Around coast-to-coast NHL markets and to a lesser degree among Rangers fans, Ryan Callahan is viewed foremost as a grinder and all-effort workhorse.
While it is a huge compliment for Callahan to be classified as one of the league’s hardest-working players, that reputation sometimes overshadows the level of skill that Callahan brings to the Rangers every night.
In last night’s 4-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning, Callahan pulled-off a world-class backhanded pass to Derek Stepan to increase the Rangers’ first period lead to 2-0. Wayne Gretzky used to operate in his “office” behind the net at Madison Square Garden and Callahan’s vision was reminiscent of an assist worthy of “The Great One.”
Callahan would again attempt a similar move that almost resulted in a second assist for the Rangers’ captain. These days, Callahan is proving he’s more than just a scrapper whose points are the result of his hardworking nature.
Rangers’ head coach John Tortorella believes that’s the case when he spoke at last night’s post-game press conference.
“Always. You talk about Ryan Callahan… you call him a grinder or a banger,” Tortorella explained. “He gets overlooked as far as his offensive abilities and his talent because the other stuff sticks out, but that’s always been in his game. That’s why he’s our captain and leads us in how we need to play.”
Over the past two games, Rangers fans have seen both sides of Callahan. In their dramatic 4-3 loss the Winnipeg Jets, Callahan might have had the most determined shift of his career by blocking a Zach Bogosian one-timer and then trucked Bogosian before clearing the puck down ice.
All the while, Callahan was without a stick and blocked yet another shot before finishing his shift by taking another lick at Bogosian on his way to the bench.
On Thursday night against the Lightning, Callahan brought the same level of intensity – but with an added measure of elite playmaking.
When it comes down to it, Callahan shouldn’t be pegged as a grinder or a scrapper, but instead a forward who excels in all areas. Callahan makes an impact all over the ice, whether it’s finding a loose rebound goal on the power play, using his vision to dish a perfect pass to a teammate, delivering punishing checks despite his average size, fearlessly blocking shots or battling in the corners to earn a loose puck – it’s hard not to find an area where Callahan doesn’t make a tremendous impact.
It’s time that Callahan gets his due for being much more than the workhorse-like figure who inspires the Blueshirts. He’s not only one of the league’s most gutsy and fearless players, he’s also become one of the NHL’s most complete players.