Rangers-Senators Game 3: Observations From the Couch

April 17, 2012

By: Gene Morris

I’d like to use this space to talk about any interesting things that happen during the playoffs, whether in the game, off the ice or even in the living room as I’m watching the game with friends.

Could there have been a better way to win game 3 in Ottawa than to have Lundqvist come up with a 39-save shutout and Brian Boyle score the game’s only goal?

After sending out this tweet on Sunday without really thinking…

… I was swarmed by Ottawa fans and members of “Sens Nation” who told me crazy things like Matt Carkner is a serviceable NHL player and shouldn’t have been disciplined at all by the league to more believable things like I had a stupid haircut in my twitter profile picture.

Apparently Boyle was a worthless thug – a worthless thug who has scored one less goal in these playoffs than Carkner has in his entire NHL career – who deserved to be sucker punched and beaten.

According to “Sens Nation” Matt Carkner is a vital part of the Ottawa game plan and would have made a difference in the outcome of last night’s game.

When Boyle put back that rebound and gave the Rangers a 1-0 lead last night it was a truly amazing feeling. I didn’t hear anything from “Sens Nation” the rest of the night. I wouldn’t have wanted it to happen any other way.

All I know is that there’s nothing better than the NHL playoffs and if the Rangers go on a deep run into June I might have a heart attack first and/or become an alcoholic to deal with the stress.

I can’t wait.


Kreider Debuts Against Senators in Game 3

April 16, 2012

New York Rangers top prospect Chris Kreider made his NHL debut Monday night in the Rangers’ 1-0 victory over the Ottawa Senators in Game 3 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinals matchup. The Rangers lead the series 2-1.

Kreider, who signed an entry-level contract with the Rangers last week just two days after winning his second National Championship at Boston College, played 11:11 and skated alongside Marian Gaborik and Brad Richards throughout the night in the absence of Carl Hagelin, who was handed a three-game suspension for his hit on Daniel Alfredsson in Game 2.

As expected, Kreider didn’t see much action late in the third period with the Rangers clinging to a 1-0 lead. Head coach John Tortorella said he wanted Kreider to watch the game from the bench to get a better view of the game. Kreider took it in stride.

When asked what he learned, Kreider said: “What it takes to win at this level. More than anything, how the guys have bought into this series. It’s a winning brand of hockey and I was able to see that from the bench.”

Kreider nearly had his first NHL goal in his first game. With a few seconds left in the second period, Kreider had a golden opportunity on the goalmouth but couldn’t get stick on the puck.

“I’m still thinking about it, I just missed it,” Kreider said. “I was so excited I just missed it.” Read the rest of this entry »

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

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 »

Boyle Dawns Giant Gear

February 6, 2012

By now, you’ve heard the New York Giants last night defeated the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl. While many members of the New York Rangers, including Brandon Dubinsky, Henrik Lundqvist and Michael Del Zoto have adopted the G-Men as their football team.

Massachusetts-born Brian Boyle is a Pats fan through and through. That’s what made this photo of him decked out in Giants gear all the more better. Brandon Prust tweeted it out this morning for all the world to see.

Good to see Boyle is a good sport, and keeping up his side of a bet that no doubt didn’t end well for him. 

Congratulations to all Giants fans (myself included), and hopefully this isn’t the last championship New Yorkers get to witness in 2012.

Follow Matt on Twitter @MattCalamia

Defensive Decisions Loom for New York Rangers

January 18, 2012

The Rangers have had their fair share of injuries through the first half of the season. Luckily, they are getting closer to being 100 percent. Unlucky for some players, especially on the blueline, there aren’t enough spots for everyone on the team.

The injured defensive trio of Michael Sauer (concussion), Steve Eminger (separated shoulder) and Jeff Woywitka (foot) have practiced with the team throughout the week, albeit in non-contact jerseys.

Although there is no timetable for any of the three — though reports have indicated the team expects Eminger and Sauer to begin contact drills after next week’s All Star break — it poses some interesting questions for the Rangers moving forward.

Once all three return from injury — and no other player succumbs to one — the Rangers will have nine defenseman for only six to seven spots on the roster, leaving several players looking for work in the AHL or elsewhere.

The top five are set in stone, with Ryan McDonagh, Dan Girardi, Marc Staal, Michael Del Zotto and Sauer. You could even pencil Eminger in there as well, as head coach John Tortorella has warmed to the veteran, now in his second season in New York.

If my math serves me right, that’s four players for the final one or two spots on the team. Woywitka is in the most precarious spot, as he is a lefty on an already full side, as McDonagh, Del Zotto and Staal are all lefties. Good-bye, Jeff.

That leaves Stu Bickel and Anton Stralman fighting for the final spot as the team’s seventh defenseman, if they even choose to carry a spare. Although he has played well, you’d have to give the edge to Bickel, as he’d be more attractive to another team through waivers. According to Pat Leonard at the NY Daily News, Bickel’s contract pays him $600,000 in the NHL, while Stralman’s is $900,000.

Woywitka, who could already have left town by then, makes $650,000 while in the NHL.

Bickel is a young asset this organization has, and won’t risk losing him on the waiver wire and getting nothing in return. See Dale Weise. 

Tortorella has suggested possible conditioning stints for some of his defenseman to allow them to get some games in once players return to injury. We’ll see if anyone takes the bait.

Follow Matt on Twitter @MattCalamia

Rangers First-Half Awards

January 8, 2012

Steve Zipay at Newsday gave his first-half awards for the New York Rangers, who currently sit atop the Eastern Conference.

Zipay named Henrik Lundqvist the team’s MVP, Marian Gaborik comeback player, Ryan Callahan role-model and Michael Del Zotto most improved.

Hard to argue with any of Zip’s picks. This team is no where without Lundqvist, especially earlier in the season when he was bailing them game after game. He’s arguably having the best season of his career, and it’s paying off with the team’s success.

Gaborik has already eclipsed last year’s goal total with 23 tallies this year. He’s confident with the puck and making things happen night after night. Is he healthier than last season? It’s possible, but I think the biggest attribute to his success has been Brad Richards, who takes a lot of the pressure off him to perform.

There’s no question Callahan is the role-model of this team, and really the organization. The team is molded after the way he plays, throwing himself in front of shots, finishing checks and doing the hard-work it takes to be successful on each shift. Most fans didn’t like him, but Chris Drury really left his imprint on Callahan, and he’s blossomed.

Del Zotto has done a complete 360 from last season when he was shipped off to the AHL after losing his game after a great rookie season. He’s rid his game of the bone-headed home run passes in favor of safer, more effective dishes from the start of the season. His play in his own end and physical presence on the ice have made him one of the Rangers’ most reliable defensemen. He took advantage of the chance give to him by Marc Staal‘s injury.