Tag: atlantic division

Ryan Callahan, Michael Del Zotto

Rangers’ Ryan Callahan, Mike Del Zotto still banged up


After losing three games in a row and going 1-3-1 in their last five games, Brandon Dubinsky said that the New York Rangers “stopped the bleeding” with a 4-3 OT win against the New York Islanders on Sunday. Unfortunately, some of their wounds are still showing.

Heart-and-soul captain Ryan Callahan (foot) and offensive blueliner Michael Del Zotto (hip) missed practice today, raising concern that both players won’t be available for tomorrow’s match against the Carolina Hurricanes.

Naturally every point matters, but you’d be naive to say that Tuesday’s contest is more important than a match that could alter the outlook of the Atlantic Division on Thursday. The Pittsburgh Penguins are currently just four points behind the Rangers and the two teams will face off on March 15.

Not having Callahan’s versatile, hard-nosed game and MDZ’s offensive prowess could make for some nervous times for a team that once seemed almost predestined for the Atlantic crown.

Rangers best Flyers in Winter Classic warm-up

Philadelphia Flyers v New York Rangers

The New York Rangers came to play in what Ryan Callahan called a “playoff atmosphere,” but the Philadelphia Flyers seemed to show up late on Friday night. The Rangers took the 4-2 win in the two teams’ last match before the 2012 Winter Classic on Jan. 2.

The Rangers built a 3-0 lead that included a beauty of a goal by Marian Gaborik. Gaborik seemed to favor his shoulder following a tumble into the boards after what would eventually become the game-winning tally, but there’s no word that the fragile forward is in any trouble. That’s Gabby’s 21st goal of the season, placing him in an early lead for the Maurice Richard Trophy.

The Flyers couldn’t solve Henrik Lundqvist (28 saves) until Andrej Meszaros found the net on the power play 10:21 into the third period. Jaromir Jagr heard some boos in his first game back at Madison Square Garden, but the veteran said that MSG fans were nowhere near as … inhospitable as Pittsburgh Penguins fans.

That win places the Rangers at the top of the Atlantic Division as they’re at 21 wins and 46 points with a game in hand on the Flyers:


The 2012 Winter Classic already comes with the added bonus of a natural rivalry, but judging from the current standings, there will be plenty on the line. Hopefully Philly will be focused all game long then or we could be in for another one-sided contest, though.

Here are the full highlights:


Does the Atlantic Division have a true favorite?

Philadelphia Flyers v Pittsburgh Penguins
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Every year, sportswriters face tough choices when they make predictions. Can a surprise team find lightning in a bottle once again or will they prove to be one-hit wonders? Will the splashiest moves create a “Dream Team” or an expensive, embarrassing nightmare? Should you tab the best team on paper or try to chart intangible things like chemistry?

While most decisions are tough, there are certain situations that stand out by being unusually difficult to gauge. In my mind, the Atlantic Division race is far more difficult to forecast in 2011-12. You could make an argument for almost every team to win the title, although I don’t think the New York Islanders are “there” yet. (Expect significant strides from that young bunch, though.)

Let’s take a look at what makes each Atlantic team confounding.

New Jersey Devils

The Devils were expected to collapse like they did in 2010-11 during just about every season since the lockout. That’s the natural assumption when you keep losing great (Scott Stevens, Scott Niedermayer) and very good (Brian Rafalski, Paul Martin) defensemen while your star goalie slides further away from his prime.

New Jersey has burned many pundits for counting them out over the years, though. Before 10-11, they ranked high in the standings more often than not, even when they looked thin on paper. They’re a deeply flawed team, but it’s tough to count them out completely considering their organizational guile (not to mention the fact that they employ Zach Parise, Martin Brodeur, Ilya Kovalchuk and Patrik Elias).

New York Islanders

Again, I don’t expect them to be in the division title chase, but counting this rising team out of the playoff picture is foolish. The Isles could turn some heads, especially if Mark Streit and Kyle Okposo are healthy.

New York Rangers

Click here for a post full of questions about the team, but to play my own devil’s advocate, they have arguably the best goalie in the world (Henrik Lundqvist), one of the league’s best passers (Brad Richards), a fiery coach (John Tortorella) and a ton of worker bees to drop in front of shots and hustle for loose pucks. It’s not outrageous to put them in the mix.

Philadelphia Flyers

Not many division title winners trade away their captain (Mike Richards) and a potent, affordable sniper like Jeff Carter. Then again, the Flyers march to the beat of their own stone-faced drummer.

They still have a nice variety of forwards to work into the lineup, although that group won’t be as good in all three areas of the ice (especially on the penalty kill). It’s hard to tell what to expect from Jaromir Jagr and Jakub Voracek this year, in particular.

Oddly enough, public sentiment seems to be that Ilya Bryzgalov will be a bust. I disagree, even if I firmly nod my head when people discuss the risky nature of his contract. For all that’s been made about Dave Tippett’s defensive system, the Phoenix Coyotes allowed the third most shots per game (32.6) last season. Bryzgalov kept them afloat and should be able to clean up some messes for Philly, which is promising since Chris Pronger’s health is unclear – at best.

Pittsburgh Penguins

A lot of people – and at least one prominent video game – picked the Penguins to win the Stanley Cup, which probably means that they expect them to take their division as well. Two factors make that a risky proposition, though:

1. Obviously, Crosby’s health is a big question mark.

2. The Penguins earned just one division title since Crosby’s debut.

The team should be commended for its work without Crosby and Malkin last season, but they played with a tiny margin of error and scrapped out a lot of charity points in that time. Geno could indeed be explosive next season, but the Penguins’ aren’t a lock to win the Atlantic by any means.

Then again, who is?