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The New York Rangers took a large step towards locking down a playoff spot with a massive 5-3 comeback victory over the Boston. The Rangers baked back from a 3-0 deficit midway through the second period finishing it off with three goals during the last four minutes of the game. Brandon Dubinsky started the rally with the tying goal, then Michael Sauer would net the eventual game winner before Derek Stepan added the empty net goal to seal it. The three goals came in 2:55 of action. The win moves the Rangers into seventh and lowered their magic number to just three. The four points the last two days were huge for the team and each game showed the grit and determination of the team and shows why this team is a legit threat to do damage in the playoffs.

The Rangers were completely outplayed in the first period and if not for some spectacular work by Henrik Lundqvist the deficit would have been a lot worse than 2-0. After multiple saves by Lundqvist the Bruins got on the board first with a goal by Dan Paille at 15:16. Just 1:37 later Nathan Horton made it 2-0 on a goal from a goal mouth scramble.

The Rangers played a much better second period as they played much better defensively holding only four shots. Boston made it 3-0 when Chris Kelly scored off the rush at 10:32.

The Rangers got some life from a Vinny Prospal at 11:34. The goal itself was a tap-in as a Wojtek Wolski shot got through Thomas’ legs leaving the juicy rebound for Prospal.

Prospal brought the Rangers within one with his second of the night with just 1:34 left in the period giving the Rangers momentum heading into the final period.

  • Lundqvist was excellent tonight in holding the fort until the team decided to kick it in gear.
  • Michael Sauer continues to impress with his play this year. The goal and the assist tonight are icing on the cake for what he provides this team on a nightly basis.
  • The line of Wolski, Prospal and Stepan was excellent once they were put together during the second.
Categories : Game Wrap-ups
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Rangers Pull Out Late Season Shootout In Philly This Time

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The New York Rangers took on the rival Philadelphia Flyers today in what had to be seen as a must win game given the ever tightening Eastern Conference playoff race.  You just had the feeling with how last year ended in Philadelphia that today’s game was going to come down to a shootout again and it did, but with a different result this time.  Coming off two subpar efforts in their last two the team responded with an excellent effort this afternoon and was rewarded for it with the 3-2 shootout win which moved them into seventh place in the East and gave them a three point cushion on ninth place Carolina.  The shootout saw Henrik Lundqvist erase the memories of last season’s finale in Philadelphia stoning Nikolai Zherdev and Claude Giroux while Erik Christensen and Wojtek Wolski both beat Bobrovsky with forehand shots.

This win is the type of character performance that has come to be expected this season as they were able to put a bad game/games behind them, bounce back and put in an effort to get them the critical points they need.  This is a huge momentum type win heading down the final three games of the season and reduced their magic number to 6 with Carolina and Buffalo playing in an hour.  New York will certainly have to bring this level of effort and intensity out there tomorrow night and the rest of the season if they look to win.  When they play like this they are a legit threat to any and all teams in this league.

Overall the Rangers played a solid road first period, but it would be the Flyers got on the board first on a goal from James Van Riemsdyk when he converted the rebound Sean O’Donnell shot from the point at 12:25.  On the play Steve Eminger utterly failed to clear out JVR from in front of the net which allowed him to easily pick up the rebound and slide it under Henrik.

Late in the first the Rangers power play would get a chance to atone for the debacle that was their power play on Thursday when they went 0-7 against the Islanders.  The first penalty was to Matt Carle for hooking and then 1:06 later Brayden Coburn would go off for two minutes when he high sticked Marc Stall.  The Rangers looked like they were going to head into the first intermission down 1-0, but then Bryan McCabe fired a tremendous drive from the point that beat Bobrovsky with .7 seconds left in the period.  That drive is the reason that McCabe was brought in here to begin with and gives the Rangers momentum heading into the second.

The second period saw the Rangers play excellent hockey as they were able to play their game and dictate the tempo by exercising puck possession and establishing the forecheck. At 13:30 of the period the hard work would be rewarded as Ruslan Fedotenko took a feed from Vinny Prospal and roofed it from in front to give the Rangers the 2-1 lead.  The goal was Fedotenko’s first since January 19 and much of the credit has to be given to Marc Staal and his effort on the play.

