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  Articles > NHL > Rangers
 Nash Propels Rangers in OT Win over Isles

Rangers forward Rick Nash lurks in front of the Islanders net.

UNIONDALE, NY – In a playoff atmosphere before a sold-out crowd of 16,170 last night at the Nassau Coliseum, the crunch time heroics of Rangers forward Rick Nash were on display as he led the Rangers to a 2-1 overtime victory against their cross-town rival New York Islanders. Nash tied the game 1-1 at 14:37 of the 3rd period, and later setup the game winner by Marian Gaborik at 0:42 of overtime.

Gaborik’s 8th of the season came on the power play, with Michael Grabner sent off for hooking 0:21 in to the overtime period.

Both teams came out strong, and the play was up and down the ice at a fast pace for most of the night. Islanders forward Michael Grabner opened the scoring with his 10th goal of the season, burying a shot in the top right corner on a feed from Colin McDonald behind the net at 11:51 of the first period. Grabner played a strong game, registering 4 shots on goal. In the second period, Grabner used his speed to get around Rangers defenseman Roman Hamrlik, but couldn’t find the back of the net. Hamrlik played well in his Rangers debut, seeing 18 shifts for 15:48 of ice.

The Isles had a number of chances to build on their early lead, and would regret not being able to do so.

Josh Bailey found himself all alone in the high slot in the second period, but a hurried wrist shot was turned away with the blocker by Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqist. Matt Moulson managed 3 shots on goal, including a partial breakaway that saw him sail a backhand high over the glove of Lundqvist at 11:40 of the second period.

The Islanders did not get a chance on the power play, the first time since January 7, 1989 that the Isles did not have a power play in a game against the Rangers. The Isles weren’t very happy about it.

“Maybe we’re wrong; maybe they played a real clean game… It’s very frustrating,” said Islanders forward Matt Martin.

Still, the Islanders aggressive penalty kill generated the better chances when Casey Cizikas was sent off for holding at 11:07 and Kyle Okposo went off for tripping at 16:05 of the second period. Lundqvist came up big for the Rangers stopping Martin on a short-handed breakaway, and Grabner on a great chance in front of the net with the Isles down a man. Lundqvist stopped 28 of 29 shots against the swarming Islanders.

While the Rangers were also playing with great intensity, they were having even more trouble getting a puck past Evgeni Nabokov- who turned away 35 of 27 shots. Ryan McDonagh and  J.T. Miller were stopped on great chances in front of the net in the second period. In the third, Darroll Powe was all alone in front but couldn’t get it past the Islanders netminder. Nash made a particularly nice inside out move towards the net early in the third period, only to be turned away by Nabokov.

Nash’s persistence paid off when he finally broke through on the Nabokov with the tying goal late in the third, and later setting up the game winner in overtime. All of Nash’s 8 goals this season have come in the 3rd period.

“He’s an elite player, big and strong,” Islanders head coach Jack Capuano said after the game. “You have to have an awareness when he’s on the ice and try to contain him.”

The Rangers take their 4-game winning streak back to Madison Square Garden to face-off against the Senators tonight, while the Islanders prepare to host the Capitals tomorrow afternoon.

Link to Photo Gallery

 Rangers, Islanders Look to Keep Streaks Alive

Rangers vs Islanders © by Robert Kowal

The Islanders will be playing their sixth game of a seven-game home stand tonight when they host their cross town rival New York Rangers at the Nassau Coliseum this evening at 7:00pm.

The teams split a pair of games in New York in February, with the Islanders rallying for a shootout victory on Valentine’s Day in the teams’ last meeting. The Rangers have out-scored the Islanders 7-4 in those games, including a 4-0 advantage in the first period. While the adrenaline should fuel a fast pace early in the game, the Islanders must stay focused against a Rangers team that seems to be hitting their stride.

“We’ll be ready. Everyone follows through on their checks a bit more when we play them,” said the Islanders Matt Martin this morning, who leads the NHL with 110 hits this season.

Although the Islanders have had their troubles at home this season, the team is 3-1-0 against the Rangers in their last four contests at the Coliseum. Still, it will be key for the Islanders to play a smart, consistent game- particularly in the defensive end early and throughout the game.

