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Thoughts heading into Game 4

NYPOST.COM

It’s funny how the playoffs work. During the regular season, sample sizes grow and long-term narratives take hold. Discussions emerge, debates rage and quantitative analyses are produced. The playoffs are a whole different animal. Most factors surrounding playoff teams are fleeting. Only as relevant as the last game. This makes life exceptionally difficult on hockey writers. Especially when your piece could become completely irrelevant in the next twenty-four hours.

At BSB, we prefer to take the long view and allow our analysis to play out over the appropriate sample. This is difficult this time of year, and the luxury of research and trial and error aren’t guaranteed. It’s this phenomenon that has grown my fondness for these “thoughts” posts. You may think that they are very similar to Chris’ musings posts. You’d be wrong. His are better. But for now, you’re stuck with me. Here are some Ranger related thoughts heading into Friday’s clash in Philly…

  • It’s really nice to see Marty St. Louis coming to life in these playoffs. He is so sneaky and elusive that the suspect back line for the Flyers can’t do much about him, especially with Nash on the ice to worry about. Still not a fan of giving up the first round picks when Slats kinda had Yzerman dead to rights in negotiations, but I think St. Louis will be a huge factor in any success the Rangers have this postseason.

  • Speaking of Nash, can we stop the insanely shortsighted “he’s not powering his way through all five defenders and scoring at will” crap? The guy has been tremendously effective during this series and just because he isn’t leading the team in goals, doesn’t mean he’s not playing up to his ability. In the playoffs, team defenses tend to focus on the opposition’s best player. Nash is still getting shots, assists and driving puck possession.
  • Another Nash bullet point? Oh, yes. Just because he is 6’4”, 215lbs, doesn’t mean he has to play like Milan Lucic. I think the term “power forward” is one of the biggest misnomers in hockey. Nash is a smooth-skating, elusive, puck possession monster. Sure, he is very effective when he drives to the net and boxes out defenders, but he’s not going to swat away defenders like the Hulk. He’s just not. As soon as we all make peace with that, you can appreciate his game for what it is, not what you think it should be.
  • Dave mentioned it yesterday, but the Rangers need to treat tonight’s game as a must-win. They need to put the Flyers down as soon as possible. Either trying to keep up with the high-end skill of Pittsburgh’s top lines or dealing with the grind of Columbus’ depth, the squad needs to be as fresh as possible. Letting this thing drag out for 7 games is a recipe for running out of gas like they did in 2012.
  • Henrik Lundqvist has been very solid so far. While he hasn’t given up any bad goals per se, I’m looking for him to make a few more of those “not on my watch” kind of saves that can turn a loss or an overtime game into a win.
  • I’m disappointed a real goalie will be playing in Game 4 for Philly. (Wow, Steve Mason can be considered a real goalie again?) Watching Emery struggle side to side was quite entertaining, as well as his baby deer-like rebound control.
  • McDonagh and Girardi need to continue to play the way they did in Game 3. Their performance in Game 2 (which I had the pleasure of paying to watch) will not get the Blueshirts very far. I am extremely confident that it was an aberration, and if they continue to play the way they did the first tilt in Philly, it could be over pretty quickly.
  • Kudos to AV for recognizing the need for a change between Fast and Carcillo. Those types of changes are difficult to make, but Vigneault didn’t hesitate to pull the trigger and it yielded immediate dividends.
  • Keep at it Columbus/Pittsburgh. I want whichever one of you advances exhausted and bleeding crawling up the MSG steps.
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41 Responses to “Thoughts heading into Game 4”

  1. Walt says:

    Unlike your remark Justin, “we will see a real goalie tonight in Masom”, I look at it as a golden opportunity. Hay the man has been out for what two weeks, and there should be some rust there to deal with!!

    As for getting the flyers early, and not give them a chance to really get their game going, your right on. The longer we play these goons, the greater the chance of injuries. That stated, let’s just beat the snot out of these clowns, get a 3-1 lead in the series, and close out the deal at home sunday!!!!!