New York headed into the third with the 2-1 lead looking to hold onto their perfect 27-0-0 record when leading after two and while they didn’t play a great third period they were able to hold on for the OT.  The Flyers got the tying goal during a 4-on-4 from Nikolai Zherdev who was left all alone in front.  Earlier in the play Ryan McDonagh blocked a shot off his leg and limped to the bench.  This created some confusion on the coverage and while a replacement defender was coming on, it was Brian Boyle who failed in the coverage on Zherdev that led to the goal.

  • At this time of the year special teams is critical to wins and losses and that was certainly the case today.  The Rangers got the huge goal from McCabe late in the first and their penalty kill did a great job of neutralizing the Flyers on all four of their attempts.
  • Marian Gaborik did not score today but he was very noticeable on the ice in all zones, but especially in his defensive work early in the game
  • You cannot say enough about how the minutes and effort from Staal and Girardi today.  Staal put in 34:01 of ice today while playing the last two periods with a broken nose.  Girardi had 32:36 and blocked seven shots in the game.
Categories : Game Wrap-ups
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There are no words to accurately describe the disgrace that was the New York Rangers performance tonight in a 6-2 loss to the “rival” Islanders.  Coming off a mediocre performance in their biggest game of the year last night in Buffalo the team decided it didn’t really have to show up at all with the belief the Isles were going to roll over and hand them two points.  The power play was atrocious in going 0-7, defensive zone coverage was even worse, but the utter lifelessness and lack of effort for the team as a whole was the worst part of it all.  There is no way in the last five games of the year that you should lack effort and energy while battling for a playoff spot.

Hard to believe but the Rangers actually did lead in this game when Vinny Prospal made it 1-0 Rangers 14:25 into the first period.  The goal was created by excellent work from Marian Gaborik down low would get him the puck, he stepped out and fired a shot that was blocked by Jack Hillen, then Gaborik played the puck over to Prospal who fired a quick slap shot from the right faceoff circle that beat Montoya high.

Following the goal the Rangers would have a series of four power plays over the next eight minutes of action including two different 5-on-3 advantages in which the team converted nothing and ended up creating momentum for the Islanders and they would actually feel like converting something tonight.

Blake Comeau and Radek Martinek would score 33 seconds apart to take what was a 1-0 deficit and turn it into a 2-1 Islanders lead.  After killing off the Rangers sixth power play of the game the Islanders would could get two more quick goals during the latter stages of the period with the first from Jesse Joensu on a deflection and then Parenteau would score 76 seconds later to make it 4-1.

Matt Moulson added to the insult mid-way through the third and then the ultimate indignity occurred when Trevor Gillies scored at 14:00 of the third period to make it 6-1.  Prust gets an absolutely meaningless goal with 13.6 seconds left to make it 6-2.

Now they have to pick themselves up and show some of the heart they showed before the last two nights on Sunday or all the work of the first 76 games could unravel rapidly.

Categories : Game Wrap-ups
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Rangers Drop To Eighth In East Following Loss To Sabres

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Tonight was billed as the biggest game of the New York Rangers season as they were heading into Buffalo to take on the Sabres with a chance to gain ground on those in front of them and put some distance between themselves, the Sabres and the Hurricanes.  The problem is no one on the Rangers displayed that sense of urgency for the majority of the hockey game.  It was not until the third period that team actually had some urgency.  The team did scramble late in trying to tie the game and salvage something from the night, but the overall effort was not nearly to the level necessary to be successful and so the team will leave Buffalo in eighth place only three points up Carolina for the final playoff spot.

The Rangers were given a gift in catching the Sabres without Ryan Miller and acted ungrateful as they made the majority of the night on backup goaltender Jhonas Enroth.  Enroth would only have to make 23 saves to get his first career shutout. To Enroth’s credit he did make three or four beautiful saves in the third period to secure the 1-0 victory.

As for the action the Rangers were dominated for the first half of the first period, but would mount some pressure late in the period including a disallowed Artem Anisimov goal with just over two minutes left.  On the play Ryan Callahan was skating through the crease and ended up sandwiched between Enroth and Sekera.  While not a malicious play by Callahan it was the right call to disallow the goal because it did impact Enroth’s ability to get back and play the rebound from Anisimov.

During the second period the Rangers were woeful and the only goal of the game would happen.  Brian Boyle broke down on a two-on-one, while shorthanded, with Ryan Callahan and elected to make the pass which was blocked and Buffalo came back the other way.  The puck would eventually end up on the stick of Tim Connolly along the left wing board and he wound up for a blast that beat Lundqvist high at 5:28 of the second.

