure on the forecheck to set a tone early in the game will be huge for the Rangers, and I'm sure it's something John Tortorella will be preaching about before the game.

Brandon Dubinsky (nose) is expected to miss a second consecutive game, which means the lines will likely be the same as last night versus Ottawa. For the Blackhawks, Jonathan Toews will miss his ninth straight game with a concussion. Toews is a big omission from Chicago's lineup tonight, but the Rangers shouldn't get overconfident and think the Hawks will just lay down and die without their captain in the lineup.

I'm not concerned about the Rangers; at least, not yet. Every team has these swoons where they play poorly and look like a total different team. The good teams are the ones that can overcome it, and I certainly think the Rangers can. It's one of those situations where I think they just need a real solid and convincing win over a team to get their confidence back. If they get back to what they've been doing all year long then they'll be fine. The good part here is that the Rangers piled up the wins earlier in the season against bad teams and have allowed themselves a bit of a cushion for situations like this.

The Rangers will look to turn things around in about an hour from now with King Henrik back in net.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Rangers vs. Lightning Tonight; Del Zotto and Callahan Out

The Rangers face the Lightning tonight at 7:30 and will be without both Michael Del Zotto and Ryan Callahan. Callahan is still nursing a bruised foot (although the good news is that x-rays came back negative) and Del Zotto re-injured his hip in last night's game against the Hurricanes. According to MSG Network's John Giannone, Jeff Woywitka is expected to fill Del Zotto's void in the lineup, which will mark the first time that Woywitka is playing in an NHL game since Dec. 30.

Rangers Defeat Hurriances, 3-2

The Rangers defeated the Carolina Hurricanes tonight by a final score of 3-2 thanks in large part to a strong defensive effort that was led by Marty Biron in goal, along with the penalty killing unit that was highlighted in particular by the efforts of Brian Boyle and Brandon Prust. Prust scored the game-winner after converting an excellent feed from Brian Boyle on a 2-on-1, while the Rangers also got goals from Artem Anisimov and Marian Gaborik in the game.