    Oh, nice write up my man!!

    • SalMerc says:

      I agree. We need to pound Mason early and often. Flip side is if we get 18 shots in the first period and don’t put one in, we may be in for a long night.

      Kudos to a player who is not my favorite – Boyle. Really showing his value on the PK while making the 4th line more that just rest-givers.

      • Gary says:

        This is why Boyle is here. He’s just really hard to deal with in the PO’s, with the increased traffic and jam in the game. We don’t see what he brings in a box score. But just watching the games, there he is… always.

        • Scully says:

          Agree with everything all of you said.

          Walt: Completely agree, we need to close this one out because the longer the series goes the more worn-down we’ll get. The last 3 rangers playoff series wins have all been 4-3. At some point if we want to win a cup we have to put the hammer down on teams while we have them prone.

          SalMerc: Agree about Mason. He’s absolutely a better goalie than Emery. I don’t think he’ll be very rusty in all honesty but the more shots we get the more of a chance that something goes in. We’ve got to pound the net and try to score a few 1st period goals.

          Gary: Boyle has been playing wonderfully. His huge body and long reach are so evident in the playoffs. His pass to Carcillo at the end of the PK the other night for the 4th goal was a thing of beauty.

  2. AD says:

    More excuses for Rick Nash :)

    Nice article; thanks!

  3. Paul says:

    I have to say your thoughts on St. Louis mirror my own- great to see him finally coming to life, but I think Sather could have negotiated NOT giving away 1st picks..

    I think I’d rather see Pitt. in the next round. Yes, they’re offensive capabilities are very dangerous, but we have the depth. And as we have seen time and again, goal-tending can and often does steal a game and make the biggest difference. I’d much rather see Fluery than Bob.

  4. Ken in Shandaken says:

    Home/Away? I don’t get it, but home ice seems to matter out West: 15 out of 16 home crowds left happy. In the East 9 out of 15 crowds cried all the way home. What’s up with that? Any theories?

    Oh, game four tonight – let’s hand those Philthy Phans the crying towel!

    • Rangers Fan in Boston says:

      My theory: The Western Conference teams are just that much better than the Eastern Conference teams – so much so that in a tight match, any slight advantage (home ice) is the difference.

  5. Gary says:

    Best analysis of Nash’s game I’ve seen Justin. Excellent!

    • AD says:

      Do you mean:

      – smooth skater
      – doesn’t lead team in goals (creative way to say “no goals”)
      – not going to swat away defenders
      – not going to power through 5 defenders?

      The lengths to which fans/writers are going to make excuses for Nash is rather entertaining.

      As a fan of larger data samples, is 3 goals over 18 playoff games enough to recognize this guy has a monkey on his back?

      There is something to be said for remaining objective.

      I hope Nash pots 3 goals tonight! Sometimes I like being wrong :)

      • Chris A says:

        19 Games across 5 years is pretty much the opposite of large data sample.

        I too hope you’re wrong and Nash pots three tonight!

        We can all celebrate after that.

        LGR!

        • Scully says:

          Please god thank you. The man played 4 of those games with Columbus and last year there was no way he wasn’t playing hurt. His game is completely different this post season. I’ll take Nash at a point a game in THIS version of the NHL and in the playoffs all day urrreyday, no matter where the points are coming from.

      • Rangers Fan in Boston says:

        The crux of the argument is he’s producing. His line’s producing because he’s a factor. The goals would be nice, but as long as they’re coming from players on his line, what does it matter?

        If/when his linemates stop burying the puck, then we’ll see if he can start burying his own, but until/unless that happens, I’ll take his line being the best line on the ice every game.

        • AD says:

          The reason why it matters he is assisting on goals and is the 3rd best player on his line is because that is not how the team was designed or structured.

          MSL was acquired to be another top producing forward, in addition to Nash. He wasn’t acquired to play on the same line as Nash and for Nash to assist on his or Stepan’s goals.

