All day there was speculation as the details about Ryan Callahan’s injury slowly came out. After fearing the worst, the Rangers revealed today that Callahan will miss the rest of the regular season and the playoffs with a fractured leg. It’s a huge loss for the Rangers who are still fighting for their playoff lives and can ill-afford to lose any players; let alone the heart-and-soul of their team. Nothing like a season-ending injury to temper the enthusiasm of a huge come-from-behind victory against the rival Boston Bruins.
Here’s how it happened:
It’s a cold bit of irony that one of the Rangers most important players would be injured by blocking a shot in the waning minutes of the 3rd period while protecting a one-goal lead. Over recent years, areas of the game like blocked shots and hits have always been where the Rangers fell short. However, lead by players like Callahan and linemate Brandon Dubinsky, the Blueshirts are leading the league in hits and are fourth in the NHL in blocked shots. Callahan did exactly what the entire team has done all season by laying down in front of a slap shot – a Zdeno Chara slap shot, no less – while protecting a lead in a huge game for his team.
Moving forward, the Rangers will need the rest of their forwards to step up. Not only do they lose 23 goals and 25 assists from their lineup, but they also lose a guy who plays on their power play, plays on New York’s most consistent line with Brandon Dubinsky and Artem Anisimov, kills penalties, and plays against some of the toughest competition in the league. No player can replace all that he brings to the team—but a combination of a few players stepping up may be able to fill the void.
On the bright side, Chris Drury should be coming back to the lineup sooner rather than later and could perhaps help replace some of Callahan’s leadership. Marian Gaborik will be asked to step-up his game to score a few more goals, and guys like Brian Boyle and Brandon Prust will be asked to bring a little more of the physical stuff that Callahan brought on a nightly basis. Sean Avery, when he’s on the top of his game, will be able to help contribute in the scoring and physical areas as well.
No one player is going to be able to fill Callahan’s skates. But if everyone raises their game, the Rangers may be able to survive the loss of their best player. Then again, that’s a big “if.”