New York Hockey: 24/7

W2W4: Rangers vs. Islanders

December, 22, 2011
12/22/11
2:24
PM ET

The rivalry gets rekindled in the Garden tonight. Here are five factors to consider before the puck drops off Broadway:

The Incapable Offense vs. the Unbreachable Net

The Islanders have sputtered in the offensive zone this season, getting little offense beyond their first line. Currently they rank 29th in the league at just 2.26 goals per game. Conversely, even with a D corps depleted by injury, the Rangers have allowed a meager 2.10 goals per game, the third-best mark in the league. The Islanders can take some (small) solace that Marty Biron will start for the Blueshirts, but that relief would only be based on reputation. Biron has an identical save percentage (.934) as Henrik Lundqvist this season, while posting an even better GAA (1.82).

The Islanders’ Crease

With Al Montoya out, Evgeni Nabokov gets the start. To say Nabokov hasn’t seen much ice time lately would be an understatement. As the Isles have started five different netminders this season, Nabokov hasn’t played a full game since Nov. 15, a 4-2 loss to the Rangers. From the misleading stats department: Nabokov hasn’t allowed a goal since that game, turning aside all 21 shots he’s faced in his past two games … of course that came in less than 35 minutes of playing time.

Moulson Golden

Matt Moulson continues to provide one of the best values in the NHL, with 15 goals this season. He’s also been on fire in December with 7 goals and 12 points in 9 games. You can expect him and center John Tavares to earn the majority of the Blueshirts’ defensive attention Thursday night.

Blueshirts’ Back End

If there’s a silver lining to all the Rangers’ defensive injuries it’s that players throughout the team’s organizational depth chart are getting ice time in the NHL. If/when Marc Staal and Michael Sauer come back, that’ll help. In the meantime, the pressure will be on the Rangers’ third pairing of fill-ins Stu Bickell and Tim Erixon. With the Rangers on home ice, look for Blueshirt bench boss John Tortorella to try and limit their exposure.

HBO Impact

With the "24/7" cameras rolling, I bet we see 110 precent effort from the Islanders. It’s the first of two meetings between the rivals during the TV series window and the show has already made grudge matches a theme, previously emphasizing the Flyers-Penguins rivalry. You can bet the show will do something similar to highlight a clash between the two New York team and there’s no way the Islanders want to be characterized as the step child in this relationship, not with their pride in their Stanley Cup-rich history, and not with the pride the current players have in their locker room. This is going to be a good one.

24/7: Episode 1 winners and losers

December, 15, 2011
12/15/11
4:13
PM ET
After the conclusion of last season’s edition of “24/7,” featuring the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals, it was pretty clear that Pens’ bench boss Dan Bylsma emerged looking like a golden god of coaching, while the Caps’ Bruce Boudreau came off as a curse-loving, ice cream enthusiast.

Like the game of hockey itself, clearly there are winners and losers in this superb HBO series. To build of Katie Strang’s 3-stars recap, here are a few that stood out in Wednesday night’s first episode of the “Road to the Winter Classic.”

Winners

The Callahans: It’s small wonder where Blueshirts captain Ryan Callahan gets his blue collar grit from. “My dad told me whether you’re in the yard doing work or one the ice you do it 110 percent,” Cap'n Cally said in Episode 1. When he retires, he’s a safe bet to top the lawn care professionals power rankings.

The F-bomb: After Boudreau’s proclivity for the word, it was already a star in this series. 24/7 has clearly demonstrated its full versatility in a plethora of situations. Its insertion early and often into Ep. 1 just raises its portfolio even higher.

John Tortorella: You could tell how much the Rangers respect their head man, even when he’s chewing them out. (Oh, Marian ... )

International automakers: Seriously, does no one buy domestic anymore?

NHL charity work: The league makes a big effort to reach out and help a whole slew of charitable causes each and every year, and the involvement of the Rangers and the Flyers’ Wayne Simmonds were wonderfully showcased Wednesday.

Push

Brian Boyle: He had the dubious honor of being the first player called out by his coach on camera this season; Double burn for Torts alluding to the microphone and HBO coverage being a distraction. He was redeemed by getting a chance to show off his bubbly personality and softer side with the Garden of Dreams kids.

Losers

Los Angeles hockey fans: On his way to his charity event, Simmonds took some time to throw the L.A. hockey market under the tires of his Lexus SUV. He might not have intended his excitement for Philly as a slight to his former home, but it sure didn’t sound like he had glowing things to say about the fans in La-La Land.

The Lightning-Rangers Referee Crew: They looked downright foolish flagging Artem Anisimov’s goal celebration as excessive. You haven’t seen anything like that before? Really? Are you sure? Grandma Callahan, please set this crew straight.

The universe: You and I? We don’t have problems, small as we are. The universe though? Thanks to the Tao of Bryz, we learned that’s where the real trouble is. Just think of how humungous big it is! I need a hit of tiger liquor just thinking about it. And that brings us to our final loser ...

Chinese tiger killers: You are living on borrowed time, hosers.

Isles halt Crosby, Penguins

December, 30, 2010
12/30/10
8:53
AM ET
Friend of the blog Doug Mittler was out at Nassau Wednesday, what follows is his write-up after the Isles' upset of the NHL's top team, the Pittsburgh Penguins.

The Islanders took one of the storylines away from Saturday’s Winter Classic, stopping Sidney Crosby’s scoring streak at 25 games in a 2-1 shootout win Wednesday night at Nassau Coliseum.

Three days before the NHL’s showcase event at Heinz Field featuring Crosby and Washington’s Alex Ovechkin, Crosby saw his string of success, the longest in the NHL since 1992-93, snapped by the unlikeliest of opponents.