Adding injury to the insult of the effort of the first two periods was Henrik Lundqvist being down again, but this time not from being run into by the opposition.  With just 24.4 seconds left in the second period Lundqvist appeared to take a shot just above his right knee while he was down in the butterfly.  After shaking off the leg and being checked by Jim Ramsey he stayed in the game for the rest of the night.

The third period saw the Rangers finally show some urgency and create some scoring chances that tested Enroth, but they could not solve him tonight.  The best chances were had by Stepan and various others by Marian Gaborik and it had the feel they would find a way to get one though it was not meant to be.

  • Prospal-Stepan-Gaborik was the most dangerous line for the Rangers tonight
  • Sean Avery had an impact in his minutes
  • Wolski or Christensen need to hit the bench tomorrow and let Zuccarello get back in.
Categories : Game Wrap-ups
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Stepan Moves Up, Who Will Be Scratched Tomorrow?

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Based on practice today there appears to be at least one change to the New York Rangers lineup tomorrow against the Buffalo Sabres and it has nothing to do with who the healthy scratch might be.  The lines that were reported from practice showed two that remained intact and the other have been shifted at the center position.  Derek Stepan has been moved from his recent role as centering the fourth line to playing with Marian Gaborik and Vinny Prospal.  The move is one that coach John Tortorella has employed with Stepan already this year where he drops him down in the lineup when his game slips and then when he finds it again he moves back up.  Moving down in the lineup was Erik Christensen who after his four game point streak has gone scoreless in his last three.

In terms of the healthy scratch for tomorrow it is a very safe bet that it will come from the foursome of Wojtek Wolski, Sean Avery, Mats Zuccarello and Erik Christensen.  Here is a quick breakdown of the candidates:

Wojtek Wolski: Wolski has been healthy scratched once already and has been scoreless in his last seven games.  Combine his lack of impact when he isn’t scoring with those facts and he is certainly a candidate to end up wearing a suit tomorrow night.  The potential skill of Wolski likely saves him for this game, but no telling for how long after that.

Sean Avery: Avery has been a scratch in four of the last six games, and only played 5:45 of ice time against Boston, but he was a spark with his fight and contributed that huge shot block late in the third so I expect him to be in again.

Mats Zuccarello: Zuke was scratched against Boston with the size of Bruins seen as a factor and that factor should not exist tomorrow Buffalo who has a number of small players of their own.  That said Zuccarello has seen his ice diminished significantly over his last six games before the scratch.  He has three assists in his last six game so while he is not scoring goals the combination of his even limited production with his effort might get him back in the lineup.

Erik Christensen: Christensen is by far the biggest enigma on this team in terms of figuring out what version of him is going to show up to the rink on a given night.  You can either get the guy who looks like a top line player and makes beautiful plays on the ice with and without the puck or you get a guy who looks like he couldn’t make a recreational league team and plays like a ghost in a uniform.  While Wolski and Avery have both played center at times in the past I think being a center is what saves Christensen for this one.

As of now I would assume that Zuccarello will be the odd-man out again as, but I would not discount the chances that it is Wolski who goes back to the pine given how little he is giving right now.

Categories : Analysis
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This was one of those classic trap games where the New York Rangers come in on a four game win streak, fighting for but gaining some cushion in the playoff race taking on a Florida Panthers team with absolutely nothing to lose.  I could sit here and try to dress this game up as a thrilling 1-0 game between the Florida Panthers and New York Rangers, but if you saw it you would just be insulted.  Instead what we saw was basically a snooze fest that saw the Rangers dominate for portions of the game get absolutely no reward thanks to the work of Tomas Vokoun.  The good news is that the Rangers in the end got the job done with a 1-0 win over Florida and extended the winning streak to five games.

The Rangers would finally strike in the third when Brandon Dubinsky scored the lone goal of the game.  The play was made in part by Artem Anisimov making a great play in front with his skates to keep the pressure alive while Ryan Callahan worked his way into the play.  Callahan would then feed Dubinsky in front for the tap in to the empty net.

The rest of the action was for Henrik Lundqvist to dispose of the twenty two shots the Panthers threw his way in order to collect his league leading tenth shutout of the season.  It is the stretch run and once again Lundqvist is carrying this team to the brink of the playoffs.

