Entries with the tag: wfan.com
From Sean Hartnett at WFAN.com:
Alone stands a masked man in white. He is the last line of defense. His duty is to guard his post from an army of onrushing soldiers dressed in red with the mark of the demon across their chest.
Henrik Lundqvist, the man that Rangers fans call ‘King Henrik,’ is faced with the task of not only keeping goals out of his net, but not allowing the tremendous pressure placed upon him to seep into his consciousness.
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With the New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils battling it out to see who will represent the Eastern Conference in the Stanley Cup Final, I figured now would be a good time to conduct an e-mail interview with someone who is currently covering the series.
Sean Hartnett, hockey writer/blogger for WFAN.com, was kind enough to take time out of his busy schedule to tell us about how he got into hockey, how he became a hockey blogger as well as his thoughts on the Eastern Conference Finals.
PH: How did you get into hockey?
SH: As a boy, I was fascinated with Mario Lemieux. I enjoyed the artistry he displayed on the ice. He was the ultimate game-changer. The highlight of his spectacular goal in Game 2 of the 1991 Stanley Cup Finals never gets old. He absolutely undressed the Minnesota North Stars’ defense. No matter how many times I watch it, it will never get old.
The first hockey video game I owned was NHL ‘94, so that definitely played a part in building my hockey obsession. I would have NHL ‘94 tournaments with neighbors and close elementary school friends. Nearly, two decades later… I haven’t really changed that much. At the age of 27, I still have NHL 12 tournaments with friends and they get pretty heated!
PH: Growing up, who was your favorite team/player?
SH: As a kid, teams weren’t as important to me as individual players who made the game so enjoyable to watch. I mentioned Lemieux earlier and I loved watching Wayne Gretzky set up behind the net in ‘his office’ and work his magic.
Everyone enjoys players who are artists on the ice. Early 90’s Teemu Selanne and Pavel Bure could pull off ‘out this world moves’ like no one I’ve ever seen before or since. Mike Modano, Pat LaFontaine and Brett Hull were the ultimate examples of talented Americans who were great ambassadors for the game.
I had friends who were Rangers, Devils and Islanders fans but I never really got caught up in the rivalry at young age. My mother bought me the 1994 Rangers’ championship t-shirt but it seemed like every couple months I was getting a t-shirt, jacket or jersey of a different team from my mom who spoiled me or another family member.
The great Neil Keefe, blogger/writer/podcaster extraordinaire for WFAN.com, was kind enough to take time out of his very busy schedule to give us his thoughts on the New York Rangers’ postseason thus far.
PH: In general, what are your thoughts on the Rangers’ play this postseason?
NK: The Rangers have played solid through their first three games. I think we all knew going into the postseason they might have trouble against the Senators with the way their styles of play match up, and that has certainly been the case. The Rangers dominated Game 1 before blowing a lead in Game 2 and losing and then winning Game 3 despite being outplayed and outshot. The Senators could very well be the team with the 2-1 series lead after we have seen, but they’re not, and that’s all that matters.
PH: How do you think Rangers’ captain Ryan Callahan has elevated his game during the postseason both as a player and captain?
NK: Callahan’s game has been pretty much the same to me as it was in the regular season, which means he’s playing at a high level. I wrote a few weeks ago how Callahan just seems to have the scoring touch and even though he doesn’t always score the prettiest goals (actually he pretty much never does), the puck always finds his stick in front of the net and then he usually finds the back of the net even if he doesn’t look great doing so.
I think Callahan’s leadership can be seen in the way that he plays the game. The “C” belongs on his jersey and his work ethic and intensity represent his role and the Rangers’ style of play perfectly.
The NHL playoffs are low-scoring battles. There is a very good shot that if the Rangers stick with that they have they may be able to go deep in the playoffs. But, if the price is right, and they can add someone like Rick Nash (27-years-old), they have to make the move.
I am not so sure people around here are familiar with Nash and his work. As much hockey as I watch, I don’t find myself locked in on many Blue Jackets games. But I know one thing, there are very few power forwards like Nash out there.
He was drafted first overall in 2002 and immediately was thrown into the fire. Nash has scored 40 or more goals twice and 30-plus goals four times. Oh yeah — he is 6’4 and 215 lbs.
Nash could be the missing piece, and the physical goal scoring punch going into the playoffs. The one downfall? He is signed through 2018 with a salary cap hit of $7.8 million per season.
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Monzo was kind enough to take some time out of his busy schedule to give us his thoughts on all things Blueshirts:
PH: What are your general thoughts on the play of the New York Rangers this season?
