Oct
14

3-1-0: early season thoughts

October 14, 2015, by
If Henrik Lundqvist continues to play like this, the Rangers' "window" isn't closing anytime soon

If Henrik Lundqvist continues to play like this, the Rangers’ “window” isn’t closing anytime soon

Chris usually gets to have all the fun with these musings posts, but my thoughts are all over the place with so many interesting developments in the first four games of the season. So here are some of my early impressions:

  • It seems like entering each year now, there’s buzz about how the upcoming season will be the Rangers’ last real chance at the Cup and the window is rapidly closing. But that’s really a bunch of baloney. The end of this run could come, and it could come suddenly – but if it does, it will only because Henrik Lundqvist has finally fallen from his perch atop the mountain of NHL goalies. Four games into this season, that doesn’t look like it’s going to happen anytime soon. Lundqvist has responded to coach Alain Vigneault’s challenge to start the year better with a sparkling stretch of unbelievable saves. Lundqvist’s reflexes look faster than ever, and if he’s actually able to continue this hot streak for the first few weeks and months when Lundqvist usually struggles, then you might as well hand him the Vezina Trophy now.
  • One of my biggest problems with trading Carl Hagelin was that I thought his speed was essential to the team’s identity. Bu this year’s version of the Blueshirts plays as frenetic as ever. There’s still speed to burn up and down the lineup and it has to be a nightmare to defend.

  • As always, Mats Zuccarello looks like he’s having a blast every time he takes the ice. It’s great to see that his scary injuries haven’t dampened his enthusiasm for the game. Zuccarello is also uncharacteristically looking to shoot the puck a lot more in the early going and it’s making him an even bigger threat. How do you stop someone with the vision and passing ability Zuc has when he’s also a threat to rip one top corner?
  • After Dylan McIlrath zinged the crossbar in the first few minutes last night, I didn’t notice him a whole lot – and that’s a good thing. Dan Boyle is catching a lot of heat and it suddenly looks like management might view him as the expendable piece, not Kevin Klein. If McIlrath can prove he really belongs, it might make things interesting. I know what the #fancystats say, but with Keith Yandle playing the role of PPQB, offensive defenseman, and chief risk-taker in his own-zone better than Boyle ever has in New York, I’d rather keep Klein if it comes to it.
  • J.T. Miller is playing easily the best hockey of his career. Oscar Lindberg owes Miller a lot of credit for his own hot start.
  • I love that Derick Brassard is a big-game player, but there’s no denying that he doesn’t always bring his A-effort. That was always the knock on Brassard, and it’s a reputation he’s worked hard to shake. Stringing strong games together led to Brassard’s best NHL season last year, but he’s not playing at that level right now. There were some signs of life in the third period last night, despite a ridiculously irresponsible slashing penalty.
  • I don’t have much problem with last night’s loss – the Blueshirts simply ran into a hot goalie. Three straight wins to start the year including a road win on opening night against the defending Cup champs and two straight over a team many thought might contend in Columbus was not too shabby.
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27 comments

  1. Hatrick Swayze says:

    Nice round-up Kev.

    Certainly agree with you on our window to win. The core is in place to continue to improve through Lundy’s decline. The most exciting thing about our team is the young talent. It’s on Gorton to keep it together, which will prove to be no easy task.

    One thing I’m most curious about is- WHEN will Etem crack the lineup and WHO will he replace. As he is not suited for 4th line D zone duties I’d be excited for things to shake out as such:

    Zuc Brass Nash
    Kreider Stepan Hayes
    Etem Lindberg Miller
    Stalberg Moore Fast

    Stoll’s been solid, but certainly not essential enough to prevent Etem from cracking the line up, at least for a few games in order to show us all what we have. The thing we all need to remember is that AV and co, kind of do know so I’ll do zero complaining about who is / isn’t dressed on any given night (not including Glass, of course). IMO, the Stalberg Moore Fast trio should be able to proficiently handle heavy d zone starts without much of a problem.

    • Dave says:

      I wonder what’s going to happen with the Stoll/Glass/Etem situation. It’s clear Etem and Fast aren’t going anywhere. Stoll hasn’t been great, and Glass was flat out miserable yesterday after a solid game on Saturday.

