When most people discuss the race for the Atlantic Division title, it’s often seen as a two-horse race between the Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins.
The New York Rangers seemingly appeared satisfied with fighting their way to one of the East’s lower seeds the last few seasons, but 2011-12 might just be different. John Tortorella & Co. improved to the best record in the Eastern Conference* with a 3-0 win against the New York Islanders.
The (now second place) Boston Bruins have been the hottest team in the NHL since November, but the Rangers aren’t far behind in that category. Here’s what their streaks have looked like, including an Oct. 31 win:
Oct. 31-Nov. 15: 8-0-0
Nov. 19-23: 0-2-0
Nov. 25-Dec. 3: 5-0-0
Dec. 5-Dec. 8: 0-1-1
Dec. 10-Dec.15: 2-2-0
Dec. 17-Dec. 26: 5-0-0
Overall, the Rangers are an astounding 20-5-1 in their last 26 games.
Considering this hot run of games, it’s time to consider the Rangers a serious contender for the Atlantic Division title and perhaps the No. 1 seed in the East. They have arguably the best goalie in the NHL in Henrik Lundqvist, who registered a 28-save shutout. The Rangers play a hard-working style, perhaps best embodied by their heart-and-soul captain Ryan Callahan. The biggest difference might just be that they now have a truly elite scoring duo in Brad Richards and a revived Marian Gaborik, though.
Are the Rangers the best team in the Atlantic or even the East, then? Share your thoughts in the comments.
* – The Rangers now have 48 points (22-8-4), putting them one ahead of the idle Boston Bruins (23-9-1 for 47 points). New York is technically in front of the Chicago Blackhawks for first overall, but it looks like the ‘Hawks will re-gain that Presidents Trophy lead if they hang on against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Monday.
Does the NHL have a cocaine problem?
TSN caught up with deputy commissioner Bill Daly, who provided some fascinating insight:
“The number of [cocaine] positives are more than they were in previous years and they’re going up,” Daly said. “I wouldn’t say it’s a crisis in any sense. What I’d say is drugs like cocaine are cyclical and you’ve hit a cycle where it’s an ‘in’ drug again.”
Daly said that he’d be surprised “if we’re talking more than 20 guys” and then touched on something that may be a problem: they don’t test it in a “comprehensive way.”
As Katie Strang’s essential ESPN article about the Los Angeles Kings’ tough season explored in June, there are some challenges for testing for a drug like cocaine. That said, there are also some limitations that may raise some eyebrows.
For one, it metabolizes quickly. Michael McCabe, a Philadelphia-based toxicology expert who works for Robson Forensic, told ESPN.com that, generally speaking, cocaine filters out of the system in two to four days, making it relatively easy to avoid a flag in standard urine tests.
The NHL-NHLPA’s joint drug-testing program is not specifically designed to target recreational drugs such as cocaine or marijuana. The Performance Enhancing Substances Program is put into place to do exactly that — screen for performance-enhancing drugs.
So, are “party drugs” like cocaine and molly an issue for the NHL?
At the moment, the answer almost seems to be: “the league hopes not.”
Daly goes into plenty of detail on the issue, so read the full TSN article for more.
Following his stunning 41-game suspension, it looks like Raffi Torres has at least one former teammate in his corner.
We haven’t yet seen how the San Jose Sharks or the NHLPA are reacting to the league’s hammer-dropping decision to punish Torres for his Torres-like hit on Jakob Silfverberg, but Jason Demers decided to put in a good word for Torres tonight.
It was a simple message: “#FreeTorres.”
Demers, now of the Dallas Stars, was once with Torres and the Sharks. (In case this post’s main image didn’t make that clear enough already.)
Perhaps this will become “a thing” at some point.
So far, it seems like it’s instead “a thing (that people are making fun of).”
… You get the idea.
The bottom line is that there are some who either a) blindly support Torres because they’re Sharks fans or b) simply think that the punishment was excessive.
The most important statement came from the Department of Player Safety, though.