          This is the difference between having one very strong line that can dominate a game, and two very strong lines that can dominate a game.

          Believe me when I say that if Nash were playing the kind of game he was expected to play, he and MSL would be on separate lines. So far, though, both players have not been performing their roles at the same time; either one has and the other hasn’t. Recall that one of the motivating factors in acquiring Nash was because Gabporik was deemed to be an ineffective goal scorer during the playoffs. We gave up big assets and took on a big contract to solve that specific problem. So, it disappoints me to not see any recognition in these posts of what Nash’s role is (except for Walt).

          Whether Nash and MSL can perform separately at high levels is, in my view, the single largest factor which will dictate how far this team goes.

          Does this make sense? Or am I really trying to convey a distinct point that has little/no merit?

          Thanks all!

          • LFOD Bleeding Blue in NH says:

            The team, as is, without Kreider, doesn’t really have the choice to have them on a separate line…I don’t think either one is going to be effective with Carcillo on the second line (that is not a knock against Carcillo, but you can’t argue he’d be a compliment to either of them).

            And to call him the 3rd best player on the line doesn’t really make sense…those guys don’t have the same numbers without him out there. He’s creating the space and drawing defenders. There is a reason Step and MSL have room to make plays and score.

            • AD says:

              We just have different glasses on, I suppose, yet I do appreciate your views and points. Stepan and MSL, for that matter, are more playmakers than goal scorers. To suggest they are getting the goals because Nash is creating the space is difficult to prove or disprove, but certainly convenient. MSL clearly wants to lead out there on the ice; Nash seems content to go along and participate. That’s just the way I see it and his stats support it.

              3 games; 18 games….it’s all the same. Last year’s playoffs as well. He simply isn’t the threat anticipated.

              C’mon Nasher! Go get 3 goals and put this argument to rest!

              Thanks again.

          • LFOD Bleeding Blue in NH says:

            Beyond that, if we are talking about this year’s playoffs, he HASN’T HAD THE OPPORTUNITY TO PLAY ON A LINE WITHOUT THEM DUE TO THAT INJURY. It’ just no an argument that quite makes sense in the here and now. Also it’s been 3 games. Let’s wait at least a series before condemning his performance when it comes to goals, especially when he is actually playing very well.

          • Spozo says:

            How do you know exactly what Sather was thinking when he acquired MSL? How do you know it was decided before they sent that plane for him which line he was going to play for? How do you know they decided who he was going to play with? And who and who was not “allowed” to assist on his goals?

          • Walt says:

            Agree with you AD, but I wasn’t going to start something today. I’m tired of getting my teeth kicked in over this subject. Lets just hope Nash starts scoring goals, and the uproar ends soon!!

  6. Gary says:

    In fact, this whole post is A+++. Insightful and funny (cue: baby deer-like rebound control).

    • Justin says:

      Much appreciated, Gary. Glad you enjoyed.

      • Chris A says:

        That description of Emery was spot on but harsh Justin. I thought you goalies all stick together.

        Any thoughts on Mason being rusty or possibly still concussed?

        • Justin says:

          Ha, usually we do, but goalies try to pride themselves on being classy, and Emery is pretty much the opposite of that. So, I’ll call it like I see it with him.

          So much depends on what that ever-mysterious “upper body injury” really was. If it was a concussion, he’s in for an uphill battle over a 60 minute game. If he tweaked a neck muscle or something in his back, he might be fine. He’s been practicing and looked pretty decent in his game 3 cameo, so we will have to see.

          • Puck Luck @Centerman21 says:

            I will make a prediction right now. The Rangers pepper Mason with shots and he plays terrible. He has little playoff experience and he’s returning from injury. He’s no savior for Philly even tho they may feel he is. He will faulter tonight and we may even see Emery again soon.

        • Chris A says:

          Yup, Emery certainly isn’t a classy dude. Was it Holtby he jumped for no reason at the start of the season?

