Nov
11

Rangers Showing Signs Of Improvement?

November 11, 2011, by

The Rangers seem to be doing more right than they are doing wrong these days and for the first time this season, the majority of fans are starting to see the bigger picture.

From day one we’ve been preaching patience, defending Sather and Tortorella till we were blue in the face over roster decisions, line permutations, tactics, etc. Lucky for us, the team is progressing just as we pontificated it would.

Below are some key points laying out how this team is improving and why you may need to start drinking our Kool-Aid.

Improved Faceoffs

One of the biggest offseason needs was acquiring someone who could win faceoffs. The Rangers obviously made a major upgrade in signing Brad Richards, but the silver lining has been the progress of Derek Stepan and Artem Anisimov, especially on the draw.

Over the summer I was challenged by the stat geeks when I suggested that Stepan could potentially increase his faceoff winning percentage from last year’s abysmal 38.5% to the mid to high 40’s. I was told Step would have to defy averages and typical trends to hit those numbers. Well fast forward to today and he’s winning 46.7%.

Anisimov too has improved at faceoffs. This season he’s winning 49.5% compared to 44.5% last year.

Part of this progression can be associated with how well Torts deploys his matchups (yes, that’s a compliment), but another part of it just has to do with their overall development. As they learn to better read stick positioning, opponent tendencies, not to mention the fact that they’re still growing into their bodies; it’s easy to see why a ceiling shouldn’t be placed on their potential.

Side note – If you are interested in specific faceoff tactics, I humbly suggest you check out our post here.

More Discipline or Less Fatigue?

A couple of weeks back everyone was getting on the Rangers for their perceived lack of discipline. According to the “experts,” this was supposedly a direct reflection of their coach.

I didn’t point fingers at Torts for the team’s bad penalties then and I won’t give him a thumbs up now that they’re avoiding the box. What has really caused the change in PIM has not to do with coaching, but more to do with an end to the fatigue and hectic schedules.

Earlier in the season the Rangers obviously hadn’t found their game yet, partly due to working out early season kinks, but more or less because of travel fatigue and lack of practice time. As a result, the team was constantly getting beat to the puck, so a lot of reaching fouls ensued.

Once the Rangers began their home stand and got their legs back, they were no longer a step behind the play and they no longer had to hook and grab to slow down the opposition.

Defense

Finally, the Rangers are playing better defense without having to block 15-20 shots a night like they did a season ago. Girardi has been solid in all three zones, McDonagh and MDZ are getting the puck up ice, Sauer is doing what Sauer does best, and even Woywitka has had his moments. Once this team gets Staal back, the Rangers could have arguably one of the best defenses in the Eastern Conference.

Of course not every facet of our game has greatly improved. The Rangers have shown sporadic efforts of puck possession and they have yet to really capitalize on their chances, especially on the power play. Though to date, we have yet to see the Rangers top 3 lines play to their potential simultaneously. Once we can get them all rolling, the Rangers will be a very tough team to beat.

Categories : Analysis

16 comments

  1. bob says:

    Good write up,couldn’t agree more.Especially the penalties issue.But scoring has to improve or we not going to keep winning.I’m sure the Richards line will get going,but wondering whats up with Boyles line.Prust has had some horrible games,where it seemed like he couldn’t do anything right.I assume he is hurting and w/o his tenacity its affecting Boyle.Your right if we can get the three lines going we could be a damn good team.

  2. Walt says:

    We are where we are due to our defense, and more importantly, our goal tending. The King is the King, but Marty may be our best secret weapon, and for the best interest of the team as a whole, he should be used for some 25 games this year.

    Prust is still feeling the effect of his surgery, and time will tell, but he should start feeling better, which will elevate Boyle’s game. I don’t know if it’s me, but I don’t think that the team overall is hitting as hard, or as often as they did last season. Now lets see if we can’t get Dubi on the score sheet, big time.

    • bob says:

      Your correct,our defense which was supposed to be good before losing Staal.Then the experts said our defense was going to be a problem.Well they stepped up and our goaltending helped cover up their mistakes.But have you noticed how lost Prust has looked.I love the guy ,he’s a heart player but he really looks like he shouldn’t be playing.One game I payed particular attention to him,and he couldn’t do anything with the puck.

      • Walt says:

        Again, it may go back to his shoulder, and the fear of getting hit there! Last season Prust played with his heart on his sleeve, I’m not sure that is the case now. I still think that he is a solid guy, and I want him on my team any day of the week!!!!!!

        • The Suit says:

          I am in agreement, Prust and Boyle have not looked right, especially in the OZ.

          They’re still blocking shots and killing penalties, which is great, but they have yet to really get going on the forecheck, which is really how they create offense.

          • RangerSmurf says:

            I put it out there on twitter, but Boyle’s getting completely pooped on with his zone assignments so far. Only 5 regular forwards are starting in the defensive zone more than him, and they’re two sets of linemates (Weise/Lapierre/Volpatti in VAN & Pahlsson/Dorsett in CBJ)

            Basically, he’s become Drury now. It’s just so hard to generate offense when you have to go 200 ft against decent competition every game.

            • The Suit says:

              georgie how are their starts looking compared to last year?

              • RangerSmurf says:

                Every one is down (goes back to the whole possession thing), but

                2011-12:
                Boyle 24.2%, Prust 31%, Feds 32.3%

                2010-11:
                Boyle 40.3%, Prust 42.3%, Feds 41.8% (Drury 34.8%)

                Step and MZA led last year at around 64%. Richards currently leads this year at 52%. (min 10gp)

              • The Suit says:

                So these are % of d-zone starts or o-zone?

              • RangerSmurf says:

                Percentage of starts in the Offensive zone vs defensive zone.

  3. AD says:

    Unfortunately, I think we need to start getting used to the idea that we may go the entire season without Marc Staal. I thought toward the end of last season he was physically exhausted and looked fatigued/slow on the ice, even though he remained positionally very sound. In retrospect, he probably played through the after effects of the hit he took from his brother, and this only made things worse. I hope this line of reasoning proves inaccurate, but I would not at all be surprised if this turns out to be the case.

    • The Suit says:

      If Staal is out for the season, it’s a major blow, but so far these guys are holding up without him. Hopefully McD, MDZ, and Sauer can handle the increased responsibilities.

  4. gza says:

    curious, how does one improve at faceoffs during the off season? Or had step and arty improved notably by the end of last season and just I hadn’t noticed how much better they had become?

    • The Suit says:

      scope the link in the post…

      off-season workouts, practicing new tactics, how the coach utilizes them, etc…

  5. pavel says:

    As you said, the one thing that REALLY needs to improve is the powerplay. I don’t believe Carolina is known for their penalty kill, so hopefully the Rangers can rip them apart tonight and get some confidence!