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Thoughts following last night’s game against Buffalo

Frank Franklin II/AP

Frank Franklin II/AP

Since Dave was at the game last night and the rest of the crew was otherwise engaged, apologies for the lack of goal breakdown.   However, to fill that void, I figured I’d share some thoughts following last night’s game.

I can’t help but notice how much more organized the Rangers look in all three zones over the past couple games.  AV’s system requires constantly changing coverage assignments and a more fluid positional structure.  I can see why after four years of the relatively straight forward Torts’ zone coverage why this was an adjustment.  Seems like they are finally getting it with some consistency.

The goal scoring woes are an odd situation.  Kevin did a great job of breaking down the shooting percentage situation, and if you didn’t get a chance to read that piece, make sure do you ASAP.  Long story short, though, is that the Rangers’ shooting percentage is unsustainably low and will regress back to the mean and the scoring will come.  Last night’s game was something of a prime example of this.  Ryan Miller made some tremendous saves on pucks that would normally find the back of the net.  That game should have easily been 5-0.

With that in mind, however, it does beg the question of whether the Rangers lack of finishing ability is turning good goalies into superstars when matched up against the Blueshirts?  So far, Mike Smith, Jonas Hiller, Cory Schneider, Steve Mason, Jimmy Howard, Peter Budaj, Evgeni Nabakov and now Miller have looked impenetrable during games against the Rangers.  Now, most of those guys are brand names and you expect those type of performances.  However, your Mason’s, Budaj’s and Nabokov’s cannot put up performances like that regularly.  Of course, they can have an odd, stand-on-your-head type game now and then, but it can’t be the norm as the shooting percentages normalize.   Will be interesting to keep an eye on.

Where did this Chris Kreider come from?  I don’t really understand how he all of a sudden learned to play without the puck, support the defenders in-zone and all of a sudden stopped having total tunnel vision on the ice.  You know what?  I don’t care as long as he keeps this level of play up.

Players, pundits and fans alike all love the term “hard to play against”, but what doesn’t get talked about much is the different forms that concept can take.  The Tortorella Rangers were hard to play against because they provided a max-effort, physical game which eliminated passing/shooting lanes, and never gave the opposition a night off.  AV’s Rangers are going to be hard to play against because the opposition doesn’t have the puck.  They are going to give opposing defense different looks on zone entry, and they aren’t going to allow free movement through the neutral zone.  It’s a whole different concept.

Back to the goaltending for a moment.  Hank was phenomenal last night.  His positioning was rock solid and while he had some long rebounds, they were always directed out of the danger areas.  We even got the patented Henrik Lundqvist header.  I’d be surprised if we hear any more about “struggles” from The King.

Finally, they are starting to look good on a regular basis.  Especially with the absence of Nash (the silence is deafening), they are starting to gel as a group and a system, and the kids are contributing in major ways.  I’m actually starting to get excited about what this team is capable of.

Please come back Rick, we miss you.

28 Responses to “Thoughts following last night’s game against Buffalo”

  1. AD says:

    Nice article, thank you.

    In response to your question “Where did this Chris Kreider come from?” I think his recent performance is due to two things: first,he wasn’t that far away to begin with and the Wolfpack coaches did instruct and guide him well in the short time he spent in Hartford; second, intuitively, I think a big factor is he is not playing opposite side Rick Nash.

    Nash is the type of player that lesser experienced linemates will become a spectator with. He likes to carry the puck, drive to the net, circle around low, etc…Whereas, Kreider is now in a role where his linemates, particularly MZA, are better skilled at feeding him the puck, hence he anticipates play more and his strengths are being reinforced.

    Do you have a view on this? Even before the season began I thought playing MZA with Kreider would be excellent for both players.

    I am curious as to what you and others think.

    • Chris F says:

      I think this is a sound theory.

    • VinceR says:

      Not a bad theory to me.

    • Ray says:

      I love MZA, but he didn’t play with Kreider on Monday, the game I got to see and Kreider was clearly the best Ranger skater (not forward!) against Montreal. I just think that he suddenly has gotten it and his instincts mesh with what he should be doing. We always knew the talent was there.

  2. Rangers Fan in Boston says:

    Rick Nash. This team still needs him this year to achieve their goal. He brings a different dynamic and lengthens the 4 lines. His presence on the ice opens up so much for his linemates, not to mentioned he’s the only real elite scorer on the team. Not that any of this isn’t obvious, but it goes without saying he’s a huge piece of the puzzle and here’s hoping this isn’t a season long issue. I’m excited about what this team can do, but Nash needs to be a part of it…at some point.

  3. Walt says:

    As usual, great write up!

    Now “Where did this Kreider kid come from” ?
    I said it before, and I’ll stick to my guns, he was afraid to make mistakes under Torts, and being sent down to the Pack. He seems much more relaxed, comfortable in his skin, and it’s showing on the ice. AD made a great point, maybe he is better off on a line with Zucc, rather than Nash. I could understand where he is coming from, and after giving it some serious thought, I tend to agree.

    Getting to Nash, I fear that the blow to his head was a lot worse than we thought, and this may turn into a major problem. If you look at last season when he was concussed, the head shot again didn’t look that serious, and he sat out a few games. These type of players, like Lindros, Keith Premieu, and others who have a history of concussions, seem to get hit ever so slightly, and they are concussed again. I posted yesterday that I hope in a big way that I’m wrong, but I fear that may well be the case. For Rick Nash, the person, not the player, I hope he gets well quickly, and that this will be put in the rear view mirror real soon!!