          It was kind of odd hearing Joe Mich go on and on about Mason’s UBI being a concussion on Tuesday. Not sure if he was being a homer and hoping it was a concussion or if the media guys knew it was a concussion and Joe decided to break the silence on the subject.

          Of course, Joe also thought it would be a good idea to not shoot on Mason Tuesday because it will help the Rangers tonight.

      • Puck Luck @Centerman21 says:

        The Jackets aren’t playing the same physical game against Pittsburgh they did the last time they played the Rangers. They’d have tied that series at the least if they had. I think they’re all but done. I hope they get it to 7 at least.
        I like that you pointed out that Nash can’t just power forward his way through 5 skaters and score at will. I kind of wish he would just be a little more elusive. I do notice times when all 5 defenders are paying attention to the puck and Nash has an oportunity to skate towards openings in the coverage. Kunitz & Neil do it all the time and the puck finds them in prime scoring spots. I think Nash could do a little more of that.

        • LFOD Bleeding Blue in NH says:

          I might be confused as to what you are saying…but that series is tied…did you stop watching early last game? :) DUUUUUUUUUUUUUBI.

  7. Justin says:

    Come on, AD. You of all people know that success in this game is about more than simple counting stats. Would we all like Nash to be scoring at his regular season clip? Absolutely. But when the top half of the league is throwing their top pairing defense and top defensive forwards at him for literally every shift. The fact that he is leading the playoffs in SOG (fingers crossed for regression), racking up assists and making life difficult on the opposing team every shift. I can definitely live with that.

  8. Walt says:

    As a side note, watching Dubi covering Cidy in their play offs, I have to laugh. Cindy dosn’t seem to have his heart in it, nor does Igor.

    Dan Bylsma called both out for their lack of scoring, and effert. Igor, 8 games, Cindy, 9 games without a goal, dating back to last season’s play off. I was worried about this team, and fire power, but after seeing what I have, and watching Flip Out Freddy in goal for them, I believe we could win it. Flurry is going thru his annual swoon, and is due for a complete melt down!!!!

    • Chris A says:

      I think the question with Pittsburgh is who leaves town first this summer. Bylsma, Fleury or their GM Ray Shero?

      It’s shocking how poorly built that team is. I guess this is the downside to tanking for so many years. Eventually those high draft picks need to paid and it seems Shero picked the wrong ones to pay. Instead of investing in Letang and Fleury he should have made sure Jordan Staal didn’t go anywhere. Sutter is a nice player but Staal is a top six player that they were able to slot on their third line.

      • Hatrick Swayze says:

        I’ll disagree with you there, Chris A. Staal turned down a 10 yr 60 mil contract with Pittsburgh because he didn’t want to be a 3C on the depth chart, and opted for a bigger role with a different club. That isn’t really on Shero. I’d argue that it helped Shero in that he didn’t have to allocate that cap space to a 3rd center (even though you could mix him in your top 6) as it afforded Pittsburgh 3 major benefits:

        -Sutter fills that role (defensively responsible 3C) perfectly
        -Much needed cap relief for a top heavy team with multiple high cap, long term deals.
        -Defensive youth. They got a D prospect in the trade and used Carolina’s 8th overall pick in that 2014 draft to add another D man to their pipeline, which many agree is the Pen’s Achilles heel.

        Now, as far as Shero allocating long term deals to the wrong people, I agree with you. I could very well see them using buyouts on Fleury AND/OR Letang this off season depending on how their playoffs go. Buyouts on those 2 playoff duds is one very possible option which the Penguins could exercise, should they go out in embarrassing fashion again this year.

        • Chris A says:

          But Staal wasn’t just a 3C for Pitt. They would use him alongside Crosby or Malkin all the time, sometimes all three were on the same line. Staal was their 3rd best player even wil that scummer Neal on the team (not sure if they were ever teammates).

