How far will the Rangers get this season?

Rangers Must "Rally For Cally"

Matt Gilroy will fill in at RW in the absence of Ryan Callahan

Matt Gilroy will fill in at RW in the absence of Ryan Callahan

Much has changed since the Rangers were last in action on Monday night.  Since the Blueshirts’ thrilling 5-3 comeback win over the Boston Bruins, the team has lost alternate captain Ryan Callahan, and both Buffalo and Montreal picked up two points to drop the Rangers back into eighth place.  Last night, Carolina upended the Red Wings to pull back within two of the Rangers.

New York still controls its playoff destiny, but the loss of Callahan has darkened the mood in Rangerland.  Tonight’s game against the slumping Atlanta Thrashers will be as much about solidifying the team’s hold on a playoff berth as it will be about gauging the team’s morale without its heart and soul. 

Without Callahan, Matt Gilroy will slide into the lineup at right wing, presumably on the fourth line.  He might be replaced in the lineup shortly by Chris Drury, but in any event, someone’s going to have to step up in Cally’s absence.  The obvious candidate is Marian Gaborik, who has been invisible and unproductive for the majority of this season.  Gaborik has been playing some of his best hockey lately, so there’s reason to believe that he could be on the verge of breaking out.  However, the more likely result is that several players will have to take on bigger roles over the coming week(s).  If/when Drury returns, he will immediately be trusted with penalty killing and with solidifying the fourth line.  He must also produce some offense.  Wojtek Wolski, who tallied two assists against Boston on Monday and scored a shootout goal on Sunday, must also start playing hard consistently and producing some offense.  Younger players like Artem Anisimov and Derek Stepan, both of whom have been streaky, must take yet another step forward and take on even more responsibility.  All of this is to say that a group that has grown as a unit all season must continue to do so.  One player can’t possibly replace all that Callahan brought to the Rangers, so they must do so together. 

The Rangers also must rediscover their power play.  Since Bryan McCabe arrived, the pp unit has been significantly more efficient and has usually looked more organized.  However, the Rangers are one for their last 23 on the man advantage, a problem that most be rectified.  Playoff games are won and lost on special teams, and especially without their second leading scorer, the Rangers will need to create offense when presented with golden opportunities. 

Atlanta is a relatively soft foe and ranks 29th in goals against and on the penalty kill, so this should be a good game to get a grasp of how capable the Rangers are of overcoming the loss of Callahan.  The Rangers could make the playoffs without No. 24, but tonight’s game against Atlanta and Saturday’s against New Jersey will be all the practice they’ll get in game situations of filling the void opened by Cally’s injury.



Posted by Kevin Baumer | April 7, 2011 at 10:12 am

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New York Rangers VS Chicago Blackhawks
Wednesday, October 7, 2015

  1 2 3 OT F
Rangers 3 0 0 - 3
Blackhawks 1 1 0 - 2

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