Rangers Draw Senators in First Round

April 8, 2012

No one expected the Rangers would be playing the Ottawa Senators in the first round of the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs, but that’s what we got.

After losing Saturday night against the Washington Capitals — the matchup most saw coming — the Rangers will draw the Senators, whom the team went 1-2-1 against in the regular season.

Let’s face it, this isn’t an ideal matchup for the Blueshirts, especially in the first round. The Senators are a fast, offensive-minded team that plays a run-and-gun style. That style has given the Rangers a tough time all season. The Rangers prefer to slow the game down to a grind; with a team like the Senators, doing that is difficult.

The Senators have scoring depth throughout the lineup, including on the backend. Jason Spezza had a phenomenal season, finishing with 34 goals and 84 points, while Milan Michalek tallied 35 goals and 60 points. On defense, the Senators posses possible Norris Trophy candidate Erik Karlsson, who at just 21-years-old finished with 19 goals and 78 points.

While Ottawa’s 249 goals was good enough for fourth in the Eastern Conference, the team allowed 240 goals, 10th worst in the East. The Rangers aren’t a high-scoring team, but facing against a team that isn’t defensively sound plays well into the Rangers game. They will need to capitalize on any and all chances the Senators give them, including on the powerplay.

The Senators had the 20th best penalty kill in the league, another area that should benefit the Rangers, who have had success lately against poor penalty killing teams, including Winnipeg and Philadelphia.

On the flip side, Ottawa finished with the 11th ranked powerplay, operating at over 18 percent. Even with a penalty kill that has been strong all season, the Rangers have to stay out of the box against a team with as many weapons as the Senators.

The Rangers have the talent to come out on top. Marian Gaborik, who finished with 41 goals and played in all 82 games,  is playing as well as anyone in the NHL alongside Brad Richards. The team is receiving some secondary scoring from players like Brian Boyle and Brandon Dubinsky, but more is needed.

Henrik Lundqvist is the key to any success the Rangers will have this spring. He hasn’t played well the last little bit, save for the game last week against the Flyers. The Rangers need him to be the player he was for the first four or five months of the season, especially against a team like the Senators.

The Senators outscored the Rangers 11-8 in their four-game matchup this season. Both teams blanked the other 3-0, while the Senators defeated the Rangers 4-1 early last month. The first clash of the season was back in October, where the Rangers blew a 4-1 lead and lost 5-4 in a shootout. That game was before the Rangers hit their stride, which began two days later against the San Jose Sharks.

It isn’t the ideal matchup for the Rangers, but at this stage in the game, nothing is easy. Every team — minus the Florida Panthers — deserves to be where they are. If the Rangers play their game and play within themselves, they’re going to be a very difficult team to defeat, no matter what jersey the other team is wearing.

Follow Matt on Twitter @MattCalamia


Rangers Stay Quiet at Deadline, No Nash, Acquire Scott

February 27, 2012

The weeks leading up to the NHL Trade Deadline are fun. The speculation of what players a team will acquire, what deals will be made, the breaking news; it’s all great. But sometimes it doesn’t live up to the hype. Today there were only about 15 trades, with one real headliner.

Columbus Blue Jackets forward Rick Nash is staying put in Ohio, at least for the time being. According to the NY Post, the Rangers made one last ditch effort in the dying seconds prior to the deadline, offering up Brandon Dubinsky, 2011 first-round pick J.T. Miller, defensive prospect Tim Erixon, prospect Christian Thomas and a first-round pick in this year’s draft, but it was not enough.

In the same report, it is believed Columbus G.M. Scott Howson actually increased his demands, wanting Dubinsky along with either defensemen Michael Del Zotto or Ryan McDonagh, either Derek Stepan or Carl Hagelin, Boston College star and 2009 first-round pick Chris Kreider, and a first-round pick at this year’s draft.

Following the deadline, Howson said he was approached by Nash asking to be traded, less than two years after signing an eight-year contract extension.

The Rangers did make one minor move, acquiring defenseman John Scott from the Chicago Blackhawks for a 2012 fifth-round pick. Scott, 29, has one assist and 49 PIMs in 29 games this season.

At the end of the day, I think this was the right move for the Rangers to make. As I’ve written, Nash is a world-class talent, but he isn’t worth the asking price. Chris Botta of the NY Times Tweeted that this team as is, should be given a shot to show what they could do in the post-season. Nash will still be on the market, and if this team falls short of the Eastern Conference Finals, then go make a move.

Scott won’t be much of a difference maker. He’s a 6-foot 8-inches and about 260 pounds, but doesn’t bring much in terms of offense. 

