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.