It takes an awful lot of guts and determination to get in front of a Zdeno Chara shot. The league's most feared man who when he's winding up, you fear the worst like a goal being scored. So, Ryan Callahan laid out the body one more time, making a full out dive to block the league's hardest shot that was clocked at nearly 106 MPH at the All-Star Skills Competition in Raleigh back in late January. This is the kind of heart and soul player Callahan has become for the Rangers. Not only does he do all the dirty work, but also is second in team scoring with a career high 23 goals and 25 assists for 48 points. There isn't anything the former fourth rounder won't do. Whether it's throwing a crunching hit- a category he still ranks 12th in with 224 despite missing 19 games, or getting in the path of a shot, Cally does whatever it takes for his team to be successful.
When he returned from a busted hand from what else but blocking a shot, Callahan elevated his play to the best level it's ever been. Since Feb.1, he leads the Blueshirts with 13 goals and 24 points over 27 games while playing the same gritty style that's admired not only by teammates but opponents as well. Even Chara was upset when he learned that Callahan is expected to miss between six to eight weeks for a broken ankle that won't require surgery.
“You watch teams that end up going far in the playoffs, shot-blocking is a must,” prideful coach John Tortorella said on the injury to the Rangers' MVP. “That’s just a given for us in what we have to do.”
Callahan also ranks fifth among all forwards with 77 blocks. Despite playing only 60 games with his regular season done, the recently turned 26 year-old Rochester native achieved new highs not only in goals, assists and points but also in power play goals (10) and game-winners (5), which both pace the club. What else would you expect from a man who gets the most out of his 5-11, 185 pound frame?
"You can’t really say enough good things about him as a player and as a person and as a leader in this organization,” praised captain Chris Drury, who's begun skating and taking part in team practices despite not being ready. “We’re going to miss him, and miss him a lot. He plays in every situation and does all the little things, does all the big things. He’s just been great. He’s going to be a big loss for us.
“As he would want us to do, want the guys to do, is play hard without him, kind of move on, win some games, and put a smile on his face that way.”
Now, the Rangers must go on without him. They have two games left with the Thrashers in town Thursday and the Hudson rival Devils crossing the river Saturday. This team has been resilient all year. It will be up to other players to step up. On a team that boasts five 20-goal scorers with Draft Mate Artem Anisimov one shy of making it six, it's back to work for Tortorella's guys who'll summon whatever energy they have left to play the way their next captain does daily. Now, it's up to Dubinsky, Anisimov, Stepan, Boyle, Prust, Prospal, Gaborik, Staal, Girardi, Sauer, McDonagh, Avery, Fedotenko, Eminger, McCabe, Christensen, Wolski, Gilroy and Lundqvist to do what needs to be done. The situation remains the same. Win and they're in. Don't rely on help.
Something tells us inspiration won't be a problem. Do it for Cally.