Both teams have played well of late.

The Rangers come in to the game on a three-game winning streak, matching the club’s longest of the year. After a slow start on the power play, the team has scored with the man advantage in six of their last nine games (7/31, 22.6%). Forward Rick Nash leads the team with 7 goals (all in 3rd periods), and the team is 10-2-1 in the last 13 games he has played.

Meanwhile the Islanders have won their last two games, recording their fifth two-game winning streak this season with their 6-3 victory over the Canadiens on Tuesday. While Nash has lead the way for the Rangers, the Islanders John Tavares has lit the lamp 14 times this season (third most in the league), and is arguably New York’s best player right now.

Brad Richards was not on the ice for this morning’s skate, and according to the NY Daily News Pat Leonard he will likely not play in tonight’s game .

Rangers head coach John Tortorella will likely replace him in the lineup with former Islander Micheal Haley. Looking to add some toughness to his lineup, Islanders head coach Jack Capuano will dress Eric Boulton in place of David Ullstrom. I wonder what lines will start the game… it should be an entertaining contest tonight!

 Lin-sanity Stealing Headlines From The King and his Men
  Rangers and netminder Henrik Lundqvist Dominance Being Overshadowed

There is nothing “under the radar” about being in first place in the conference, having the inside track on the best record in the league and doing it with one of your sport’s leading candidates for MVP. Except, apparently, when the city in which you play is swept up in a basketball craze centered around the most unsung of heroes. These days, in New York, Lin-sanity trumps all.

But there’s a trend sweeping the hockey world that deserves more of this city’s attention: Lund-sanity, and the meteoric rise of the New York Rangers. The first-place, Eastern-Conference-leading, President’s-Trophy-chasing New York Rangers, led by netminder Henrik Lundqvist’s MVP-caliber year. Alright, maybe “Lund-sanity” doesn’t have the same ring. And sure, hockey isn’t at the top of everyone’s list in a city where the Yankees are king, the Knicks are in second and the football Giants are probably a close third. But it shouldn’t be about which sport is king. It should all be about The King – King Henrik Lundqvist, and his men.

Lin-sanity is incredible, inspirational and impressive. Lund-sanity is all that and more.

Nothing should be taken away from Jeremy Lin’s remarkable stretch, which has captivated a city and a country yearning for a Cinderella story in a sport where the rich get richer and those who fail to catch up are left in the wake. The sudden star has saved his coach’s job and a season headed in the wrong direction. But the Knicks, six-game winning streak and all, are still one game under .500 and in eighth place in the Eastern Conference. They are nine games behind the conference-leading Chicago Bulls.

The Rangers are tops in their conference, one point behind the league leading Detroit Red Wings and playing their best hockey of the season – maybe even their best hockey since June of 1994. While the Knicks needed a last-second three-point bucket to come from behind and defeat a cellar-dwelling team with a 9-21 record, the Rangers were on the road shutting out the defending Stanley Cup champions. The Knicks are barely hanging on to the final playoff spot. The Rangers – nine points ahead of second place in the conference – have a firm hold on the top one. It’s time for the sporting world, or at the very least the back pages, to take notice. The New York Rangers are without question, at the moment, the best team in this city. They might be the best team in their sport.

It’s starting to look like they might be the last one standing, too. And that success starts with Lundqvist. The Swedish netminder is playing at a level that has him at the forefront of the Vezina Trophy discussion. It’s earning him serious consideration for the Hart Trophy, too. Lundqvist is second in goals against average, first in save percentage and fourth in wins. Last night, he made 42 saves in the Rangers’ 3-0 win over the Boston Bruins, earning his league-leading seventh shutout. On a nightly basis, he is a rock in net, a steadying force for a team that has at times had trouble scoring goals, but almost never loses because the goaltender wasn’t on his game. He’s playing at a level previously unseen at the world’s most famous arena since Mike Richter donned the No. 35 jersey and played between the pipes for the Blueshirts.