I still would have liked to see the team add a scorer, but the market just wasn’t there this year. Too many potential movers re-signed with their teams, while others’ asking prices were just too high.

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Poor Start Leads to 4-2 Loss Against Blackhawks

February 16, 2012

They say you can’t win a game in the first period, but you sure could lose one, as the Rangers learned tonight when they gave up four goals in the first five minutes en route to a 4-2 loss against the Chicago Blackhawks. 

The Hawks opened the scoring on a Jonathan Toews penalty shot after Dan Girardi closed his hand on the puck in the crease. Just 1:03 later, Chicago took a 2-0 lead on a Nick Leddy shot from the point that wrang off the post. Martin Biron allowed two more breakaway goals to Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa, as the Hawks took a 4-0 lead after the first period.

The Rangers finally cracked through in the second period on Marc Staal‘s first goal of the season. They added one more late in the third period on a goal by Carl Hagelin, but that is as close as it got, as the Rangers’ win-streak was snapped at four.

  • Couldn’t have gotten a worse start from the Blueshirts tonight. After a positive opening one or two shifts, the Rangers fell apart. I’ve really lost a lot of confidence with Biron, even if he did settle down and really kept the Rangers in the game. Sure he’s 10-3 and has good numbers for a backup, but I don’t have the same feeling I had about him early in the season. I’ve also never seen a goaltender fail to cover up the 5-hole like he has. The word is out. Also had to be tough for him to hear the “Hen-Rik” chants and the Bronx Cheer in the first, but he deserved it.
  • Believe it or not, I think this game was a lot closer than the score said, and I hate that saying. But after the first five minutes, the Rangers really settled down and I think were the better team the final 50 minutes or so. The Hawks still won the game, but if we’re looking for some positives, we could start there.
  • With that said, the powerplay took a giant leap back following a little stretch where it saw success. You could make the argument that this was the worst game of the season in terms of powerplay success. They just had absolutely nothing going, and finished 0-for-7.
  • I like him, but boy does Mike Rupp have to cash in on that empty net in the second period. That goal would have made it 4-2 midway through the second and the Rangers would have all the momentum on their hands. I think even Brandon Dubinsky would have buried that one.
  • Staal continues to improve, and now has two points in three games. On top of that, Ryan McDonagh‘s play on the Hagelin goal was a thing-a-beauty.
  • Some of the penalties that were called tonight were just brutal on both sides, including the Toews interference call on Brian Boyle and the first Dubinsky call.
  • Have to just forget about this one and take care of business Sunday night against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Follow Matt on Twitter @MattCalamia

Woywitka, Wolski Return from AHL Purgatory

February 15, 2012

Remember Jeff Woywitka and Wojtek Wolski? Well if you forgot about them, you’ll hear about them a little more before never hearing about them again — at least not in Ranger land.

The two returned today from their two-week “conditioning” stint with the Connecticut Whale (AHL), but don’t expect them to jump back into the lineup.

In six games, Woywitka tallied three assists and was a plus-2, while Wolski registered three goals and five points and was a minus-1.

Woywitka played decently with the Rangers after he was signed towards the end of training camp — or soon after the season started…who could remember at this point? — but has not dressed since Dec. 30 due to a combinations of a foot injury and Stu Bickel leapfrogging him on the depth chart.

Wolski, meanwhile, has had the season from hell. After hurting himself in training camp, he’s appeared in just nine games this season, and has been a healthy scratch for 14 contests when not on IR.

Don’t expect either to crack the lineup, with Wolski either getting dealt at the deadline [unlikely] or getting waived [likely]. Woywitka could see a similar fate in Connecticut, as he won’t command much of a return on the market.

Part of me feels for Wolski. He’s similar to Erik Christensen in that he has all the skill in the world but can never put it together. There’s a reason he’s on his fourth or fifth team and he’s only 24-years-old. I remember I had him penciled in to play alongside Marian Gaborik and Brad Richards in training camp. That hasn’t worked out in more ways than one.

I do think he’ll be off this team by playoff time, but he could have one last opportunity to make an impact, as he could play tomorrow night if Ruslan Fedotenko can’t go against Chicago.

Follow Matt on Twitter @MattCalamia

Lundqvist Dominates, Rangers Shutout Bruins 3-0

February 14, 2012

All season the Rangers have been put behind teams like the Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins and Boston Bruins. They’re 5-0 against the Flyers, 2-1 against the Penguins and now 2-0 against the Bruins after Henrik Lundqvist‘s 42-save performance in Beantown, as the Ranger shutout the B’s 2-0.