The Penguins superstar entered the game with 18 goals and 44 assists in 32 career games against the Islanders. The 62 points ties for his most points against an opponent along with Philadelphia.

“Obviously they have a lot of great players so you can’t just focus on him. We wanted to watch him and Franzie (Frans Nielsen) was on him all night,” said the Islanders Josh Bailey, who opened the scoring with a second-period goal. “Obviously there is some motivation there. You want to be the one to stop the streak when a few dozen other teams didn’t.”

Crosby, who had 26 goals and 24 assists during the streak, was held without a point for the first time since Nov. 3 at Dallas.

Rob Schremp, who scored the first shootout goal, says the Isles had a blueprint for Crosby.

“We didn’t give him much room and did a good job of closing the gaps. We kept him in tight corners and we kept him on the outside,” Schremp said. “When you give him room, he gets those quick shots off and that’s when he’s most effective.”

In goal for the Islanders was Rick DiPietro, who hadn’t played since Dec. 16 due to swelling on his surgically repaired knee and finished with 37 saves through overtime.

“This was a big spot for us. When you play against a club with that much talent it has to be a full team effort,” DiPietro said. “We did a good job in the neutral zone and blocked a lot of shots.”

Crosby’s best scoring chance came late in the first period when he was left wide open on the left side and hit the crossbar off a pass from Tyler Kennedy. In the second period, Evgeni Malkin was stopped by DiPietro from point-blank range.

The Islanders had been torched for seven goals in a loss to the Rangers Monday and entered the night allowing 3.26 goals per game, the second highest total in the NHL. But the Islanders have looked a lot better in recent weeks, allowing a combined three goals in the three-game winning streak that ended Wednesday.

In addition, coach Jack Capuano was forced to modify his defense after GM Garth Snow traded James Wisniewski to Montreal for draft picks earlier this week. Wisniewski was tied for the team lead with 21 points, but was also a minus-18.

Wednesday’s highly entertaining game attracted a season-high 14,345 fans to Nassau Coliseum, marking the first time in five home games the team drew as many as 10,000. At least a portion of the crowd was there to see Crosby, and the Isles clearly took pride in shutting him down.

“He’s a great player,” Capuano said. “We’ll be known as the team that snapped the streak, but I’m sure they’ll be another.”

Key win hands Rangers key loss

December, 16, 2010
12/16/10
9:01
AM ET
Being a blue collar, hard-nosed hockey club has its advantages and disadvantages. On the plus side, grinding out wins against elite teams like the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins has enabled the Blueshirts to post a 19-13-1 record and plant themselves thoroughly in the playoff race. On the other hand, throwing bodies in front of pucks every night can often lead to broken bodies.

Game Story | Box Score

Just as the Rangers welcomed back Chris Drury to the lineup, tone-setter Ryan Callahan broke his hand blocking a shot in the 4-1 win over Pittsburgh Wednesday night. Early reports have Callahan on the shelf for a month and a half, a huge blow to the Blueshirts and arguably the biggest setback of the season.

Callahan is one of the Rangers’ top point producers and has helped carry the team early alongside Brandon Dubinsky and Artem Anisimov. He’s also the team’s tempo setter. Most night’s he’ll be the first player to throw a hit, always goes hard to the net and won’t back down from a challenge. The Rangers will now have to find their spark from someone else while he heals.

Aside from losing one of their on-ice leaders, Wednesday was a huge success for the Rangers (who certainly seem to be making a good impression on HBO’s “24/7: Road to the Winter Classic,” beating both of the participating teams by a combined score of 11-1).

Here are a few notes from the rest of the Rangers media.

Morning Links
  • Rich Carpiniello says the team should be thrilled with the win, considering they were out-skated for 40 minutes.
  • Blueshirt Banter notes the slow start as well in their analysis of the win.
  • Larry Brooks writes that the refs were in the Rangers’ corner Wednesday, unlike their last visit to Consol Energy Center.
  • Head Coach John Tortorella says D-man Marc Staal deserves to be an all-star (via Larry Brooks). No argument here.
  • Jesse Spector speculates that Mats Zuccarello may get the call to fill the void on the Rangers’ roster with Callahan down. That would thrill me, since I embrace any opportunity to use the diminutive forwards nickname, Norwegian Hobbit Wizard, in a blog. Of course, Hobbit Wizards don’t usually replace the edge a scrappy guy like Callahan provides.
  • The New York Times wrote Wednesday that a win against the Pens would propel the Rangers to elite status. Well, whaddya think, are they elite?
  • Adam Rotter finds that the Rangers win when Erik Christensen contributes in the points column.
  • Andrew Gross says Brian Boyle played his best game as a Ranger within his wrap-up blog. What a year he’s having. What’s most impressive to me is that the vast majority of his 12 goals are not fluky shots. They’re high percentage shots taken close to the net. He may not be greased lightning on the ice, but I can definitely see Boyle fitting the Mike Knuble mould for a long time to come.
  • And finally, if you aren’t watching HBO’s 24/7 special on the Caps and Penguins, you should. Even if you hate both teams it provides some amazing insights into the game off the ice and on it. Think Dubinsky and Alex Ovechkin hated each other after their little dust-up on Sunday? Guess again. The HBO show captured audio of both brawlers congratulating each other after it was over. Sunday’s win over the Caps capped the first episode, and the win over the Pens will certainly highlight next Wednesday’s episode. It’s definitely worth calling your satellite or cable provider to see about any HBO promotional offers they may be running. If you’re a hockey fan, you will love it.

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