King Henrik has been criticized in recent years for supposedly poor playoff performance. But that is due, in large part, to the fact that the Rangers have, for years, lacked the chemistry and continuity to be taken seriously in title discussions. Now, they have the pieces in front of him to make a run at the Stanley Cup.

So while Lundqvist is anchoring one of hockey’s best teams, the city is transfixed on the remarkable rise of a point guard trying to lead his team into the playoff picture. Sooner or later, New York needs to take notice of the Knicks’ Garden co-tenants. The ones that lead their league, the ones with one of their league’s best players. The spotlight deserves to shine on the ice, too.

 Rangers Defeat the Flyers in the Winter Classic
  Controversial Ending Adds to the Drama

Henrik Lundqvist stops Daniel Briere on a penalty shot.

In a thrilling game yesterday at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, the New York Rangers defeated the Philadelphia Flyers for the third time in as many meetings this season by a final score of 3-2 in the fifth annual Winter Classic. The Rangers went down 2-0, before two goals by Mike Rupp tied it up. Then late in the third period, off-season free agent signee Brad Brad Richards scored what turned out to be the game winning goal to secure the Rangers victory.

What made the game so exciting was the controversial ending. A controversy that despite a Rangers win, led Rangers head coach John Tortorella to yap after the game.

“I’m not sure if NBC got together with the refs and wanted to turn this into an overtime game,” Tortorella said after the game.

Here are my thoughts on the wild ending to the game:

  • The Delay of Game penalty on McDonaugh was one of the worst I’ve seen in the history of the NHL. I don’t know how the referee could have possibly missed that.
  • Even though with 4 seconds left on that powerplay, the referee blew the whistle when play CLEARLY should have continued; in a sense it evened things out because the Flyers didn’t deserve to be on that power play in the first place.
  • Shortly after that Rangers forward Marian Gaborik broke in on Philadelphia net-minder Sergei Bobrovsky. Flyers’ defeseman Kimmo Timonen should have been called for hooking. Granted, I’m not a big fan of the hooking rule now-a-days, and I wish what Timonen did was ALWAYS legal, but based on what I’ve seen watching hockey (and I watch a lot), the referees should have absolutely called that a hooking. It was a textbook hook. I’ve seen much less called before.

When New York forward Ryan Callahan was taken down, the fact that they called a diving on Callahan as well was absurd for two reasons:

  • Callahan had a hockey stick wrapped around his neck. I don’t care who you are as a human being (Chuck Norris, Jesus Christ, etc.), when someone wraps a stick around your neck and you are skating at full speed, it is going to bring you down to the ice every time.
  • On the play earlier on the Flyers power play, when the ref blew the play dead, I don’t know if anyone noticed, but the ref actually stumbled on the ice which at that point was becoming horrific to play on. If the referee is falling down and he is untouched, then how can you blame Callahan for embellishing when he had a stick wrapped around his throat?

It was hard to tell if McDonagh put the hand over the puck in the crease. It wasn’t conclusive from any camera angles. I would be surprised if the ref was able to see clearly that the puck was covered.

Although it could be argued that Tortorella shouldn’t complain after a win, if he complained after a loss it would be looked at as “just another excuse.” Coaches should express complaints (especially if they are valid) win or lose.

Overall it was a very exciting game, and surely the bulk of fans are looking forward to the final installment of 24/7- which should be most enjoyable for the Rangers as well.

 Was Episode One of 24/7 Missing Something?

Anyone who watched HBO’s 24/7 special with the Rangers and the Flyers on Wednesday night was most likely very happy. HBO does a great job with these specials and they did a great job yet again.

Flyers fans love Hartnell in the hot tub, and they sure loved Ilya Bryzgalov. I was planning on killing a tiger in China during my winter break from Penn State, but the Philadelphia netminder informed me that, that would be a poor decision on my part. Even watching the Broadstreet Bullies breakout to Mac Miller was fun to see as well. (Fun Fact: The song sampled in that song is Linda Scott’s, “I’ve Told Every Little Star.” — A great song in my opinion and the reason it makes “Knock Knock” so catchy).

There were plenty of great moments from the Blueshirts as well whether it be the way the team decides who pays for dinner, or Ryan Callahan’s delightfully hilarious 95 year old grandmother.