The Rangers’ powerplay continues to gain steam, now scoring five goals in the last four games, as Ryan Callahan tallied off a crease-mouth pass from Michael Del Zotto in the first period to give the Rangers a 1-0 lead. It was Callahan’s sixth goal in the last four games, and his 23rd this season.

In the dying seconds of the opening period, a Ryan McDonagh wrist-shot deflected off Zdeno Chara‘s knee and passed Tim Thomas to give the Rangers a 2-0 lead heading into the dressing room.

The Bruins controlled the play in the second period, but Lundqvist stood tall and made 14 saves to preserve the lead.

The Blueshirts put the game away in the third period when Artem Anisimov capitalized on a 2-on-1 to make it 3-0. Lundqvist made one last save in the final minute of play, denying a Bruin on a breakaway with the glove. It was the Rangers’ 4th-straight win. Read the rest of this entry »

Bickel At Forward Shows Torts has Little Faith in Wolski, Zuccarello

February 12, 2012

With an uncertain future regarding Ruslan Fedotenko following a dirty hit to the head last week, the Ranges have been using defenseman Stu Bickel as a forward the past two games, rather than call up forwards Wojtek Wolski or Mats Zuccarello.

Bickel hasn’t seen much ice time in his two games up front. Saturday against the Philadelphia Flyers, Bickel six shifts for just over four minutes. Sunday afternoon against the Washington Capitals, Bickel played 3:30 and was glued to the bench for the entire third period.

Following the game, head coach John Tortorella said Bickel wasn’t the permanent solution to fill Fedotenko’s roster spot.

It is telling, though, that Tortorella did not opt to recall either forward from the AHL, and preferred to pencil in a rookie whose natural position is defense.

It’s been the season from hell for Wolski, who battled injuries and was relegated to the press box for most of his time during his second season in New York. He’s had success, though, with the Connecticut Whale, tallying three goals and five points in just six games, albeit against minor league competition. Read the rest of this entry »

Rangers Cap Washington 3-2

February 12, 2012

If yesterday was a day breaking out of its powerplay woes, today was the day for several Rangers’ players to break out of goal-less streaks as Ryan McDonagh and Brandon Prust both snapped long droughts in the Blueshirts’ 3-2 win over the Washington Capitals.

The Rangers took the lead midway through the first period when Ryan Callahan scored his fifth goal in three games to give the Rangers a 1-0 lead. He had a chance later in the period to extend the lead to two, but hit the post.

The Capitals tied it 1-1 in the second when Alexander Semin‘s blast beat Henrik Lundqvist, a goal he would probably like to have back.

McDonagh’s first goal since Dec. 1 came on a beautiful toe-drag move, and gave the Rangers a 2-1 lead. The celebration was cut short when McDonagh appeared to injure his knee. Although he was helped off the ice, he returned a few minutes later.

The Rangers put the game away on a shorthanded goal by Prust at 6:26 of the third on a beautiful feed from Brandon Dubinsky. It was Prust’s first tally since Oct. 20 against the Calgary Flames. The Capitals added a goal late by John Carlson, but it was too little too late.

  • We’re really running out of compliments for this team. They were just the better team in all facets of the ice today. They outworked and wore the Capitals down, and stymied their powerful offense.
  • Sure he isn’t having a normal season, but anytime you could hold Alex Ovechkin to just an assist, you know you had a good day defensively.
  • Where is this offense coming from for Callahan. He had his goal and could have easily had a second if he didn’t shank it. The Captain is leading by example.
  • Lundqvist had a typical Lundqvist game today, which is dominant. Though he finished with just 24 saves, there were a few big ones, especially on a third period scramble to keep his team on top.
  • Brad Richards had another strong game, and is really making things happen. The team is going to need him to be one of its best players for the stretch run and in the playoffs.
  • I know I’m not the only one who couldn’t concentrate on the game after McDonagh left the ice. What about when Dan Girardi took the puck off the helmet in the first?
  • Marc Staal registered his first point of the season tonight, and just keeps getting better and better. He loves joining the rush, and is really showing he’s getting more comfortable on the ice.
  • Derek Stepan is going to be a star in this league. He’s such a balanced, well-rounded player who is just fun to watch.
  • It’s so satisfying beating the Capitals, a team that has ended our season twice in the last three seasons.
  • Doesn’t get much easier on Tuesday night, when the Rangers take on the Boston Bruins.
Follow Matt on Twitter @MattCalamia