Ryan Callahan Injury: Are the New York Rangers' Cup Hopes Doomed?

Erik JohnsonContributor IApril 5, 2011

NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 20:  Ryan Callahan #24 of the New York Rangers skates against the Philadelphia Flyers at Madison Square Garden on February 20, 2011 in New York City. The Flyers defeated the Rangers 4-2.  (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
Chris Trotman/Getty Images

The New York Rangers received a devastating blow to their playoff hopes when it was reported earlier today that Ryan Callahan would be out “indefinitely” with a fractured leg.

I’m sure many people may answer the rhetorical question in the title with a question of their own: Was there ever hope to begin with?

Regardless of what pundits may say, the Rangers are still in position to finish as high as sixth in the conference. And if the Philadelphia Flyers taught us anything last year, it’s that all you have to do is get in.

Fresh off an inspirational come-from-behind victory against the Bruins on Monday in which Callahan set up the tying goal with a gorgeous behind-the-back pass, this is just about the only thing that could have put a damper on the Rangers' collective spirits following last night’s win.

Saying that Callahan is irreplaceable is an outrageous understatement. Callahan’s presence with the Rangers is immeasurably crucial to their success. Acting as though the Callahan injury is not a serious issue for the Rangers is like saying the Lakers would be just as well off if Luke Walton took Kobe’s spot in the lineup.

Ryan Callahan is the heart and soul of the New York Rangers. His leadership makes Mark Messier look like Wade Redden (yeah, maybe a bit of an exaggeration), but Callahan is not only a leader; he is one of the best all-around players on the team.

The Rochester, New York native plays critical minutes on the penalty kill and is having one of the best offensive seasons of his career with 48 points in 60 games this year. Even though he has played only three quarters of the season, he is also fifth among forwards in blocked shots with 77.

Not only have the Rangers' Stanley Cup hopes taken a major hit, but there may be reason to worry about even making the playoffs in the first place. With two games remaining, the Rangers sit one point ahead of the eighth-place Sabres and four points ahead of the ninth-place Hurricanes, each of which has three games left to play.

That may seem to be enough of a cushion to squeeze into the top eight in the Eastern Conference, but it’s important to note that the Rangers do not hold the tiebreaker over either of those teams. Losing even one of their final two games could put the Rangers at risk of missing the playoffs, though this is of course contingent on how the Sabres and Hurricanes perform.

Even if the Rangers can manage to make the postseason, they are certainly feeling a little less optimistic than they were last night.