      • Rangers Rock says:

        How can you say that? That was Glass’s best game.

        • Dave says:

          Huh? Last night was his best game?

          • Rangers Rock says:

            Ask Eddie and he will tell you.

            • Eddie!Eddie!Eddie! says:

              Well, I will say this about you Rock, you’re the only person on this board that makes me shake my head and say “what the heck are you even talking about?”

              Glass has played two games. He played well in his first game and very poorly in his second. But a lot of guys have had their ups and downs in the first four games, not just Glass.

              The Rangers lost last night because their special teams were awful. A lot of other more significant culprits contributed to the loss than Glass.

              I’ve said all along I’m no fan of Glass. AV is judged on wins and losses. Last year he won more games than any other team with Glass in the lineup. This year I believe he has better options, but early on, I think he will try and get some of the “press box guys” some minutes to asses what he has, and maybe create a trade market for Glass or someone else. If you don’t play Glass, McIlrath or Etem, it limits your options in terms of maximizing potential trades or other roster moves. He’s got to find playing time for these guys yet still win games and create consistency. A fine line to walk it seems.

      • Hatrick Swayze says:

        It has to be Glass, right? Like it HAS to be. There is no excuse for moving anyone else. Stoll would be the perfect 13F for us once Etem proves that he gets it and can slot into the top 9 (assuming that happens between now and Christmas).

        • Dave says:

          Personally, I think Bourque is the best 13F.

          • Hatrick Swayze says:

            And you very well might be right. Admittedly, I hit the snooze this pre-season so don’t really have an opinion there. One thing I like, which Stoll brings, is a heavy and assertive board-game to round out the bottom 6.

            It’s been apparent thus far and is a refreshing thing to see. Not enough to solely justify him being in the line up, but when he is in, it’s something which I think we benefit from.

          • paulronty says:

            I’m glad you get it Dave cause I’m exactly of the same opinion which why I wasn’t ga-ga abt the Stoll signing. Bourque is a little dynamo who is a good penalty killer too. And he has some good offensive moves too but he’d have to have the confidence to use them. Cutting Glass & Stoll would give him a chance but it won’t happen. Even the Yanks are learning to stop bringing in other team’s garbage & promote their youth although it;s a slow learning process it seems(Capuano, Drew, Ryan etc.)

      • Ray says:

        Maybe you are right that Etem and Fast aren’t going anywhere, but if I were in Gorton’s shoes, I wouldn’t limit my options so much. The Rangers have one too many forwards. I might listen to offers for half of them. Yes, trading Glass seems the best option at first, but if you can’t get anything for him (and you likely can’t) and someone else nets a good return, it is worth thinking about.

        • Rangers Fan in Boston says:

          It’s not even really about return at this point, it’s about clearing a contract (cap space), and if you can get anyone to take the contract, trading Glass is the best option.

      • Jon says:

        Hey Dave, I’m sorry to go so far off subject here but how is “score adjusted Corsi” calculated? Is it only close situations? Is it only when the first 40 mins of close games?

        • Dave says:

          It accounts for score effects. When the game isn’t close, you get teams that turtle, and that skews overall corsi. It’s for the full game, but only when the game is considered “close.”

          I believe it’s +/- 2 goals in periods 1/2 and +/- 1 goal in the third.

  2. Dave says:

    Klein has had a great start to the year. If he continues to play well, he won’t get moved. But my biggest concern is that he has been so far above his career averages. He’s bound to drop off sooner or later.

    • WilliamW says:

      Klein’s been solid and as a bottom pair D guy, he’s an asset. He’s just so expensive for that role. His contract obviously works this year but when it comes to next summer there needs to abother high priced defenseman moving on besides Boyle. I just hope Yandle is not it due to some obsession with shot blocking

      • Hatrick Swayze says:

        Agree, we could benefit from another year of Klein but no way we keep him past this yr considering the # of guys that have to be paid this summer (Yandle Hayes Kreider Miller…. Etem).

