It has started already hasn’t it? Like Nash vs. Dubi & Arty, or Torts vs. AV, or Prust vs. [insert annual banger’s last name here], Rangers fans are watching Martin St. Louis’ every move and comparing them to the box scores coming out of Tampa.
To date, many have already declared a winner and loser of this trade. Our former captain has potted 6 points in 9 games, including a game winner. Moreover, his fit with the Tampa Bay Lightning was recently described as ‘seamless’ by head coach John Cooper.
For the Rangers? Marty’s integration with the Blueshirts has been about as fitting as a suit from Men’s Warehouse. Far from bespoke.
With that said, now isn’t the time to analyze the trade or compare box scores on a game by game basis. That won’t do anyone any good. Right now, we have to figure out how to make this work, because this whole zero goals in eleven games thing can’t continue much longer.
However, before you can make a diagnosis and prescribe an antidote, you first have to be aware of the symptoms. And to understand what’s wrong with Martin St. Louis, you have to recognize what success looks like for the pint sized forward.
After pouring over Youtube video after Youtube video and analyzing shot location charts, I’ve come to realize that Martin St. Louis scores most of his even-strength goals in the slot by evading defenses. Sure he can finish off end to end rushes and highlight reel breakaways, but his bread and butter the last couple of years has been about finding seams between the dots with give-and-go’s and peeling off his checks. Here’s two examples of what I’m talking about (click on gifs below).
Many of these types of goals come down to linemates making great reads. In Tampa, Marty mostly played with Ondrej Palat and Tyler Johnson, both of whom have hockey IQ’s off the charts. These guys excel at finding each other between the seams. On the Rangers, the only guy who really has elite vision like that is Mats Zuccarello, but unfortunately both men prefer playing the right side.
The other issue is handedness. St. Louis usually played with at least one right-handed linemate. The only top 9 righty the Rangers have is Derek Stepan, but he’s pretty much glued to Kreider and Nash.
As for the power play, Tampa also runs a 1-3-1, but Marty was pretty much exclusively positioned on the right wing face-off circle. Many of his PP goals came off one-timers (click on gifs below). On the Rangers, both Mats and Nash have that spot.
At the end of the day, Marty will have to adapt. It’s just too late in the season for AV to blow things up and start constructing plays around him. However, to get the best out of him I’d at least look to play him with Step 5-on-5 and give him the right wing half-boards on the PP.
If not those suggestions, hopefully AV can figure something else out soon. Time is running out.