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Callahan has come into his own as Rangers captain

by Dave Lozo

WASHINGTON -- The way Mike Rupp chose to describe Ryan Callahan's value as captain of the New York Rangers says a lot about how far he's come in his first year wearing the "C."

"I'd compare him to Scott Stevens," Rupp told "Just by going out there and doing what he does, you want to follow him. You want to do what he's doing. Scotty never really said too much, but he'd go out there and just have this easiness to him, but at the same time, go out there and be a fierce competitor -- and that's what Cally does."


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It's high praise to be compared to Stevens, who won three Stanley Cups with the New Jersey Devils as the team's captain and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2007. While Callahan isn't the physical presence of Stevens, they share similar characteristics when it comes to toughness.

There's rarely a game that passes in which Callahan doesn't display the grit and willingness to do whatever it takes to win, and the 27-year-old showed all that and more during the Rangers' 2-1, triple-overtime win against the Washington Capitals in Game 3 of their Eastern Conference Semifinal series Wednesday night.

After two days off, Callahan and the Rangers will try to extend their 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series during Game 4 on Saturday afternoon at Verizon Center (12:30 p.m. ET, NBC).

During the overtimes, Callahan showed no concern for his own well-being by sliding to block a shot by the Caps' Jason Chimera that had a great chance to be the winner. During another sequence in which the Capitals were applying constant pressure, Callahan, who lost his stick while defending the top of the defensive zone, used a little bit of body positioning and his skate to kick the puck into the neutral zone.

Callahan is known for his heart, but he's also become pretty good at putting the puck in the net this season. His power-play goal in the second period was his third of the postseason and 32nd in 86 total games between the regular season and playoffs.

That's not bad for a player who started off playing against Rupp on one of the Rangers' lower lines.

"It's the little things," Rupp said. "I remember when he came into the League, I was playing against him on the fourth line. He's a guy who paid his dues and worked hard to get where he's at. When you have a guy that's done those things and gone through the process of bettering himself as a player, he doesn't forget where it all came from -- his work ethic. He brings it every day."

Chris Drury spent four seasons as Rangers captain before Callahan took the reins this season. There may not have been a better example for Callahan, who plays a hard-nosed style similar to that of Drury.

"He was one the guys I looked up to as a young guy," Callahan told "I spent a lot of time with him being an assistant captain while he was captain. He kind of showed me the way and how to be a professional on and off the ice. I think everybody has their own leadership qualities and everyone handles themselves differently. It's hard to compare yourself to somebody else in that sense, but he's definitely a guy I watched and tried to learn from."


The Washington Capitals have played great hockey, but they need to find a way to capitalize on their opportunities. You're not going to get many chances to score against the New York Rangers, and the Capitals had a lot of chances that they just couldn't put away in overtime of Game 3, where they had breakaways and Alex Ovechkin even hit a post. If they could have found a way to win that game in overtime, that could have been a huge turning point for the series. Now you give it back to the Rangers, and I don't see New York letting go.

New York has too strong a team, and I think their confidence is going to be really high after winning that overtime game. I've been impressed with Braden Holtby and how Ovechkin has handled himself with the way he's been played by coach Dale Hunter. There has been a lot of maturing on this team, but I just think the Rangers are too strong. The Rangers also want to try to get through this series as fast as they can, and this could be a pivotal game in doing that because New York needs to take a break. They had seven games in the first round and this is a very important game for them if they want to keep moving forward.

-- Jeremy Roenick

Callahan said Drury, much like himself, was a captain who led by example and someone he keeps in touch with occasionally today. According to several Rangers, it took a little while for Callahan to become comfortable with the vocal aspect to being the leader this season, but coach John Tortorella said during overtime intermissions of Game 3, there was only one voice he heard coming from his locker room -- Callahan's.

"He's gotten a lot more comfortable as the year has gone on doing that," alternate captain Brad Richards said. "He knows when to talk and has a reason for talking when he talks. He's definitely growing up in that position."

One aspect of being a leader and not necessarily a captain is helping younger players get acclimated in their new surroundings, be it the locker room or in Manhattan.

Last season, Derek Stepan was a rookie finding his way in the NHL and in the biggest city in the world. Stepan was a 20-year-old making the team out of training camp who grew up in Hastings, Minn., which has a population of about 20,000.

In stepped Callahan to offer assistance in both hockey and in life.

"Going through the process last year of moving into the city and going through the process of being on the road and getting meals and stuff, all those things, he's always there to bounce stuff off of," Stepan told "He's always there to help out."

That was one of the many reasons why when it came time to name a replacement for Drury this season, it was a no-brainer for the Rangers to select Callahan as captain.

"It's easy. It's just who he is. It's how he plays and how he conducts himself," Tortorella said. "I'll put it to you this way -- if you're around him for a couple weeks in the locker room and see how he plays, you'd feel the same way. That's an easy thing. We weren't voting on that. Sometimes you let the team vote. I didn't need to have the team vote. We did it as a coaching staff. But if the team voted, it would be the same thing. You just have to be around him."

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo

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