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


Rangers Top Hurricanes 3-2

March 1, 2012

I’m actually having difficulty coming up with witty openings for post-game entries. This team just keeps rolling and rolling. They lose one or two, they win three or four. The shock is starting to wear off, and many Rangers fans have now just become used to the success of the regular season. That, obviously, will change in about five weeks time when the playoffs start.

Tonight, the Rangers defeated the Carolina Hurricanes, 3-2, behind second period goals by Artem Anisimov and Marian Gaborik, and a third period tally by Brandon Prust. For the Hurricanes, Jeff Skinner and Jay Harrison were able to beat Martin Biron over 60 minutes.

The Rangers improve to 41-15-6, lead both the Eastern Conference and Atlantic Division

  • Really solid effort from start to finish. The Rangers were the better team for 60 minutes and were just too much for the Canes to handle.
  • When the Rangers got into penalty trouble — especially the four-minute double-minor in the third period — the penalty kill stepped up huge. This team prides itself on team defense, and it very rarely fails them.
  • Speaking of penalties, Brandon Dubinsky‘s tossing the stick penalty late in the first period, which led to Skinner’s goal early in the second period, is just a bad penalty to take. Dubinsky didn’t have a shift in the second or third periods. Hopefully it sends the message. Coach John Tortorella called it a “dumb penalty.”
  • The line of Anisimov, Gaborik and Derek Stepan continues to generate offense on a nightly basis. They’re developing into a legitimate first line threat. Gaborik’s tally was his 30th of the season, and he’s had over a point-per-game over the last 20.
  • This was one of Biron’s most solid starts, and he needed it. He’s been lack-luster as of late, and he really bounced back and maintained the Rangers’ leads. Big win for him.
  • Scary scene in the third period when Dan Girardi appeared to injure his arm blocking a shot. I understand the mentality of blocking shots, but sometimes I wish these guys would let the guy with the goalie pads block them.
  • Michael Del Zotto left the match with a hip injury. It could be the same injury he suffered last weekend against Buffalo, but not a lot of information given tonight.
  • No Ryan Callahan, no problem. The team didn’t skip a beat without the captain in the lineup. Obviously we don’t want to make that a regular story, but one night they survived.
  • Ryan McDonagh is a great player.
  • The Prust goal was something out of NHL 94 on the Sega Genesis. Picture perfect.
  • I really hate when Marc Staal plays one of his brothers. MSG makes out like it’s the first time this happens, rather than a 10-time a season thing.
  • Right back at it tomorrow night against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Follow Matt on Twitter @MattCalamia


Rangers Edge Nash, Blue Jackets in OT 3-2

February 19, 2012

The undertone of Sunday night’s game was Rick Nash visiting New York where he could be playing at this time next week. But tonight, he was a member of the Columbus Blue Jackets, and even though it took overtime, the Rangers walked away with a 3-2 overtime victory on a game-winning goal by Derek Stepan just seconds into the extra period.

The Rangers dominated the opening stanza, and walked away with a 1-0 lead on a goal by Brad Richards, off a drop-pass from Carl Hagelin. It was Richards’ 18th goal of the season. The Rangers outshot the Blue Jackets 10-4, and completely controlled the puck from start to finish.

The Jackets tied the game in the second period on the powerplay after Marian Gaborik was called for high-sticking. Columbus’ Derek Brassard‘s slapshot beat Henrik Lundqvist for his 11th goal of the season. Late in the second period, the Rangers took the lead when Artem Anisimov buried a loose puck outside the crease, after Dan Girardi‘s slapshot missed the net and skidded slowly back in front.

The Rangers appeared to take a 3-1 lead in the dying seconds of the second period when Michael Del Zotto beat goaltender Chris Mason, but after further review, it was determined time had expired, even though the television clocks showed .01 remaining on the clock. The NHL said that is not the official clock, and the goal was disallowed.

New York held onto the 2-1 lead none other than Nash scored to tie it with 1:33 left to send the game to overtime, when Stepan completed a gorgeous tic-tac-toe pass from Del Zotto and Gaborik to give the Rangers the 3-2 win.