  • Dubinsky-Anisimov-Callahan is the Rangers top line whether you want to call them that or not. They are the engine that runs this team and when they produce this team is hard to beat
  • Wolski was awful tonight and I would expect Avery to get a chance to play either against Ottawa or Boston.
  • Steve Eminger was excellent tonight in filling in for Marc Staal.
Categories : Game Wrap-ups
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Matt Cooke Sat Down Rest of Regular Season, First Round of Playoffs

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The National Hockey League today held a disciplinary hearing for forward Matt Cooke of the Pittsburgh Penguins following yesterday’s elbow to the head of Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh (video of the hit).  After hours of waiting for the decision Nick Kypreos of Sportsnet reported that the NHL suspended Cooke for the last 10 games of the regular season and the first round of the playoffs for his cheapshot.

From the NHL statement:

“Mr. Cooke, a repeat offender, directly and unnecessarily targeted the head of an opponent who was in an unsuspecting and vulnerable position,” said NHL Senior Executive Vice President of Hockey Operations Colin Campbell. “This isn’t the first time this season that we have had to address dangerous behavior on the ice by Mr. Cooke, and his conduct requires an appropriately harsh response.”

This is the kind of punishment that the NHL needed to give in order to send a message that they were serious about eliminating headshots, preventing concussions and dealing with repeat offenders.  I have been critical before of the inconsistency and at some points lack of stiff punishment by the NHL, but this one is right on the money.  You cannot argue that a suspension of a minimum of 14 and maximum of 17 games is too lenient for the league and will be equally as tough for the Penguins to claim that it is too harsh a penalty especially given the outspoken response of Penguins owner Mario Lemieux earlier this season.

What a punishment like this also does is it costs the Penguins as well because they are hurt for the stretch run and into the playoffs with a player who has been important to their team.  Until the team’s really are hurt in the standings and the wallet by this kind of behavior it will not end.


Categories : Around the League
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There is something about the third period in Pittsburgh that really works for the New York Rangers this season.  After playing one mediocre and one awful period the team had a furious final 11 minutes in which they turned a 2-1 deficit into a huge 5-2 victory.  The turning point of the game was clearly Matt Cooke’s vicious elbow to the head of Ryan McDonagh(video) at 4:36 of the third.  Cooke was assessed a five minute major and given a game misconduct for the hit.  I expect he will get a lengthy suspension of 7-10 games as well if the league really wants to send a message about getting these hits out of the game.

Following the elbow by Cooke the Penguins would actually gain the initial momentum when Chris Kunitz scored a shorthanded goal beating Henrik Lundqvist on a perfect shot far side, top corner.  The Rangers who were struggling to get anything going got more help from Pittsburgh when Matt Niskanen was called for a double minor as he high-sticked Ryan Callahan across the nose and drew blood.

Late in the 5-on-3 advantage the Rangers tied the game as a Bryan McCabe drive led to a rebound which Marian Gaborik put home at 9:28 of the period.  It was the first thing Gaborik did all day and easily his most important goal this season.  Ryan Callahan struck just 11 seconds later from a bad angle to give the Rangers a lead they would not relinquish.

Derek Stepan would add a rebound goal to seal the game with 1:15 left and then Brandon Dubinsky capped the scoring with an empty-net goal with 40 seconds to go to make it 5-2.

This was a huge win for the Rangers and their third character building triumph in Pittsburgh this season.  The team is now on a season high four game win streak, three points back of sixth place Montreal and six points clear of Carolina in the playoff race.

The Rangers had a slow start in the first period, but they would tally the first goal just over midway through the when Artem Anisimov converted a beautiful feed from Ryan Callahan at 11:20.  Dubinsky with excellent work behind the net eventually worked the puck to Callahan and his saucer pass found Anisimov in front of the net for the finish.

The lead would not last long as Jordan Staal tied the game up at 14:59 on a breakaway goal.  Dan Girardi with a horrible read on the play as he got caught stepping on Alex Kovalev in the neutral zone assuming the pass, which left him trapped too far inside and Staal with tons of room.

You had to expect that the Penguins were going to take every chance to crash the crease considering the questions about Henrik Lundqvist’s neck and Max Talbot certainly made that happen late in the first.  Talbot clearly ran Lundqvist and Ryan Callahan took exception and tossed Talbot to the ice.  Only Callahan was assessed a penalty which rightfully incensed coach John Tortorella.

The second period was an embarrassing effort by the Rangers and if not for the stellar work of Henrik Lundqvist the game would have been over.