BM: I mean, there aren’t too many bad things you can say. They just keep winning every game. What is most impressive is that fact that when they do lose a game, or even two, that’s it. They have yet to go on a prolonged losing streak.
PH: In your opinion, what are just a few reasons why the Rangers have been successful this season?
BM: As usual, it starts in net. Henrik Lundqvist at this point is not only the leader for the Vezina Trophy, but there needs to be serious consideration for him being he MVP of the league. There are many games that he wins on his own. Marian Gaborik being healthy has been enormous and the play of their young defenseman (Girardi, Del Zotto and McDonagh) has propelled them to tops in the East.
PH: Why do you think Marian Gaborik has had such a turnaround season this year?
BM: He is healthy. Everyone seems to forget last season that he had a long-term shoulder and a concussion. I also do not believe his shoulder was 100% healthy at any point last season. He is playing now with players like Derek Stepan and Artem Anisimov who find ways to get him the puck in position to score goals as well.
From Brian Monzo at CBSNewYork.com/WFAN.com:
-Start the game by taking the body. This really goes for any game, but the Rangers need to expect the Flyers to come out angry since they’ve been handled by New York so far this season. Whether it be Brandon Prust or Ryan Callahan, someone needs to set the tone early. If it’s the Flyers doing it, the Rangers could be in for a long afternoon.
-Get the defense involved in the offense. Since the Rangers’ offense is pretty spread around, success has come in games when their defensemen have scored goals. Michael Del Zotto and Anton Stralman both can get involved when need be, but Ryan McDonagh and Marc Staal should both be joining the rush as much as possible. Fortunately for the Rangers, their goaltending has been extraordinary enough that if this backfires, Henrik Lundqvist should be able to handle any odd man rushes.
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Monzo was kind enough to give us his thoughts on this year’s team as well as who has been playing well, who has been a disappointment, and more.
PH: What are some of your general thoughts on the Blueshirts just past the 10-game mark?
BM: I think the Rangers really had to adjust to their travels. Now that they have found a consistent routine, they are playing better. It was hard to form an opinion of their play for the first seven games. I think they weren’t setting any kind of tempo to the games and were just adjusting to the style of their opponents. Since they’ve been back in NYC, they have been the pacesetters.
PH: Tell us which players you think are off to a good start this season and why.
BM: Marian Gaborik and Ryan McDonagh have stuck out the most. McDonagh has been given more ice time, and more responsibility with the injury to Marc Staal. He also has been playing with much more offense this season. I simply think that is because he knows his team needs to score more and is taking some action. Gaborik is healthy. Last season he had shoulder and concussion issues. He was never 100%. This season he is healthy and is noticeable on every shift.
PH: For starters, describe the Rangers’ season in a nutshell.
BM: The season was exciting, frustrating and everything in between. They battled injuries all year long, and found ways to win games. Unfortunately, their season may have ended too early because of Ryan Callahan’s ankle.
PH: What did the team do well with this season
BM: Played as a unit. Despite the injuries, they found ways to get it done. No excuses from anyone. I also thought their goaltending was strong all season long—but what else is new there. Their young defense was especially solid with guys like Ryan McDonagh and Michael Sauer becoming regulars.
PH: What did the team struggle with this season?
BM: They struggled scoring and on the power-play, which is nothing new. All the more reason why this offseason will be a big one.
From great friend of the blog Brian Monzo at WFAN.com:
So where do they go now? It seems like they’ve done a pretty solid job drafting the last two seasons. They have two top offensive prospects in Chris Kreider (1st round in 2009) and Christian Thomas (2nd round in 2010), and will likely try to sign both of professional contracts this summer. At this year’s draft in June, I would expect them to be looking at forwards in the first two rounds, then shifting towards depth defensemen.
Finally, the belief amongst most is that when Stars center Brad Richards becomes an unrestricted free agent on July 1st, the Rangers are going to be looking to strike. Richards, who will be 31 on May 2nd, has 716 points in 772 games, including 496 assists. He is great with the puck, has a sense of the game and can make plays happen. He is exactly the kind of top center the Rangers (and Marian Gaborik) are in need of. He will be looking for a long-term contract, and the Rangers will have to make a few moves to open up some cap space. They are going to need to sign Dubinsky, Callahan, Anisimov, Boyle, Sauer and perhaps Gilroy to new contracts. Which in turn means upcoming UFA’s Alex Frolov, Vinny Prospal, Steve Eminger and maybe even Ruslan Fedotenko may not be offered new contracts (Frolov for sure, I just had to include him on the list so I didn’t miss anyone).
