Nov
18

Back east

November 18, 2016, by
Photo Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

Photo Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

The Rangers return to a more civilized time zone tonight, after a massively successful western Canadian swing. After an embarrassing loss to the Canucks the week before, the Rangers bore down for the victory to close out the trip, despite some of their depth being tested. Tonight, they will be back east to see our old buddy Torts and the predictably mediocre Blue Jackets.

This begins another difficult stretch for the Rangers, with seven games in twelve days to close out the month, including a home and home against the defending Stanley Cup champion Penguins. The Blueshirts deal with a significant amount of schedule congestion this month and for December, with January seeing only eleven games in thirty-one days. This is the toughest stretch of the season.

This will also be an interesting period for analyzing a team that is in a somewhat unprecedented place.   The way this Rangers team is built is a new beast to the modern game. Never has a team boasted so much speed and scoring depth in the salary cap NHL. It is fairly apparent the deficiencies on the back end, but the Rangers are doubling down on the philosophy that if you roll four skilled, speed lines and receive excellent goaltending, you can mask most defensive issues.

What this stretch will not do is help injuries. With Chris Kreider and Buchnevich in and out of the lineup with various ailments, they won’t be given much time to heal. The Wolfpack does provide some quality depth in the form of Nieves, Hrivik and Jensen, in the event the big club needs some bodies, but the hope is those two highly productive wingers can rejoin the lineup for good.

If the Rangers continue to play well, we can hopefully start to see some separation in the standings. Despite their blazing hot start, they are only four points up on the Capitals and Penguins, and only five on the Devils. All three teams have a game in hand on the Rangers. Such is life in a league with the loser point, I suppose. The Blueshirts are tied atop the league with Montreal, with thirteen regulation wins, which helps, but it would be nice to see some of those clubs fade a little farther back in the rearview.

What this stretch should also do is to allow for a meaningful sample on how best to handle the defense leading up to the deadline. I have a feeling with the expansion draft looming that this deadline should be one of considerable activity, with some non-traditional transactions taking place. This would also potentially allow for opportunistic GM’s to find market inefficiencies in field. Would someone like Nick Holden have surplus value to a team that needs another defenseman to expose?

With Brady Skjei proving to be a revelation thus far, anyone short of him and McDonagh should be in play to upgrade the back end. Clendening has proven in a small sample to be a capable bottom pairing guy, but the Rangers have too many of those players. If you can get value for Klein or Holden to obtain a mid-pairing defensemen who fits the current mold of today’s game, it needs to be considered.

The current level of play has been analyzed very thoroughly, both here and at other quality sites. Despite some inflated production from Michael Grabner and Jimmy Vesey, the rest of the team is playing what appears to be relatively sustainable hockey. Sure, the shooting percentage is going to drop and maybe those 5-2 games become 3-1 games, but the formula for winning still exists.

When this stretch through the end of 2016 concludes, the Rangers will have played thirty-nine games, which is almost half the season. By that time, we should have a much better ideal of who exactly this team is and what they are capable of. This will go a long way to determine deadline strategy and if we should really be considering this team a true contender come spring. From what I have observed, I think this team is most definitely a contender, but we won’t have to wait long to find out.

"Back east", 5 out of 5 based on 10 ratings.

11 comments

  1. SalMerc says:

    We need to play some “like” teams to see if our back check can sustain the defensive posture necessary to withhold the onslaught of offense some teams like Pittsburgh can bring. Sure we bring waves of offense than have worn down teams so far, but, as Justin rightly points out, the next 10 games or so will be again strong teams in a tight schedule. Raanta and Hank need to be strong, but all 7 defenseman need to be ready. All 4 lines need to play 2 way hockey. Drop the puck and let the fun begin!

    • Rangers Fan in Boston says:

      Couldn’t agree more. The Rangers have beaten some good teams (Blues, Capitals, Lightning) but haven’t really been tested with the type of teams that match-up with the Rangers speed/depth combo (I would say the Lightning are the exception as they are very similarly built) which frankly, there aren’t many. Pitt is the true test here, obviously.

      Contender wise, it’s still the Penguins, Capitals and Lightning as the top teams in the conference. The Rangers have shown so far they can hang with these teams, but I need to see more. Oh, and Montreal, pas bien.

    • Rhodork says:

      Just curious, what is it about this post that prompted 2 thumbs down?

      • Jerry says:

        Absolutely nothing wrong with that post! Just as there was nothing wrong with your question. But children will be children.

        • SalMerc says:

          I posted at 7:33, and looked again at 7:45 and had the 2 thumbs down, but no other comments posted on the site. Not too many people could have viewed the site in those 12 minutes. I have my thoughts, but then again I also have thoughts on who really killed John Kennedy.

      • wwpd says:

        because the internet. If you don’t have at least two downvotes it means nobody read your comment .

  2. pas44 says:

    Good Stuff Justin. Interesting points about the draft and the opportunities as they could pertain to the team…

    I for one think I will finally see the city in the desert and take in a game!

    LGR!!!

  3. amy says:

    this is going to be an interesting week we play Columbus tonight and then back home for Florida could this be a trap game maybe as the rangers play a home and home against the Stanley cup champs Monday and Wednesday and then they play on Black Friday in Philadelphia a game that will be on NBC

  4. Peter says:

    John Tortorella time. Thus ought to be fun. BlueJackets have been playing well lately, so it might be a competitive game.

    • pas44 says:

      Let’s hope so or we’re gonna have to see torts yelling all night…

      😉

      LGR!!!!

      Anyone think Dylan will fight anyone?

      I don’t think he will unless AV is on the ice walking to the bench… LOL

      • Rog says:

        Looking at the Box Score, I think DMac had a bit of a rough start for the Cats last night. Yandle too.