You also have to love how non-American born players say English phrases. For example, Marion Gaborik who claimed that head coach John Tortorella doesn’t “go around bushes. He tells you how it is.”

Did anyone else love the look Sean Avery gave Artem Anisimov when Anisimov was sitting in the locker room all by his lonesome?

And obviously hearing the on ice and off ice conversation between coaches, players, trainers etc is a great inside look that everyone wishes they can see and hear during every game.

But I feel as though there was one thing missing. On November 26th of this year, the Rangers hosted the Flyers at Madison Square Garden. The show started with some clips from that game, including the fight that erupted just four seconds after the puck dropped. The narrator just spoke over the highlights, not mentioning that game in particular at all but more so just introducing the audience to what they were about to see: A behind the scenes look of the Flyers and the Rangers.

We saw some great on and off ice material as I mentioned above. But what happened during the Rangers/Flyers game? I feel that for a show centered around these two teams, the show should feature games between the two teams. What was being said on the ice during the Rangers/Flyers match-up? What was being said in-between periods in the locker room? Did HBO get any footage of the pre-game for that game? Why did a fight break out after just four seconds?

If I were to give the first episode a grade, it would be an A. I loved every minute of it. It was a fantastically produced special by HBO. The only thing keeping it from an A+ is the lack of detail between the Rangers/Flyers match-up that took place the Saturday after Thanksgiving. That seems like an important game to leave out.

 Rangers Finish Off November Strong

Photo by Robert Kowal

The New York Rangers beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 4-3 on Tuesday night, clearly placing themselves in a division battle with the 2 teams from Pennsylvania after 20+ games. They followed up back to back losses on the road with wins against Washington, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. Limiting the output of 3 teams more gifted in the offense department is a strong statement from this defensive minded team.

Coach John Tortorella has his troops-in-blue playing to their strength, which is goaltending. Henrik Lundqvist is playing extremely well in net and continues to add to his regular season career totals. He added his 37th shutout as a Ranger with a 2-0 win over the Flyers last Saturday. That leaves him just 12 behind Eddie Giacomin’s team record of 49. Martin Biron has provided excellent relief as Hank’s backup posting a 3-1 record with a 1.68 GAA and a shutout of his own.

The defensive unit has made the biggest impact on this Ranger squad. Dan Girardi is continuing with the strong play he provided on the backline last year. He is attracting all-star consideration because of it, as evidenced by the amount of write-in votes he has received. Mike Sauer has got opponents taking notice of his stay-at-home, defense-first approach. Meanwhile, Michael Del Zotto’s defense and skating have improved as he has gotten back to playing the type of defense that made him an NHL all-rookie selection in 2010. D-Z, more importantly, has provided some key setups on the power play. The power play for the Rangers is a unit which, despite scoring goals in the last 3 games, has been a constant weak spot for the Blueshirts since the lockout of 2004-05. The X factor here, is the play of Ryan McDonagh. He has been more than anyone could have expected, making clutch plays every game. Ryan has been especially valuable in providing offense at even strength, with 8 of his 10 pts coming with equal manpower on the ice for both teams. This is also one of the reasons he leads the team in plus/minus at +11.

The Rangers are getting decent offensive production from Marian Gaborik and Brad Richards, each with 19 pts. They are getting the usual hard-working, lead-by-example play from their captain, Ryan Callahan. He has 16pts and 63 hits. The GAS line of Gaborik, Artem Anisimov and Derek Stepan might just stick together, as the trio has performed well with each member having 12+ pts at the 21 game mark.

The focus, however, has to be on the team defensive accomplishments as there are no individual scorers amongst the top 30 in the NHL. The Rangers are 13-5-3 heading into tonights road matchup with Carolina, because they have yielded an NHL low 44 goals in 21 games and are in the top 3 in goals allowed per game, with a 2.06 GAA.

