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?

Rangers face lengthy home and road swings in 2011-12


With the 2011-12 season rapidly approaching, the gang at PHT decided to take a look at all 30 NHL teams’ schedules. Each team’s highs and lows will be studied in detail to give you an idea of what the future might hold for each squad.

Note: Mileage figures via On the Forecheck’s “Super Schedule.”

New York Rangers schedule analysis

Total mileage: 36,385 (ninth lowest total in NHL, but most in Atlantic Division)

Back-to-back games: 14

Toughest stretches

The Rangers aren’t going to have an easy start to the season. They’ll kick off 2011-12 with back-to-back games in Stockholm, Sweden (Oct. 7 vs. Kings, Oct. 8 vs. Ducks) and then play five road games after a week-long break from that trip.

After a long run of home games, November gets rough as they’ll play five of six away from Madison Square Garden. No doubt about it, the first couple months of the season are going to be a challenge for the Blueshirts.

Things should go pretty smoothly for the Rangers until March, though. They’ll start that month with five of six games on the road, which should represent the last significantly bumpy run of away games.

Easiest periods

The Rangers will follow that tough start to 11-12 with a big run of home games between October and November. They’ll play six straight home games and seven of eight at MSG during that period.

The middle of the season actually resembles what you’d expect from a normal NHL schedule, but things gets strange again in March. After another lengthy road trip, the Rangers will play seven consecutive games at home. They get a night off between each of those games, so they need to make the most of that run.

Overall outlook

As much as the Rangers would probably like to complain about starting their season overseas, the Boston Bruins won the 2011 Stanley Cup following their own sojourn in 2010.

That being said, they certainly will face a few months of wild home and road swings, especially compared to the balanced schedules that their division rivals will generally enjoy. The Rangers’ hope is that they can keep up their good work from last year on the road (24-16-1 away record), particularly in a challenging start to the season.

It might be tough for them to win the Atlantic Division when you consider how much easier things are for their rivals, though.

Could the Penguins steal the Atlantic Division title from the Flyers?

Pittsburgh Penguins v Philadelphia Flyers

It seems like a far-fetched goal considering the fact that they will try to do it without Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, but the next few days present a solid opportunity for the Pittsburgh Penguins to steal the Atlantic Division title from the Philadelphia Flyers.

First, let’s take a look at why not (beyond the fact that the team lacks Crosby and Malkin). The Flyers currently hold a four-point lead for the division title, as well as the top spot in the Eastern Conference. They also have one more win – 45 to Pittsburgh’s 44 – and an important game in hand.

That being said, Sunday and Tuesday could provide the Penguins with an outstanding opportunity to make Philadelphia’s lead uncomfortably small. The Penguins are about to host the fading Florida Panthers at home this afternoon, which is a great opportunity for a win. Meanwhile, the Flyers host a far hungrier and more dangerous opponent in the Boston Bruins tonight.

The best part comes on Tuesday, though, when Pittsburgh faces Philadelphia in what could be a big home game for the Penguins.

If the Penguins win both games while the Flyers lose to Boston and Pittsburgh in regulation, the two teams would be tied at 100 points and the only advantage Philadelphia would have is their single game in hand. At that point, the Penguins would have five games to earn one more point than the Flyers, who would have six games left.

Pittsburgh’s last five games after their big game against the Flyers:

The closing schedule might or might not be friendly to Pittsburgh. The negative side is that four of their final five games are on the road, but the plus is that four of those opponents (the Panthers, Devils, Thrashers and Islanders) might be in “tank mode.” The toughest game is against the struggling Tampa Bay Lightning in what might be a preview of a fourth vs. fifth seed match … if the Penguins can’t steal the Atlantic, that is.

Philadelphia’s final six after Tuesday:

The Flyers play three home games and three away games in their last six. You can break down those six games into three groups: tanking teams (Atlanta and maybe New Jersey), teams that should be tanking but aren’t totally committed (Ottawa and the Islanders) and teams fighting for playoff positioning (Buffalo and the Rangers).

In some ways, Philadelphia’s closing schedule is easier. In others, it might be a little bit tougher, since the Sabres and Rangers have plenty to play for while the Senators have been a tough out lately.


Overall, Philadelphia remains the odds-on favorite to retain their Atlantic Division lead. That being said, those plucky Penguins have a legitimate chance to usurp them, although they must rely on a few “ifs.” Today’s games plus Tuesday’s match will go a long way in either giving Pittsburgh a serious chance to win the division or confirm the fact that Philly will stay on top.

Naturally, we’ll let you know which side prevails.