‘Rangers Inside And Out’
By Sean Hartnett
Shortly after the Rangers dropped Game 6 of the Eastern Conference semifinals, I noticed an unusual amount of criticism directed at Rangers’ captain Ryan Callahan.
Naturally, I was taken aback as I noticed Rangers fans taking to Twitter to vent their rage. Some described Callahan as ‘missing’ during Game 6 and believed he ‘took the game off’ while others questioned his leadership attributes.
While every fan is entitled to their own opinion, Callahan’s reputation around the league is unblemished. Every general manager wants players who play with the courageous, all-out effort that Callahan brings every night.
It’s the kind of example that a locker room rallies behind and has formed the unbreakable spirit of the New York Rangers.
“He leads the way. That’s the way we all want to play behind him. It makes us better players,” Brian Boyle explained to me earlier this season.
Mike Rupp spoke to Dave Lozo of NHL.com, “He doesn’t forget where it all came from — his work ethic. He brings it every day.”
Even rivals such as Zdeno Chara of the Bruins have gone out of their way to show their respect for Callahan’s relentless style of play.
“Callahan is a top-six guy yet he still plays with so much heart and grit,” Chara told reporters in April 2011. “You don’t see many guys that throw their bodies around to block shots like that. He plays the game so hard. You have to respect a guy like that.”
Chara said this after his slap-shot broke Callahan’s ankle which ended his hopes of competing in 2011 playoffs.
If Callahan had missed the first round of the 2012 playoffs against the Ottawa Senators, the Rangers would be watching the rest of the playoffs unfold from their couches and not in the midst of a 7-game classic against the Caps.
Dale Hunter’s transformation of Washington Capitals is essentially a copycat blueprint of the way John Tortorella molded the Rangers into a group of selfless shot-blockers.
Hunter began slashing the minutes of the Capitals stars. The result was seeing Alexander Ovechkin throw his body in front of shots the way that Callahan and Dan Girardi do on a nightly basis. Imitation is surely the sincerest form of flattery.
Callahan has delivered more hits (62) than any player participating in the 2012 NHL playoffs. His 22 blocked shots are tied for the most by any forward during the playoffs.
Like ‘The Energizer Bunny,’ Callahan keeps going… and going… and going. He simply puts his all into every single shift. Yet, somehow he’s fresher than almost anyone on ice at gut-check time in the dying moments of the third period or when overtime comes around.
He spoke about the challenge of Game 7 after Wednesday’s loss. “That’s what we play for all year: home-ice advantage,” Callahan said. “And I think home-ice advantage helps when it’s that Game 7.” “We have to go in there, be ready to go, feed off the crowd and get a win.”
His endless stamina is especially remarkable considering that Callahan is an every situation player. He leads all playoff forwards in total ice time per game at 24:37.
To those questioning Callahan, I bet you’ll eat your words after Callahan leaves it all on the Garden ice in Game 7.
How vital is Callahan’s effort to the success of the New York Rangers? Will he be the man who provides the inspiration in Game 7? Share your thoughts below and send your tweets to @HartnettWFAN.