New York Hockey: Detroit Red Wings

Even with clinch, Rangers keep rolling

March, 21, 2012
3/21/12
11:13
PM ET


With their recent playoff-clinching win against New Jersey, the Rangers could've coasted. They could've turned on auto-pilot and tuned out. They could've allowed themselves a brief respite in the little time remaining before what they hope to be a long postseason run.

They didn't. They won’t.

In their first game since securing a berth in the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs, the Rangers displayed the same resolve that paved their way to the top of the Eastern Conference standings, where they remain after a 2-1 overtime win against the Red Wings.

"It's a good group. It's a group that competes every night," said coach John Tortorella, who earlier in the day admitted he was "thrilled" with his team's performance this season.

Bruce Bennett/Getty ImagesRyan Callahan celebrated his 27th birthday with his 27th goal of the season.


Captain Ryan Callahan, the very embodiment of the team's relentless, blue-collar work ethic, boosted the team to its second straight win. After an outstanding two-way effort, the gritty winger was rewarded with his 27th goal of the season on his 27th birthday.

Callahan ripped a wrist shot past Red Wings goaltender Ty Conklin with 2:18 to play as the Rangers handed the Wings their sixth straight loss.

"It was a good birthday gift," said Callahan, who was miffed he missed on an open-net opportunity in the second period. "I had to respond back."

Callahan was all over the ice, particularly late in the game, to lead the team past the injury-decimated Wings. Whether it was a hard back-check to thwart a short-handed rush or a key shot block late in the third, Callahan set example after example of the hustle that has made the Rangers so dangerous and successful.

"He just had an unbelievable third period and overtime," Tortorella said. "It's fitting that he scored the game-winner."

Fitting also that the Rangers have been vigilant in the face of yet another challenge. Instead of shrinking from the responsibility of retaining the top spot in the East, they have embraced it.

After fighting so hard to squeak into the playoffs in recent history -- their postseason fate was decided on the last day of the regular season in the previous two years -- the Rangers seem to relish being in the driver's seat.

With their win over the Red Wings, the Broadway Blueshirts restored a three-point lead in the East over the idle Pittsburgh Penguins, who have recorded a point in each of their last 13 games.

"Since I've been here, it's been scratch and claw just to get in. It takes a lot out of the team when you're playing that desperate for that long," defenseman Marc Staal said. "It's definitely nice to be able to clinch as early as we have, but at the same time, we have to keep looking to get better and finish at the top of the East."

While that feat appeared precarious last week, when the Rangers were dropped 5-2 by the scorching Penguins, it looks much more manageable should the Rangers keep playing this way.

Instead of relenting, they've pushed ahead. And it looks like that will continue.

"They are attentive. They have grown up," Tortorella said. "It's an easy group to like because they push hard. I don't think they care what circumstances are put in front of them."

Rapid Reaction: Rangers 2, Wings 1 (OT)

March, 21, 2012
3/21/12
10:07
PM ET
Recap | Box score | Photos

What it means: Rangers captain Ryan Callahan celebrated his 27th birthday in style, scoring the game-winner with 2:18 left in overtime for a 2-1 Rangers win over Detroit at Madison Square Garden.

With the win, the Rangers restored a three-point lead in the standings over the idle Pittsburgh Penguins. Detroit dropped its sixth straight but moved into sole possession of fourth in the West with a point earned in overtime.

Coast to coast: Brad Richards' 24th goal of the season might have been his best yet. The 31-year-old center went end-to-end, splitting two Detroit defenders inside blue line before beating goaltender Ty Conklin five-hole to tie the game at 1 on a power-play goal at 14:58. Goaltender Henrik Lundqvist earned an assist -- his second of the season -- on the play.

Octopus Garden: At least one rogue Red Wings fan managed to foil Madison Square Garden security. After Henrik Zetterberg scored for Detroit less than four minutes into play, an octopus was flung onto the ice. Although the tradition originated during Red Wings home playoff series -- the eight tentacles represent the number of wins needed to secure the Stanley Cup in the 1950s -- the octopus has since become an unofficial mascot of the team.

Conklin clears, then plays: With goaltenders Jimmy Howard (groin) and Joey MacDonald (back) both ailing, the Red Wings started veteran netminder Ty Conklin. Conklin passed through re-entry waivers earlier Wednesday afternoon Before making his 12th appearance this season for the Wings.

A-OK: Artem Anisimov returned to the lineup after missing two games with a left shoulder injury last week in the Rangers' 5-2 loss to Pittsburgh. Anisimov replaced veteran winger Ruslan Fedotenko, who was scratched along with defensemen Steve Eminger and Jeff Woywitka.

Up next: Rangers vs. Sabres, 7 p.m. Friday.

W2W4: Devils vs. Red Wings

January, 26, 2011
1/26/11
3:59
PM ET
The Devils look to close the book on a forgettable pre-All-Star portion of the 2010-11 season on a high note Wednesday night against the Detroit Red Wings. As the Devs go in search of their fifth win in a row, here are three factors to watch for when the puck drops. Fans of alliteration and ‘S’ words (That’s for you, Sean Connery.) will enjoy.

Streaking

Four straight wins? Points in their last seven games? Who is this team?

The Devils certainly seem to have snapped out of the funk that dominated the start of the season. Leading the way over the past seven games: Brian Rolston. You remember him, right? The player the Devils put through waivers twice in the hope that another team would take him and his salary cap hit off their hands. Well, no one did and he’s been making the most of his continued stay in the Garden State. He’s posted a team-high 10 points over the seven-game stretch, including seven assists. Coming into that hot streak he’d amassed just five points and a pair of goals all season long. He carries a four-game point streak into tonight’s game.