It is a work in progress. I certainly understand the venom and frustration of the fans. You hate to lose. But coming off a 44 win season, it appears coach John Tortorella will be extended, which he deserves. The team is headed in the right direction. They are building from within, and developing some core players. It’s tough to be patient in New York, but a lot of people believe the wait will be worth it.
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From good friend of the blog Brian Monzo at WFAN.com:
The point is, watching the Rangers game in and game out, there are times where they look brutal. Or they can beat the Flyers 7-0, as they did Sunday. I know the Ranger fan is very much an ‘instant reactor.’ I get more Tweets (BMonzoNHL660) about how the Rangers need to fire John Tortorella, sit Henrik Lundqvist (who has a GAA under 2.30 and 9 shutouts) and that Brandon Dubinsky is overrated. While I love the fan feedback on ‘the Twit,’ sometimes I really scratch my head about immediate reaction.
Am I saying the Rangers are a Cup contending? I don’t know. I know they are a tough team, that never gets blown out and leaves it all on the ice.
Say what you want about the Rangers current situation in the standings (currently 35-29-4 and 7th in the East), but they are the hardest working team in the NHL. That said, I believe they will be the hardest team to eliminate in a seven game series. Teams can outscore them, but not too many teams, if any, can outwork them. That is exactly why Tortorella should not be fired. He has gotten Ryan Callahan to become a true leader on the team, has gotten Marc Staal and Dan Girardi to be one of the top shutdown defensive pairs in the NHL and has gotten 20 goals from Brian Boyle. He has gotten Dubinsky to play in all situations, stick up for every teammate and be viewed as a forward that every team wishes they had.
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WFAN producer, WFAN.com New York Rangers/NHL writer, and NHL Live producer Brian Monzo took time out of his hectic schedule to talk about the New York Rangers and what they may or may not do at the NHL Trade Deadline.
PH: What are some of your general thoughts on the trades that have been made so far prior to the NHL trade deadline? Which deal do you think was the best? Why?
BM: The amount of trades have been crazy. Hockey fans love their trades, as do people in the league. It’s fun. Tough to say which is the best trade this minute. The Av’s/Blues blockbuster (Johnson/McClement for Stewart/Shattenkirk mixed with some picks) caught everyone off guard. I think that trade will work out best for Colorado. Everyone seems to think St. Louis got the best of it, but Erik Johnson, despite some struggles is a sick talent. For the Av’s to now build around Johnson and Matt Duchene gives Colorado a lot to look forward to. Tomas Kaberle will obviously help the Bruins, but that aside, I love Rich Peverley going to Beantown too. He is a perfect for that, and can score 20 goals every season.
PH: In your opinion, why do you think so many moves have been made prior to the deadline?
BM: I think GM’s like the luxury of not have to rush and make last second deals. If they make a trade right now, they are getting who they want, when they want them.
From good friend of the blog Brian Monzo at WFAN.com:
As the season winds down, the Rangers are indeed going to be in the market for a few things. This, along with the news that forward Marian Gaborik is out for undisclosed amount of time with a concussion, certainly presses the need for a forward, as well as the obvious need for a offensive defenseman.
When it is all said and done, there are three names that have been linked to the Rangers as the deadline approaches:
Brad Richards – Dallas Stars/Center (24 goals, 39 assists in 56 games) - The biggest unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. After a terrific start, the Stars have started to fade, re-igniting speculation they may deal the playmaking center.
Click here for more great thoughts on the Blueshirts from Monzo.
From good friend of the blog Brian Monzo at WFAN.com/NewYorkCBSlocal.com:
Overall, what we’ve seen is a unity of players who have conformed into a team that plays a hardworking game. They do not have the most talented team in the league, but their work ethic has given them the ability to comeback late in games and perform well in back-to-back contests. They’ve gotten contributions from everyone on the team and their goaltending has been superb all season. They’ve become a team that battles every game and has caught the eye of the league. Former NHL coach and current analyst Ken Hitchcock called this team the ‘sleeper’ team in the East.
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From great friend of the blog Brian Monzo at WFAN.com:
Some would say this would have been predictable. I am normally one of those people, but I wasn’t this year. What I am talking about is the last ditch effort the Rangers are making to inch their way into the playoffs. This has been their way the past few seasons, and they are doing it again. The last blog I wrote, I explained why the Rangers would finish with 79 points when the season ended. Well, they are at 82, with four games left the be played.
The Rangers are surging right now, aiming for that 8th seed in the Eastern Conference, still presently on the outside looking in. They beat the Devils in a shootout, a game I thought they would lose, swept a home and home with the Islanders, beat the Lightning and Panthers in Florida and notched a point in an OT loss to the Maple Leafs. All that equates to them still being in the playoff picture.
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