After starting the season with 21 games during the first 2 months, they play 15 games in December, starting tonight with the Hurricanes. The goal should be to get through it with a 10-5 record. I wrote before the season that the Rangers needed to be dominant at home, that top level teams win on home ice. You have read in other spots how the Rangers are 7-1-1 at home for the first time since the 1992-93 season. That is a great way to start. What others have not told you and I will, is that 92-93 squad lost its last 7 home games and last 7 games overall and finshed in last place in the division. Its a long season and every game counts. They started strong, which is important for a young team. Now lets see how they work through the next 3 months before we focus on finishing strong.

They are not a fast team and get muscled off the puck too much at times, but they block shots, take the body and play good defense. Even more important, they play as a team.
That is a great start.

 Ryan McDonagh Continues to Impress
  Rangers defenseman has been steady

Photo by Robert Kowal

When Rangers GM Glen Sather sent Scott Gomez to the Montreal Canadiens back in 2009, many though he did well in receiving Christopher Higgins in return. The complete deal saw the Rangers send Gomez, along with Tom Pyatt and Mike Busto to Montreal for Higgins, Doug Janik, Pavel Valentenko- and Ryan McDonagh. I wouldn’t imagine to many people saw McDonagh as anything more than a throw in at the time. Give credit to Sather for having done his homework.

Drafted by the Canadiens in the 1st round (12th overall) in 2007, McDonagh was a highly touted offensive defenseman with an ability to rush the puck at Wisconsin, where he was a teammate of Derek Stepan. Prior to that, he was given the Minnesota “Mr. Hockey” award in 2007- an award given each year to the top senior high school hockey player in the state. Many kids have talent at the high school and college level. However, it doesn’t always pan out at the NHL level. Even Hobey Baker award winners (given to the top National Collegiate Athletic Association men’s ice hockey player each year) don’t always make it to the NHL- let alone become a star at that level.

Now, I don’t want to get carried away here- I’m not saying McDonagh is the next coming of Chris Chelios- one of Ryan’s favorite players growing up. Still, McDonagh has been all the Rangers could have hoped for this season.

At the start of last year, Ryan began the year in Hartford with the WolfPack before being promoted in January. He finished the season with a goal and 8 assists in 40 games. His lone goal coming on the last day of the regular season against the Devils, scoring the game winning goal to clinch the 8th and final playoff spot for the Rangers.

This season, with Rangers defenseman Marc Staal out of the lineup with a concussion, McDonagh has seized the opportunity. Averaging over 25 minutes a game, he is second on the team only to Dan Girardi. This from a guy that less than 2 years ago was playing college hockey. Making that jump to the NHL (especially as a defenseman) is not an easy thing to do, just ask Matt Gilroy.

McDonagh has typically relied on his speed and skating ability, which can often make up for any defensive lapses. While he still has a ways to go, McDonagh continues to show improvement and could emerge as one of the best young defenseman in the league.

 Rangers Must Dominate at Home

After starting the season with a 7 game road trip and about a month away from home, The New York Rangers return to Madison Square Garden tonight.

The Rangers, because of renovations to MSG, will be the last of 30 NHL teams to play a home opener when they face-off against the Toronto Maple Leafs in an original six matchup.

They salvaged one point in each of the 2 games played in Henrik Lundqvist’s home country of Sweden, losing in a shootout to the Anaheim Ducks and then losing in overtime to the Los Angeles Kings. After losing to the Islanders during a pit stop back in New York, they toured western Canada and took 3 out of 4 games in battles against Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton and Winnipeg with the only loss coming against the Oilers.

Considering the fact that they were missing 2 of their top 4 defensemen from a year ago, Marc Staal and Michael Sauer, and only managed 14 goals in 7 games, the Rangers did pretty good gettting through a tough mission with a 3-2-2 record. They are a slow team compared with most top NHL teams and are not a very good puck possession unit as was evident in the majority of their first seven games. The power has been extremely poor since the lockout and started out the same way this season, despite the addition of Brad Richards, having gone 3 for 28 so far. To combat the fact that they have been one of the more penalized teams so far, they have performed fairly well in killing them off.

The obvious reason for the successful trip was the outstanding goaltending the blueshirts got from Lundqvist. Martin Biron, the backup, also contributed with a tremendous effort in the last game of the lengthy excursion. His 27 saves helped preserve a 2-1 win, in which the Rangers actually scored 2 power play goals despite generating only 17 shots the entire game, and had the Rangers heading home with a winning record.

