Ryan Callahan: New York Rangers Forward Likely Lost for the Season

Zach VanderbergCorrespondent IApril 5, 2011

NEW YORK - MARCH 6:  Ryan Callahan #24 of the New York Rangers in action against the Philadelphia Flyers during their game on March 6, 2011 at Madison Square Garden in New York City, New York.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Al Bello/Getty Images

The Rangers continued their playoff push last night with a dramatic win over the powerhouse Boston Bruins.

Down 3-0, the Rangers stormed back to win the game by a score of 5-3, capped on an empty net goal by Derek Stepan. Unfortunately, such a huge win had to come at a price.

Late in the third period, Ryan Callahan blocked a shot by hulking Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara, who possesses the hardest shot in the entire NHL.

Callahan suffered a fractured leg on the play and it was announced today that he will be out indefinitely. However, with only two games remaining, and with the Rangers as a lower seed in the playoffs, Callahan's return appears unlikely.

Already an important player, Callahan stepped up this season to become perhaps their most important skater.

Despite missing 22 games this season, he established career highs with 23 goals and 48 points, one more than the team's expected leading scorer, Marian Gaborik, who has played the same amount of games.

Callahan's injury is a massive blow to the Rangers in other ways as well.

In addition to his scoring talents, Callahan is one of the better two-way forwards in the NHL. Despite his average size, he plays with a ton of grit and heart. He is 10th in the league among forwards in hits and fifth among forwards in blocked shots.

All this while playing about 20 games less than his peers. Callahan is also an extremely effective penalty killer because of those skills, a trait that will be sorely missed.

There is also another quality about Ryan Callahan. He is viewed as the de facto captain of the Rangers.

Already an alternate captain, Callahan has seen most of the leadership duties fall on his shoulders since Chris Drury has only played in 23 games this year. Suffice to say, he has excelled in the role and could inherit the "C" as soon as next season.

It also appears that the team's seventh defenseman, Matt Gilroy, will dress and skate on the wing to replace Callahan, instead of calling up Mats Zuccarello from the Connecticut Whale. Zuccarello played in 41 games with the Rangers this season, scoring a respectable 6 goals and 22 points.

Making the playoffs, let alone advancing, will be extremely difficult without Callahan. If the Rangers want to do it, they will have to follow the example set by their leader.