If you’re looking for a superstar to go from end-to-end and score a goal that catches a glimpse on Sportscenter’s “Top 10,” Ryan Callahan isn’t your man.
But if you are looking for a terrific two-way player who makes an immediate impact on the ice with ability and leads by example rather than using words, he is your man.
That is why he is the captain of the New York Rangers, and also why they are in a tough spot at the moment. The team announced yesterday that the gritty captain will miss three-to-four weeks due to a broken thumb.
Callahan received the injury doing what he does best, whatever it takes to win. 2:03 remained on the clock Wednesday night at Verizon Center. The Rangers were in a heated battle with the Washington Capitals, who were down 2-0 trying to crawl back into the game with a relentless attack. When the puck bounced to an open John Carlson, Callahan instinctively went down to block the shot. The puck made heavy contact with his hand, which broke his thumb.
Despite the injury he suffered moments earlier, he stayed on the ice to finish his shift, as any courageous captain would do. He was also on the ice for the final seconds when the Rangers clinched their second victory of the young season. He was one of the first to tap Henrik Lundqvist‘s helmet, but he won’t be doing that for a little bit.
The Rangers are already down two forwards, Carl Hagelin is still recovering from his shoulder surgery but all signs point to him playing on October 29 against the New York Islanders, which is good to hear. Rick Nash suffered his second concussion of 2013 after he took a hit from Brad Stuart in a game against the San Jose Sharks, and is out indefinitely.
Callahan’s loss is a big one, and it’s going to be tough to fill the void that he has left behind. The rest of the team is still attempting to adapt to Alain Vigneault‘s system and there are still some kinks that need to be sorted out, even in the aftermath of their 2-0 win against the Caps. The Rangers enter weekend play ranked 28th in the League in offense (1.83 goals per game) and 29th on the defensive side of things (4.17 goals-against per game). Against the Capitals however, the Rangers held Alex Ovechkin‘s offense to 22 shots and got 36 of their own on goaltender Braden Holtby.
Callahan as always, was in the middle of everything. He tallied the team’s second goal (third in two games), and put six shots towards Holtby’s net. He also dealt five hits and blocked two shots all in the span of 22:06 of ice time, which led the team’s forwards.
To combat Callahan’s injury, Alain Vigneault recalled Darroll Powe yesterday from the Hartford Wolf Pack over Chris Kreider. Powe can do all of the small things that Callahan does, but Powe won’t be providing that offensive spark the team is looking for while the captain is absent. Kreider has a ton of offensive skill but the Rangers chose against that, and that shows the trust that Vigneault has in his other depth forwards and in theory, he has plenty of reason to give out that trust.
Brad Richards has exceeded expectations this season, he has four goals and seven points in six games. However, the rest of the team has only combined for seven goals, three of which are Callahan’s. Derek Stepan and Derick Brassard have combined for zero goals, and Nash didn’t score prior to his concussion. Actually, the Rangers have goals from as many defenseman (Ryan McDonagh, John Moore, Marc Staal) as they do from forwards (Richards, Derek Dorsett, Callahan).
Another possible solution to Callahan’s injury could come from the likes of JT Miller, who was recalled from Hartford on Tuesday. He didn’t have a shot in 10:12 of ice time against Washington, but his performances from last season have showed that he has the ability to handle the pace of the game.
Regardless of how Vigneault sets up his team, they must structure some consistency and build off the positives they showed in the win against the Capitals. If not, they’re in some deep trouble.