  • Beautiful play to end the game. I think all Rangers fans have come to love the team’s blue-collar style, but plays like that are always welcomed. The team deserved to win this game, and deserved the fate they got.
  • How wasn’t Del Zotto a star of the game? You could make the case he should have been the first, which somehow went to Ryan Callahan, who finished with zero points on the night. I love Callahan, but Del Zotto should have gotten the nod.
  • The NHL has to get its stuff together with the clock issue. It makes absolutely no sense that the game clock isn’t the official clock. It’s 2012; how is this an issue?
  • The powerplay continues to be an issue. Enough said.
  • Gorgeous pass by Hagelin on the Richards goal. The kid is getting better and better.
  • Lundqvist didn’t get a lot of work, but his save on Jeff Carter was gorgeous.
  • I loved the “We Don’t Want You” chant from the fans. Not sure if it would have any affected on him, but I’m sure Nash didn’t appreciate it.
  • Nothing else to say tonight. It was a pretty boring game, and the dead crowd reflected it.
  • It’s off to Pittsburgh for a matchup with the Penguins and Evgeni Malkin on Tuesday.

Follow Matt on Twitter @MattCalamia


Dubinsky Focused Amongst Trade Talks

February 18, 2012

The Rangers are seldom stay quiet at the trade deadline, and aren’t expected to start this season. The deadline is a week from Monday, and the name on everyone’s tongue to be shipped out of Broadway if the right deal comes along — namely for Columbus Blue Jackets forward Rick Nash — is Brandon Dubinsky.

Dubinsky, though, said he understands it’s part of the business of the game and is trying to not let it creep into his game.

“Trades are part of the game,” Dubinsky said. “Until Slats [GM Glen Sather] calls me and says I’m not here anymore, I’m going to work my butt off. It’s all rumors. It’s just part of the game.”

The winger, who signed a four-year deal worth $4.2 million per season, said it would “suck” if he was dealt. “I love it here,” he said. “But I’m not putting too much thought into it. You can’t control what other people say, you can only control what you do. If you do that, the rest of the game, the rest of our career, will take care of itself. That’s the way you’ve got to approach it and keep your focus.”

Head coach John Tortorella said he didn’t even know when the deadline was, and said it’s all just a distraction.

“I like this hockey club.” he said.

These guys are professionals, but the rumors always have to take its toll on them. Personally, I don’t want Dubinsky dealt. Sure he’s having a bad season, but so did Marian Gaborik last season and I’m not sure many Ranger fans would want him off this team this season. He’s an important part of this team, which I don’t believe needs a major shake up.

Save the cap space for July 1, Glen.

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


Callahan Scores Hat Trick as Rangers Roll 5-2 Over Flyers

February 11, 2012

I’ve never liked the Philadelphia Flyers, but it was taken to a new level this season courtesy of the Winter Classic and HBO’s 24/7. That’s why the New York Rangers‘s dominance over the Broadstreet Bullies dating back to last season has been so rewarding. It continued today with a 5-2 win in Philadelphia, as captain Ryan Callahan led the charge with his second hat-trick of his career against the Flyers.

Check out the re-cap here.

  • How about this powerplay? Scored one against the Tampa Bay Lightning Thursday night, and follow it up with THREE goals today. If it can begin clicking on a consistent basis, this team will be very hard to beat, and could allow Glen Sather to stand pat at the deadline.
  • Adding to that note, this team is getting contributions throughout the lineup. Players like Brandon Dubinsky, Brian Boyle, and Artem Anisimov — who scored a goal today — have been playing a lot better in the offensive zone. You need offensive depth to make any type of run come spring time.
  • Callahan now has 21 goals with the hat trick tonight, and should easily finish with 30-plus this season. He’s such a dynamic player, and to see the goals come like they did today is a very positive sign.
  • Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik both had great games today. Richards had three assists while Gaborik finished with a goal and three assists. The Rangers need their best players to be their best players.
  • Loved Dubinsky fighting that piece of garbage Zac Rinaldo. What is that guy even doing in the NHL?
  • Henrik Lundqvist had another great game, especially in the second period when he faced 18 shots. Crazy to think that there is still a question as to whether he should the Vezina Trophy winner this season. He’s now 5-0 against the Flyers this season.
  • Marc Staal keeps getting better and better. His game is coming back, and you see him taking the body more and jumping into the rush.
  • Right back at it tomorrow with an afternoon tilt at MSG against the Washington Capitals.

Follow Matt on Twitter @MattCalamia