Schedule

The Devils’ turnaround hasn’t come against teams teetering on the cellar stairs either. Over the past seven games, New Jersey has bested Southeast Division-leading Tampa Bay twice, the Atlantic-leading Philadelphia Flyers and the second-place Pittsburgh Penguins. It’s true the Pens were missing Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, but no one in New Jersey should be looking that gift-horse in the mouth.

Jacques Lemaire’s club catches another break tonight with the Red Wings. Detroit will be absent Chris Osgood, Danny Cleary, Mike Modano, Brad Stuart and Pavel Datsyuk. The losses on the bench have led to some losses on the ice (four of their last six games) and even made their victories a little iffy. The Wings haven’t won in regulation since a Jan. 4 W over Edmonton.

Scoring

The most impressive part of the Devils’ surge has come in the offensive end. In addition to Rolston, both Patrik Elias and Ilya Kovalchuk have averaged over a point per game over the last seven contests. Collectively they’ve averaged four goals per game while shooting 15.7 percent. That’s a rather sizable improvement over the 1.7 goals per game and shooting percentage of 5.7 through Jan. 8.

Nabokov: 'What's the point?'

January, 24, 2011
1/24/11
12:44
PM ET
As you may have seen already, ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun spoke Sunday with recent Islanders’ “addition” Evgeni Nabokov and the veteran goalie says he fully intends to remain at his home in California and not report to Long Island.

From LeBrun’s article:
"I think I'm going to stay home for now, I'm sticking with my decision," Nabokov told ESPN.com from his home in San Jose, Calif. "It's nothing against the Islanders and their organization. It's nothing to do with that. It's just that I'm at the point in my career where I want to help a team win in the playoffs. I don't see how I could help the Islanders or what I could do for them. It doesn't make a lot of sense to me. And I hope they understand that."

The article concludes with the goalie voicing his bewilderment as to why the Islanders would make a claim on him.
"I was surprised they picked me up. I was like, 'Wow, what's the point?'''

So what was the point? It was obvious that Nabokov wanted to play for a playoff contender when he signed with Detroit. Moreover, the Islanders’ goalie situation is the least of the issues keeping the club near the bottom of the Eastern Conference. So why bother?

Well, it turns out the Islanders are still, you know, trying to win hockey games. (Incredible, I know.) Was it a long shot that Nabokov would join a team on the outside of the playoff race? Probably. Did it muck things up for both Detroit and Nabokov? Sure seems that way. But this isn't about Detroit and it's not even about Nabokov. Snow was more concerned with how the move would help his team. And here’s how it would do so.

By bringing in Nabokov in the wake of Nathan Lawson’s injury, he could return upcoming 20-year-old netminder Kevin Poulin to Bridgeport, where he could continue his development. Moreover, he could alleviate the minutes of the oft-injured Rick DiPietro without worrying about leaving any mental scarring on Poulin (who has seen 181 shots in about 312 minutes of ice time with the Isles).

And Nabokov comes cheap. The franchise, for better or worse, has decided it’s not going to break the bank on player salaries just yet and the Russian goalie’s $570K contract certainly fits that financial framework.

Was Snow overly optimistic about the situation? Perhaps. Is this a mess at the moment? Yes. But should Snow have just sat on his hands and politely deferred to Detroit? Should he give up trying to get the goalie to report to Long Island? Please.

The Islanders may still be rebuilding, but Snow is still responsible for putting as good a team on the ice as he can. He owes that to the team’s current players. He owes it to their current fans. And heck, it's literally the definition of his job. The move may not have worked out yet, it may never work out, and arguably Snow should have known the outcome before he made the claim, but I don’t think you can fault the effort.

Afternoon Links

W2W4: Islanders vs. Red Wings

December, 31, 2010
12/31/10
8:23
AM ET
The Islanders battle their second consecutive first-place opponent when they take on the Red Wings in Detroit on New Year’s Eve. Here are three factors to watch when the puck drops before the ball drops.

Double Dose of D?

The Islanders bottled up the Penguins last game, holding Sidney Crosby and Co. to one goal. That feat is doubly impressive considering the adjustments the team had to make in the wake of trading defenseman James Wisniewski. But the formula the Isles employed Wednesday -- have G Rick DiPietro stand on his head -- probably isn’t a good one for long-term success. You just don’t win too many games giving up 38 shots on goal.

Roloson Rebound?

Head coach Jack Capuano has an interesting choice on his hands when he selects his netminder tonight. Does he go with the hot hand and stick DiPietro back in goal? Or does he saddle up Dwayne Roloson and see if his best goalie this season can rebound from that suspect 7-2 showing against the Rangers. My logic? Go with DiPietro. If he’s streaking, he might be able to steal another win Friday night, and if the Isles are going to trade Roloson at some point this season, you want DiPietro to start getting comfortable. Besides, if the Islander D still isn’t too strong, the Red Wings aren’t an opponent that allows goalies to regain their confidence.

Penalty Problem?


The Isles took 23 minutes of penalties against Pittsburgh, 10 of those a game misconduct to Zenon Konopka. On the season, New York is averaging just shy of 17 penalty minutes per game, the second highest average in the NHL. On one hand, that’s problematic since the Islanders PK operates at a middling 81 percent. But on the other, it may not be so bad. All but one of the penalties taken against the Pens were aggression penalties. Those are the kind of whistles that show a team playing right on the edge, and frankly, that’s where the Islanders need to play to win games. They need to throw some shoulders. They need to play the body. They need to get their opponent out of their comfort zone. If the Islanders start taking whistles for hooking, interference, tripping -- that’s when it becomes a problem because those are penalties taken by lazy defensive players.

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