This hurts to watch. In a 5-3 win over Boston last night, the kind of win that Rangers fans have dreamed of, the kind that eliminated Toronto from playoff contention and made it that much harder for Carolina to worm its way in, there was so much good. The Rangers scored five unanswered goals. It seems unlikely Jan Hlavac even scored five unanswered goals in his career.
Keying that run was Vinny Prospal, yes, who had two goals, but also the Rangers' team defense, the closest thing to valiant most fans rooting for Dolan-paid players will ever see.
The Rangers—especially a few players—block shots. Defenseman Dan Girardi leads the league in blocks, while center Brian Boyle leads all forwards. Ryan Callahan, despite missing 19 games after breaking his hand blocking a shot, is still fifth among forwards. Last year, the Rangers' Chris Drury led all forwards in blocks, while Callahan was fourth.
(Now, of course, this big bunch of blocks doesn't exclusively help the Rangers, because it means they're giving up offensive zone chances to their opponents, etc. Nonetheless, the Rangers are top ten in fewest shots allowed. Some of that comes from the shot-blocking. Better still, the Rangers win more often when they're outshot than they do when they outshoot. Hockey dorks, if you're reading, enlighten me.)
But there is no joy on Broadway, because the above shot-block broke Ryan Callahan's ankle.
This means, of course, that Callahan will likely miss whatever playoff games the Rangers do have—and the Rangers will miss Callahan, who, with 48 points in 60 games, has been the team's most productive scorer when healthy. His absence creates just another pain for a Rangers team that has lost Marian Gaborik, Drury, Prospal, Alexander Frolov, and Erik Christensen to extended injuries this year.
Yet the Callahan injury is doubly painful because of the bubbling irony. Chris Botta interviewed a ton of Rangers about their shot-blocking last night for the New York Times' Slap Shot blog. The piece's headline: "Blocking Chara Shots, Rangers Boost Playoff Chances," although now a grisly Callahan update precedes the interviews.
Prospal told the Times, "Don't misunderstand me, but it's really nothing special. We've been doing it all year. It doesn't matter who shoots, even if it's Chara ripping shots off at 105. I'll tell you this: when you're on the bench and you see guys do what Callahan and Boyle did, it gives everyone on the team a spark. That's what hockey is all about. My son (Vinny Jr.) watches the games. That's what I want him to see - the joy, the experience of sacrificing your body to make a play and help your team win a game."
You might think it's horseshit, because you've seen such quotes appended to David Eckstein's slappy groundouts. But Ryan Callahan ain't no Eckstein. This is the Rangers' most productive scorer taking to the ice to block a shot in the last minutes of a game. Tougher than running out a ball, if nothing else.
Shot-blocking, you see, hurts like hell. I say this as someone who has an eyelid scar from floor hockey in sixth grade gym, so yeah. But Zdeno Chara can shoot a little harder than most—105.9 miles per hour, say. And that evidently breaks bones.
Now it's claimed Callahan's, although TSN hockey analyst Bob McKenzie says a break is better than a sprain at this time of year.
This time of year, though, it's hard to find the sliver lining when one of the good guys is crumpled in a heap, methodically limping off the ice. But that's hockey.