Home ice advantage is suppose to be just that, an advantage. The last 2 seasons the Rangers have lost 17 games in regulation(shootout and OT losses are like ties) alone which has been a big factor in them missing the playoffs in 2010 and making it as a 8th seed last year. It was’nt the only reason, just look at their power play efficiency, but a significant one. How about this, it may be the most important one.

The last 4 out 6 years, since the lockout of 2004-05, the Stanley Cup champion has been at least 20 games over .500 at home. The years since the lockout are used because now winning by shootout is an added way to secure a win. Even if you avoid the topic of winning a championship since the Rangers are building from within, for the most part, and trying to develop their young players into a title contending unit, winning at home is a must. Battling for the 6,7 and 8th playoff spots is not a recipe for success. However, this is what the Rangers have been faced with the last 6 years following yearly absence from the playoffs the previous 7 NHL seasons. You need home ice in the playoffs and the Rangers have’nt started a series at home since 1996.

The “World’s Most Famous Arena” is suppose to be that, and a place for the home team to build up wins and send a message to those who enter. Instead, its like the circus is in town(Rangers) and the visiting team is there for a good time a road win.

The Garden has been partially renovated, as it will take 3 years for the completion of the project. The Rangers performance on home ice needs to be fully renovated beginning tonight at 7:00 p.m. They have 6 games in a row at MSG to give the faithful fans of the blueshirts a preview of what the season will be like in Rangerville. More importantly, a chance to take a long road trip with decent results, add 4 or 5 wins and make it a great start to the season after 1 month of play.

By the way, the last time the Rangers were 20 games over .500 at home was the 1993-94 season.

 Tavares Leads Islanders Over Rangers
  Scores hat-trick in 4-2 victory

UNIONDALE, N.Y. – A sold out crowd at the Nassau Coliseum last night watched a budding superstar in New York Islanders forward John Tavares score a hat-trick in leading his team to a 4-2 victory over their division rival New York Rangers.

In the first of six meetings this season between these two teams, Islanders head coach Jack Capuano raised a few eyebrows turning to goaltender Evgeni Nabokov for start, in place of Al Montoya- who has played well in each of his 3 starts this young season. The move paid off, as Nabokov turned away 29 of 31 shots in the victory, including 13 of 14 in the first period.

“It was a boost to play in front of a packed house,” Nabokov said after the game.

The Islanders speed up front gave the Rangers depleted defense problems right from the start. However, the star of the game undoubtedly was Tavares. Not exactly known for his speed, Tavares worked hard on his skating this off-season, and has been moving well not only in the offensive zone, but all over the ice. After breaking out for 2 goals and 2 assists in a 5-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Wednesday, Tavares picked up right where he left off, assisting on a goal by linemate Matt Moulson to open the scoring in the first period. Tavares went on to score a goal in the 2nd, followed by two in the third (including an empty netter) for the hat-trick, leading the Islanders to their third straight victory of the season.

“You’re not going to say no to production like that,” Tavares said. “It’s nice to produce, it’s what I do best.”

While Rangers head coach John Tortorella had been preaching disclipline after the teams first two games, the team apparently did not get the message as his team commited eight minor penalties in the contest. While some of the calls may have been questionable, he was in no mood for excuses following the game.

“We’re not going to sit here and pick apart penalties. We’re in the box too much,” Tortorella said. “We’re not gonna sit here and gripe about what is and what isn’t a penalty. We simply have to be more disciplined.”

Goaltender Henrik Lundqvist agreed.

“There were a couple of times where we kind of took over the game, but unfortunately we took a few penalties and it kind of killed that momentum that we had,” he said. “We have to work even harder to be more disciplined out there.”

On the positive side for the Rangers, their top line of Stepan-Richards-Gaborik played extremely well when afforded 5 on 5 play. Gaborik in particular was all over the ice, and is clearly developing some nice chemistry with his linemates.

