New York Rangers' Leaders Coming Through In the Clutch

By Tom Urtz Jr

Brad Richards and Ryan Callahan were the two goal scorers for the Rangers during their 2-1 win Wednesday against the Detroit Red Wings. Coincidentally, both are captains for the Rangers. Ryan Callahan is the team captain and Richards is a veteran alternate captain. After the game Callahan described the Rangers’ recent play of late.

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For the Rangers to have a successful playoff run they are going to need their “groove” and their leaders to step up. That is what tonight’s two scorers have done. Lets start with marquee free agent signee Brad Richards. For the first part of his year in New York, the fans got a bit restless due to his declining point numbers.

Fans criticized Richards for his declining numbers. Richards was brought in to play with Marian Gaborik and up until a few games ago, the two players had been separated. It was tough for Richards to find chemistry due to the fact that he had a revolving door of linemates. Over the past three weeks Gaborik and Richards have been paired and the result has been offensive chemistry.

Carl Hagelin has completed the trio and his speed with Richards vision and Gaborik’s offensive prowess allowed the line to combine for nine points against the Carolina Hurricanes one week ago.

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In his last fourteen games played, Richards has scored 17 points. This is the type of production that the fans had in mind when it was announced that Richards was signed for the next nine season. Richards is a true veteran leader and has the credentials that make him valuable for a playoff run. Richards has won a Stanley Cup and won a Conn Smythe Award as the 2003-04 Stanley Cup Playoff’s M.V.P. The fact that Richards is leading by example is very valuable to this relatively young Stanley Cup contender.

While Richards has reacted well to New York as of late, captain Ryan Callahan has had an amazing season after being handed the “C” this summer. Callahan is a player who leads by example. He is a hard-nosed blue-collar worker who plays physical 100 percent of the time. His specialties include hitting and blocking shots with absolute fortitude and bravery.

It is this style that earned him the nickname “Right Way” Ryan Callahan. He is the right leader for this team because every player follows Callahan’s example. No player on the Rangers refuses to hit, block shots or get physical because it is apart of the team’s identity. Offensively, Callahan has really stepped up this season.

Callahan currently has 27 goals on the year and 51 points. He has already surpassed his career high in goals and points and is on pace to score at least 29 goals and 56 points. He has also scored seven points in his last eight games played. He spent sometime sidelined between games but now it appears that Callahan is better than ever.

Callahan’s overtime winner against the Detroit Red Wings really set a statement in a huge game. It is these types of games where the leaders need to come through. Against tough teams it is important for top players to step up. It is even more important considering how close behind the Pittsburgh Penguins are.

Tomorrow the Penguins will square off against the Nashville Predators. If the Predators can beat the Penguins, the Rangers will maintain a three point lead and Pittsburgh will lose their game in hand.

With nine games left, the Rangers have 99 points. It is likely they will surpass their post lockout high of 100 points and a big reason that will happen is because leaders like Richards and Callahan are stepping up in the clutch.

Tom Urtz is a New York Rangers Columnist.

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