  • Henrik Lundqvist’s performance today cannot be understated regardless of the neck issues he was having before the game.  He single-handedly kept this team in the game and gave them a chance for that rally.
  • With each game the love for Michael Sauer grows stronger as he will do whatever it takes to help this team and his willingness to defend his goalie is something the rest of this team needs to learn from.
  • Ryan Callahan needs to be cut more often because each time he sees his own blood he seems to score a goal, so we have to work that into future gameplans.


Categories : Game Wrap-ups
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Rangers Trounce Islander 6-3, Rise To Seventh Place

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The Rangers took the Islanders seriously as an opponent and then they handled their business on their way to a convincing 6-3 win. New York had its stars show up tonight with Henrik Lundqvist making done tremendous saves, especially early on, Gaborik getting two goals and the power play cashing in on its chances. If those three things continue the last 11 games then they playoff spot will take care of itself.

The Rangers came out with excellent energy and maintained it throughout the first period. Marian Gaborik had an early breakaway, but could not covert. Moments later Sean Avery took a boarding penalty. While shorthanded Brandon Prust gave the Rangers the 1-0 lead.  The Prust goal was created by Ryan McDonagh who collapsed the defense with his move to the net and his shot created the rebound for Prust. Late in the first Erik Christensen extended the lead to 2-0 with a beautiful shot on the power play. That is how the first ended.

The team came out sluggish to start the second with goals by Matt Moulson and P.A. Parenteau to tie the game.

New York would respond with three goals of their own before the period ended. The first was from Ryan Callahan off a beautiful behind the back pass from Artem Anisimov. Marian Gaborik made it 4-2 on a gorgeous wrist shot far post. Bryan McCabe closed the period with his first as a Ranger to bring the lead to 3 at 5-2.

The third period was academic, but Gaborik got his second of the evening before John Tavares scored to make the final 6-3.

  • Lundqvist was excellent, especially in the first and he seems to be in a much better groove these last few games.
  • Don’t know what has gotten into Erik Christensen, but I like it.  He is producing points on a consistent basis and even more than that he is showing up at other points of the game.
  • I expect Avery to be right back in the press box watching on Friday as he was awful tonight.  He took three penalties and none of them of the “good” variety.  The boarding call in the first he got lucky, at least from where we were, to not get more than two minutes and the one in the third cost them what in this game was a meaningless goal, but you cannot expect to be up four to be ok with giving up a goal down the stretch.
Categories : Game Wrap-ups
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Christian Thomas in NHL Next Year?

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Friday night, New York Rangers prospect Christian Thomas broke the 50 goal mark and the excitement began to build amongst Rangers fans.  I warned everyone not to get overly excited about what he could do at the NHL level with those numbers, and I meant that, but today I want to look at whether or not he could be in the NHL as soon as next season.  Jess Rubenstein of The Prospect Park, the preeminent source for all things Rangers prospect related, suggested Saturday that he should at least get the chance to do so and I cannot disagree.

Gordie Clark has preached that a prospect needs to dominate at the level he is at before advancement. That being said then the argument can be made that Christian Thomas has earned at the very least a long look at making the Rangers next season.

52 goals in 62 games this season which puts him tied not only for the goal scoring lead in the OHL but in the entire CHL. 18-14-32 not in the early season but when his team is making a push for playoff seeding also offers evidence that says Thomas merits the same consideration that Chris Kreider does.

The Rangers want to make a case for Chris Kreider but allow us to make one for Christian Thomas. The Staal Standard measures how your play directly impacts how you team does.

Since Jess wrote that Christian went out and scored two more goals on Saturday night to give him 54, and he also had the shootout winner in the game.  I would argue that Thomas has done more to earn consideration for a spot next year than Kreider has this season in terms of both dominating at his current level and meeting what Jess refers to as the Staal Standard.

For those unaware, the Staal standard came out of how Marc Staal excelled during the playoffs in helping to carry Sudbury a few seasons ago and now Jess measures the impact, not just points, but when points are scored in the most important time of the season.  Obviously the playoffs have not come yet, but if Thomas plays in the playoffs how he has in the last two months with 18 goals 14 assists in the last 17 games then he will be on his way to racking up the same kind of acclaim.

Before anyone suggests it, the AHL is not an option for Thomas next season because of his age and the fact he was in the CHL at the time of him being drafted.  I don’t know that Thomas is ready to be an NHL player just yet, but with the lack of scoring ability on this team and the fact he has little left to prove in the OHL he certainly has earned the right to give it a shot.

Categories : Prospects
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