          Point is he gave that lineup extreme depth and provided plus size and plus speed/skill. The mistake was viewing him as “just” a 3C and finding a 3C as his replacement. He was too good a player and too young to let leave. You find a way and you pay him.

          Put it this way, if the Rangers allowed a 23 year old, 6’4″, 220 Lbs FWD with O skill and D presence to be traded after a 50 pts in 62 games season we would lose our minds regardless of what the return was.

          You don’t trade star players like that before they hit their prime. There were other ways to stock their farm system, maybe trading Letang (undersized Off. D) would have been a far wiser move.

          In the end though, it is possible that Staal had no intention of staying and you can’t blame the GM for that. You can only blame Shero if he made Staal feel like he wasn’t part of the future.

          • "The Original" Rob says:

            I understand what you’re saying Chris but at the time, Letang was touted as one of the best defencemen in the league, and they were stockpiled down the middle.

  9. Ray says:

    Great thoughts Justin, but I don’t agree that Sather had Yzerman over a barrel. The trade was MSL for draft choices. Callahan was a throw in to provide cover for Yzerman so that it didn’t look like he was throwing in the towel for this year.

    Also, while MSL wanted to be traded, he is a class act who was going to perform for TB until the end of his contract. And Callahan was a real problem for Sather because of his popularity.

  10. Ray says:

    It doesn’t matter how much Nash scores – what matters is how much his line scores. When the Rangers got him, we wondered what he could do with good linemates. And we’ve complained again and again about his unproductive linemates here. He looks best when he is dominating – but he is really playing one on five in those situations. This series he is playing winning hockey.

    • AD says:

      See above.

      It matters a lot. The team was designed for Nash and MSL to produce at top levels on separate lines. MSL wasn’t acquired for Nash to provide assists.

      For some reason, the notion of Rick Nash being a goal scorer seems to be lost on some fans, but that is his role on the team.

      If Nash were performing his role, Hagelin would be on top line with him. But MSL is on the top line now, overtaking Nash, who is serving the role Hagelin would otherwise serve.

      When Kreide returns, chances are MSL stays on the top line and Nash moves lower on the depth chart. AV gets it.

      • LFOD Bleeding Blue in NH says:

        I do get that he is to be a goal scorer (and yes, we will probably just have to agree to disagree)…he did lead the team this season in goals scored.

        If we want to talk playoffs, it’s too small a sample size…a few games in CBJ 5 years ago cannot reflect what he does on this team here and now. Last year he played in 12 games, but he was injured (and basically won the single game in which we beat the Bruins by putting that puck off of Kreider’s stick). The whole team had issues last year, and when a team is bad, it’s hard for one player to be a threat. Hell, Datsyuk is a pretty amazing player and won a game for Detroit against the Bs, but that team is not looking so good right now this series.

        I guess I see it more as that right now he is on the line with those two because he has to be with the roster as is (aka no Kreids). He is doing whatever makes the team win…they are producing, the strategy is working. If you don’t see him help create those opportunities, we disagree, so fine. I’m not sure how you can argue against him drawing defenders. Also, if you look at his shot charts, they are most certainly not shots just coming from outside, he has been driving and shooting from close too. As Justin says, let’s hope for regression.

        If things change, then we can see what he does and how he handles it…and it may turn out the criticism is due, but right now it seems too early to judge.

        • Rangers Fan in Boston says:

          Well said. I think the notion that Nash is underperforming due solely on his goals total is a little shortsighted – and simplistic.

          His role is to be a difference-maker, someone who creates, scores, and opens up ice for others. He’s certainly doing that, but the goals have come from his linemates, and not his own stick.

  11. Spozo says:

    I wonder if Minnesota fans are whining about the fact that Parise has 5 assists in 4 games but no goals.

    Take MSLs 2 goals and give them to Nash. People will bitch about how ineffective ST Louis is and how he wasn’t worth that trade.

    • AD says:

      Nobody is whining, complaining, etc….but if that is how you choose to convey your points, go for it Spozo.