The rivalry between these teams was alive and well last night. Both teams are on the rise, and quite possibly will be battling each other for a playoff spot. The quality of play, intensity and excitement of these games should only get better.

 Rangers and Islanders Face Off Tonight

The Islanders and Rangers face off this evening at the Nassau Coliseum, the first of six meetings between the teams this season, and the first of three meetings at the Coliseum. While the Rangers are searching for their first win of the season after an 0-0-2 road trip overseas, the Islanders come into the game having won 2 straight, after a 2-0 loss to the Panthers in their season home opener.

The young guns have led the way for both teams early on, and it will likely have to continue if they want to reach the playoffs this season. The Rangers new captain Ryan Callahan finished their season opener against the Kings with 11 shots on goal, while leading all team forwards with 20:30 of ice time in a 3-2 overtime loss. The last Ranger to register at least 11 shots in a game was Brendan Shanahan (12 shots) back on April 4th, 2008 vs. the Islanders. The Rangers 2004 fourth round pick has been skating with his usual hustle and tenacity right out of the gate. Meanwhile, the Islanders 2009 first round pick (1st overall) John Tavares broke out with 2 goals and 2 assists in the first period in the Islanders 5-1 thrashing of the Tampa Bay Lightning on Wednesday night- an impressive performance by the Islanders.

Make no mistake, there is a lot of firepower in the Islanders mostly young lineup. Coach Jack Capuano’s decision to go with goaltender Al Montoya early is already paying dividends. The former Rangers first round pick in 2004 (6th overall) brings a 2-1-0 record into the game, along with a 1.35 GAA and a .953 save percentage. More importantly, Capuano has sent a message to his team that performance on the ice will matter more than the size of your contract or how long you have been in the league. While many coaches preach this, most don’t follow through. Capuano has thus far, and I’d expect that to continue. Refreshing indeed. The Islanders will likely go with the same lineup tonight.

The Rangers feature off-season free agent signing Brad Richards, providing goal scorer Marian Gaborik with an elite centerman. While Richards leads the NHL with a 79.2% faceoff winning percentage (19-24) in the early going- the Rangers certainly expect him to light up the scoreboard as well. Meanwhile, home grown talents Dan Girardi, Brandon Dubinsky and captain Ryan Callahan will be expected to shoulder a lot of ice time. The Rangers defense will be tested tonight and throughout the season, especially with Marc Staal on the shelf. Tortorella isn’t afraid to shake the forward lines up, so you can pretty much count on that tonight- especially if the Rangers have any trouble finding the net. Goaltender Henrik Lundqvist should get the start- he has been solid, going 0-0-2 with a 1.86 GAA and a .931 save percentage. The Rangers haven’t played in a week, so I’m sure they will be revved up to hit the ice.

I expect an exciting game tonight. The Islanders are coming off a big win Wednesday night, and will be looking to keep it going. The Rangers need to be mindful of not coming out flat- sometimes it can be tough to get the wheels going after a long layoff.  Who do I like to win it? That’s easy, New York!

Islanders Notes
The Islanders were 2-4-0 against the Rangers in 2010-11, including a 2-1-0 mark at home… The Islanders have played the same 18 skaters and Al Montoya in all three games this season… The Islanders are 14-for-15 on the penalty kill this season (93.3%)… Matt Moulson’s games-played streak stands at 167, he has yet to miss a game in his Islanders career… Travis Hamonic has now played 65 consecutive NHL games, the longest consecutive game streak on defense for the Isles… Jay Pandolfo is one goal shy of his 100th…Michael Grabner is one game shy of his 100th NHL contest…

Rangers Notes
The Blueshirts were 4-2-0 against the Islanders in 2010-11, including a 1-2-0 mark on the road… The Rangers lead the league with a 57.9% faceoff winning percentage, winning 66-of-114 faceoff attempts this season… Rangers are 10-for-11 on the penalty kill this season (90.9%)… The Blueshirts were the only team in the NHL who were undefeated when leading after two periods last season, posting a record of 29-0-0 in those contests… Brad Richards is 3 assists shy of his 500th… Brandon Prust is one game shy of his 200th NHL contest… Mike Rupp is one game shy of his 500th NHL contest…

 For Marian Gaborik, Rangers, Slate is Still Clean

Photo by Anna Enriquez

Coming into the series against the Capitals, emphasis was put on there being a clean slate for Marian Gaborik. After two games, the slate is still clean.