        If the right move comes along, though, I’m not against moving him and having McIlrath slot right in

        • Dave says:

          Assuming Boyle retires and McIlrath/Skjei are ready, trading Klein (or Girardi!) seems like a must-do.

          • Hatrick Swayze says:

            (yay subtlety!)

          • Williamw says:

            Even if McIlrath / Skeji are not ready it’s a must-do.

            You can find 5/6 d-men much easier than you can players like Yandle, Kreider, Hayes or Miller. All of whom need to be re-signed. In order to get this money Boyle and 1 other defenseman have to be swapped in for cheaper options

            I hope and expect Skjei and McIlrath to do be ready to fill those spots:
            Staal-McD
            Yandle-McIlrath
            Skjei-Girardi/Klein

    • Chris A says:

      Just a thought, but is it possible that at some point we have to start considering that Klein’s career norms aren’t an accurate baseline? That playing on such a conservative Nashville team with no real forward depth for so many years made Klein seem like less of a player on paper than he really is.

      I’m with you Dave, I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop with Klein, but he just keeps chugging along.

  3. Ray says:

    While it may seem reasonable to keep Klein instead of Boyle, the fact that Boyle has an NMC means there is no choice. The only choice is whether to play Boyle or keep him as a 7th D.

  4. Alec says:

    McIlrath wasn’t noticeable because he hardly played, especially in the 2nd.

    • Spozo says:

      That was because there were so many special teams situations. He doesn’t kill penalties and is not on the power play. So his playing time was hurt a lot in thi game.

  5. Eddie!Eddie!Eddie! says:

    Kevin-

    I pretty much agree with everything you said.

    Lundqvist looks terrific thus far. I predicted a big Vezina caliber season from him and so far so good.

    Speed? Still there in abundance. I don’t think we will miss Hags all that much 5 x 5, but the Rangers do have to prove their PK can be as good without him. So when AV decides to sit Fast, well, as we saw last night, it might be a problem. I have a feeling we won’t see Fast in the press box too often going forward.

    Zuc? What more can you say? The guy is a very special player. And if he is finally shooting more, that’s only going to make him that much more dangerous.

    Where I disagree with you is with Boyle. Unless he were to agree to waive his NMC, he’s not going anywhere. (And even if you could move him, our PP, while still a weakness, gets even weaker without Boyle on the second pair it seems to me). But I do agree, trading Klein would be a mistake right now. Girardi is still finding his game. Is he still recovering from his foot ailment? McIlrath is still a work in progress. Unless there is a big trade out there that can only be achieved by clearing cap space, trading Klein is just too risky. Let’s see how McIlrath does and see how healthy the defense is before we decide KK is expendable.

    Miller is on a major ascendency right now. Wouldn’t at all be surprised to see him move up to the top two lines before long.

    Brassard? No opinion yet. A somewhat unimpressive start but it’s just four games.

    Last season, when the Rangers made their run, they rarely lost back to back games. This one, the home opener in Montreal, is as tough as it comes. Very interested to see how the Rangers respond.

    • Chris72 says:

      Nice post Eddie and Kevin.

      I specifically stayed off the board to watch these posts unfold. Everything from fourth line concerns, to Dan Boyle trades, to Tanner Glass is the reason for the Rangers lone loss. 3 WINS 1 LOSS………. drop all the other stats and concentrate on that one……3-1.

      We are just four games into the season and for the most part, the Rangers’ off season check list has a lot of checks and very few question marks:

      1. Historically, AV teams start slow. A good start would be a refreshing change………………. CHECK

      2. Lundqvist’s new preparation schedule and pre season approach will make his early season games feel like mid-season games……………….. CHECK

      3. Can the new additions and kids play effectively early on while still learning AV’s system……………….CHECK

      4. With 40 games in AV’s system under Keith Yandle’s belt, can he QB the power play to respectability………………….. ?????????

      5. Can Mats Zuccarello return to form after the brain injury and continue to play his pesky aggressive game……………………… CHECK

      6. 3 games into the season, will the sight of hats being tossed onto the ice for Anthony Duclairs first NHL hat trick make Rangers fans nauseous……………………. CHECK (just kidding, I couldn’t help myself)