    • Centerman21 says:

      But if Rick Nash’s concussion is so serious. Then why haven’t they put him on LTIR? They would gain valuable cap space and a roster spot. Makes me think the organization just wants to be careful and are taking it a day at a time. Maybe Nash had a set back along the way. His injury really sucks though. This could be a real dangerous team with him healthy and playing his game.

      • Walt says:

        I didn’t say it was so serious, I said I hope it’s not, but to answer your question, maybe they want to see if he makes any progress before they place him on LTIR list. Correct me if I’m wrong, but they can place him there at a later date, retroactive to the date of injury, and get cap reliefe from that date forward????? Not sure??

  4. RangerSmurf says:

    “AV’s Rangers are going to be hard to play against because the opposition doesn’t have the puck.”

    This, this, a million times this.

  5. Chris F says:

    Justin, et al.

    So what is it about AV’s system that differs from Tort’s in regard to puck possession? Are we basing this solely on the small sampling we’ve seen, or does his system, in theory, lead to more possession, and if so, how?

    • Mikeyyy says:

      I’m not an expert but from what I can see. A lot less dump and chase. More controlled entries.

      More clogging up the middle and transition play vs collapse

      Torts employed a cycle till the opposition is tired and then shoot. Av is more cycle till you can get the puck on net and then follow up. I notice the guys don’t peel off like they used to. If one drives they all drive the net.

    • The Suit says:

      Chris F- Not a whole lot. Since the elimination of the red line, no one really plays a traditional Russian style puck possession system anymore with a lot of neutral zone regroups, constant half board cycling, and waiting out for quality shots.

      Modern ‘puck possession’ isn’t a style anymore it’s a stat. Systems these days are about pressuring the puck and ramping up shot attempts which every team strives for, but not every team can execute due to skill, depth, etc. All the best teams in the league have good shot attempt numbers, but varying systems and styles of play that get them there.

      A well executed deep forechecking/dump and chase team like San Jose and LA (though not ‘puck possession hockey’ in the traditional sense) can give you just as good puck possession (aka shot attempt figures) as a team that traps or a team that tries to attack the blueline with speed and make plays like the Hawks.

      • Chris F says:

        Thanks Suit-

        So essentially the assumption is not that AV’s system is more inclined toward puck possession, but rather that the Rangers are executing puck possession better under AV than Torts?

        Is this a coincidence and not a result of the system?

        • The Suit says:

          Depends on what you define as puck possession, which seems to be another one of those ubiquitous terms.

          Torts hockey was not puck possession in the stylistic sense yet when they were rolling they out shot attempted the opposition.

          • Mr. Snrub says:

            Question for you (or anyone smarter than me really):

            Are NYR employing a 2-1-2 instead of a 1-2-2 based on puck location? Seems like the F2 ends up behind the net a lot more often than I expected

  6. paulronty says:

    Kreids is playing great because he’s loose and not over thinking the game and you heard what he said it’s because the team has been supportive. The other factor is that he is a beast, strong as a bull and is playing with a physical presence that gets him involved in the game. He runs over D and this wears them down. He’s going to become one of the hardest guys to play against in the NHL.

    • Centerman21 says:

      Imagine if he could learn to play sound defensively. He has been 1000X better in his end but imagine him a 2 way player. Like a Kessler or Bergeron. With his size and skating ability he could be a monster. Real hard to play against.

  7. Hatrick Swayze says:

    Kreider is playing great cause he’s on a gluten free diet.

  8. Pete says:

    This is great and all but lets see how they do against better teams, should be a nice test with Anaheim and the Pens coming in…. In the mean time, LGR!

  9. Centerman21 says:

    At least Cally has a Definate return date (at least within a day or 2). When he returns they might just be able to rack up some wins. I couldn’t agree more on all fronts. Kreider looks like a former 1st round pick again. He’s actually been playing well away from the puck. I always thought that was the part of his game missing and he’d never be successful until he learned that. Very good to see him and Miller skating hard and contributing on a shift by shift basis.
    Hank is Hank. It was just a matter of when not if he would return to form. I also feel the most exciting thing about how well he played last night. Is that with the emergence of Cam Talbot, we have a solid goalie pair again for the next 2 years at least. ( assuming Hank will resign )
    It’s a matter of time before the Rangers as a team have that week or two where everything goes in. It happened at the end of last year. Their S% will avg out to a respectable # by seasons end. Good write up Justin!

    • Chris F says:

      Carolina is very beatable, especially without Ward and Skinner. Then we get to take on Anaheim who are missing Silverberg and Selanne. A good opportunity to exact revenge on them.

      Suddenly, we’ll be 7-7-0 with Callahan primed to return.

      After that, things should be looking up and we can hopefully begin to establish some dominance in the conference.

      This line-up is very good on paper. If they can play to their level, this is an elite team. Just need all the pieces to come together within the new system and gel.

      LGR!

  10. Chris F says:

    Fun fact:

    In the 22 games since Columbus traded for Gaborik, the two players to amass the most points with CBJ are Gabby (18) and Dubinsky (19).

  11. Bloomer says:

    The Rangers beat a crappy team last night. I am going to wait until the Rangers start knocking off some good teams:before I start drinking the good in all 3 zones kool aid.

  12. Chris F says:

    So, were the Isles a fluke last year? They seem very mediocre this season (though so have the Rangers). Think the Isles will make a run at the playoffs this year? Thoughts?

    • Rangers Fan in Boston says:

      Disagree. I think the Islanders took advantage of a short season last season to squeak in. They were the 8 seed. I think their lack of quality goaltending and an inexperienced defense will expose them this season. Parity will keep them in the race, but I don’t think they’re a playoff team.