Gaborik’s combined stats for games 1 and 2? Eight shots. That’s it. He has no goals, no assists. Sure he has 5 hits (4 in game 1) and 1 blocked shot but the Rangers can get those stats out of someone else.

This is Gaborik’s time and he is not doing well. Neither is the rest of his team however. What hurt the Rangers towards the end of the season was their lack of scoring. That has carried over thus far into the post-season.

The Rangers had a good third period in game 2 in Washington but that energy and pressure needs to be consistent throughout the entire game. They’re going to need some magic at MSG.

But without energy and without pressure, the slate will remain clean for the Rangers, and they will have the opportunity to watch the NHL playoffs from the couch, like the rest of us.

 Dismal Homestand puts Rangers Playoff Chances in Dire Straits

When the Rangers left D.C. Feb 25th on the heels of a 6-0 blowout over the Washington Capitals, conventional wisdom would dictate they had all the momentum going into their crucial 3-game home stand. The game of hockey doesn’t care for conventional wisdom and things that “should be.”

Following last night’s debilitating 3-1 loss to the Minnesota Wild, the Rangers dropped to 8th in the Eastern Conference as well as 2 points in front of the playoff hopeful Buffalo Sabres who also have 3 games in hand.

Even more troubling are the worsening misfortunes at MSG for the Blueshirts. Their record stands at 14-16-3 in front of the Garden faithful; statistics that will not get you anywhere near the playoffs. Yet, away from MSG, the Rangers are a completely different team. Their 19 road wins is the 4th highest total in the NHL.

The misery doesn’t end here. In their 3-game home stand, the Rangers scored only 4 goals. Their power play continues to fail them at crucial times during tight games and now sits in the bottom 10 in the NHL in conversion %. What’s more, in their last 15 games, Gotham is a combined 4-10-1.

How’s this for a juxtaposition, if you delve into the numbers in the Eastern Conference, the Rangers are 6th in Goals for with 182 and 3rd in Goals against with 163. Teams would love to have numbers like that. Conventional wisdom says a team that has a +19 differential in goals should have a better record. Hockey sure doesn’t care for conventional wisdom.

The Rangers not only have been snake bitten offensively all season but with injuries as well. As a team, the Rangers have lost over 200 man games to various injuries. Their lone sniper Marian Gaborik, out earlier in the year with a shoulder issue, is out now with post-concussion symptoms from a hit by Brooks Oprik of the Penguins in their Feb. 13th matchup.

Don’t forget the irony of the injury sustained to G Martin Biron. The trade deadline came and went Feb. 28th with the Rangers wisely standing pat. Only to find out that their backup goalie, whose had had solid season for New York, broke his collarbone from a shot in practice and will likely miss the rest of the regular season. GM Glen Sather admitted in trying to acquire another net minder but other teams were holding the Rangers hostage.

With Biron out, now more than ever, the Rangers’ season rests solely on the shoulders of Henrik Lundqvist. Can he handle the pressure? He led his native country Sweden to Olympic gold in the 2006 Winter games. Yet, Lundqvist hasn’t been able to translate international success to his NHL career. He’s never been farther than the Semifinals and watched the Washington Capitals come back from a 3-1 deficit in the 2009 Quarterfinals to win that series, too.

When you see the Rangers play on home ice, you can see them gripping their sticks too tightly. Overthinking plays that otherwise would come naturally to them. Consistent failure in getting pucks on net. Routinely missing a rebound by a split second. Mental breakdowns in their defensive zone coverage. Goals against being scored on deflections off of the opposition or on themselves. Simply put; the Rangers can’t seem to get the puck bounce their way.

Losing out in 6 potential points in the standing in the middle of March could prove to be devastating to the Rangers’ playoff chances. I’d gather they would rather not replay how last season ended – leaving it up the final game in a shootout to decide their playoff fate.




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