This past week has proven that the Rangers have a multiple personality problem. Are they:
a) The John Tortorella-inspired team, playing with aggressiveness and gumption, which we saw vs. Buffalo?
b) The lifeless zombies we saw against Ottawa?
c) The tough, shutdown, but low-scoring team we saw against Minnesota?
d) The sloppy disaster we saw last night against Atlanta?
One night they play with passion and do the little things right, the next, they’re reverting to their old ways, not doing anything right and completely falling apart, letting a sure victory slide right out of their hands. Even Tortorella’s a mixed bag – going from inspiritional genious one game, pushing all the right buttons, to questionable moves last night (his choice of shootout players, ice time, etc.). The power play mainly has one personality, and that one is bad. The Rnagers somehow scored three power play goals against Atlanta (in eight chances), but still couldn’t score when they needed it most – in crunch time. They can’t put teams away. Of course, they don’t have anyone resembling a competent quarterback for their PP, but if they would stop standing around and watching each other, maybe they’d accomplish something. The few times they don’t actually act like statues and rotate, their power play almost looks like a real NHL man advantage. So I guess the answer to the question above is: e) all of the above. That’s why they’re a seventh place team and not a first place one.
One player who can’t be described as Sybil-like is Ryan Callahan. Players like him are why I watch hockey. He’s homegrown, he hustles, he hits everything in sight, he forechecks like a banshee, he fights and now he even scores. It’s easy to root for the guy who scores 50 goals (not that the Rangers have anybody like that) and makes the fancy plays, but players like Callahan are the heart and soul of the game. Over the years, the Blueshirts have been filled with underachieving dogs, who are more than happy to collect a paycheck without putting in the work. Callahan works and works, and on top of that, is getting better every week. He epitomizes the style of play that John Tortorella wants from the Rangers. Skating hard, being aggressive, chasing down the puck and making things difficult for the other team? Callahan is thriving at all of those things.
The right winger was the Rangers’ fourth-round draft pick in 2004, and is finally getting a chance to play a full season in the NHL. He had four goals and two assists in 14 games two years ago, and played in 52 games (he was out with a knee injury and spent some time in Hartford) last season, when he tallied eight goals and five assists. But this year, he’s blossoming. He’s tied for third on the team in goals (unless you count Nik Antropov’s combined scoring with Toronto and New York), only behind Nik Zherdev and Markus Naslund, with 19 (and has 14 assists). In his last 10 games, he has five goals and four assist for nine points. He can play on any line, as he’s been shuffled between the first, second and third lines all year. He may not produce every game, but he puts in the effort night after night. If we could combine Zherdev’s skill with Callahan’s heart and desire, that would be one great player.
(Rangers record with Sean Avery)
(56 fights, 6th in the league)
Colton Orr: 17
Aaron Voros: 10
Brandon Dubinsky: 6
Paul Mara: 6
Ryan Callahan: 3
Dan Girardi: 3
Petr Prucha: 2
Erik Reitz: 2
Marc Staal: 2
Sean Avery: 1
Nigel Dawes: 1
Markus Naslund: 1
Wade Redden: 1
Nikolai Zherdev: 1
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