Jan
10

Midseason report cards: The defense

January 10, 2017, by
ryan mcdonagh kevin klein

Photo: MSG

With the Rangers on their bye week, which was perfectly timed with the halfway point of the season, we are afforded the opportunity to evaluate the Rangers with nothing else going on. Midseason report cards have been a bit of a tradition here at BSB, so let’s keep that tradition going, shall we?

Over the next few days, each of us will be tackling a different aspect of the team, and assigning grades accordingly. I’m batting leadoff here, and I’m going to be discussing the most polarizing aspect of this year’s team: The defense.

Overall, the back line for the Rangers has been relatively bad. The combination of age, injuries, wear and tear, and a shift towards speed has made what was once a strong defense into a bottom-five unit in the league. The slow start by Henrik Lundqvist exposed the defense even more. But it’s not all bad, either.

Ryan McDonagh

The Captain of the team has had a bit of a roller coaster season. He started the season white-hot, with a run of eight straight game with an assist (nine total). Overall, he has a line of 2-23-25 at the halfway point, putting him on pace for his first ever 50 point season. Increased powerplay time has been a major factor in McDonagh’s increased production, with nine points (eight assists) with the man advantage.

McDonagh has cooled off recently, but he’s still a premier defenseman in the league. He has been solid in all three zones and at all strengths. He goofs sometimes, as does every player in the league, but his goofs are few and far between this season. Still, there are times where you get the feeling something is missing.

Midseason grade: A-

Dan Girardi

Before you jump down my throat, I’m assessing his first 40 games this season, not his body of work or overall heart over the past decade. So lay off the “he’s a warrior, given everything for his team” crap that I get all the time. Take a step back and look objectively at the first 40 games of this season only.

The Rangers were really banking on a bounce back season from Girardi. What they got was a solid start, and then a walk off a cliff. Yes, Girardi had a good start to the season. However outside of the first ten or so games, he’s been an absolute disaster. It’s gotten to a point where it’s beyond usage. We all know Girardi is not a 1RD anymore –even if it took Alain Vigneault 40 games to realize this– but it’s gotten to a point where we are starting to doubt whether sheltering him will even work. And that’s without even mentioning that horrid contract.

Just on the ice, it’s clear Girardi is a step behind most forwards. The puck is a grenade on his stick. He’s just been bad. On par with last year’s historically bad season. And what’s making this worse is AV’s words that he would rest Girardi, something he sorely needs, and then didn’t. But at this point, does rest even help?

Grading Girardi is tough. Objectively, he’s been one of two just flat out awful defensemen on the team. However when based on expectations, his good start was actually something I didn’t expect. So….

Midseason grade: D

Marc Staal

The other player that the Rangers were banking on for a rebound season, they certainly got something like that with Staal. Staal has been surprisingly decent this season, capable of holding his own with a good defense partner as a second pairing defenseman. He and Nick Holden have clicked and have done a solid job as the second pairing. Staal, who always had good raw tools, seems to have gotten some of it back together. He’s always been a solid defender with good stick work, positioning, and skating. He’s been much better there. Puck movement is still a concern though. Always will be at this point in his career.

One of Staal’s biggest contributions, which may sound harsh, is that he got hurt. That’s not to say Staal needed to be out of the lineup, it’s that his injury forced AV to shuffle his defense pairings. That was a long time coming.

Midseason grade: B

Nick Holden

Holden’s career as a Ranger got off to a rocky start. Placed on a top pairing with McDonagh right away, Holden struggled both in that role and with the new system. After a few games he was moved down to the third pair, where he play improved. He was then moved up to the second pair on his off-side with Staal, where he has found a solid role with the club.

But let’s make one thing abundantly clear: Holden is this year’s Kevin Klein. Goals and points are masking some pretty large holes in his play. It’s passable for now because he’s scoring, however if and when that scoring dries up –and it will, Holden is outpacing his career rates by almost double– we will begin to notice these holes. The right moves on defense put him back at 3LD, where he likely belongs. But for now, let’s call him a pleasant surprise.

Midseason grade: B+

Brady Skjei

As the overhyped rookie and only first round pick in the past 30 years, Skjei had a lot to live up to. Sheltered on the third pairing to start the season, Skjei took a little while to learn the system, struggling in his own end at times. What was very apparent, however, was that Skjei could move the puck up the ice with either passing or his smooth skating. Skjei earned more time and forced himself on to the powerplay as well. He’s still a rookie, so there are going to be mistakes. I expected some solid two-way play with some good, quick passes to get out of the zone. I’ve gotten that, plus a line of 1-16-17 and a 30 point pace. That’s just a bonus.

Midseason grade: A-

Kevin Klein

Oy. Been saying this for a while, but when the goals dried up, Klein was going to get exposed. Overall, Klein hasn’t declined that much, it’s just that he isn’t scoring anymore, as many predicted, so the other aspects of his game are getting more attention. Never a smooth skater or a good puck mover, Klein is in the same boat as Girardi right now. He’s been downright bad. If the Girardi curve has shown us anything, it’s that it’s not likely that Klein rebounds either. If Girardi isn’t headed to the press box, then Klein should be.

Midseason grade: F

Adam Clendening

He hasn’t played much this season, but you know what you get with him. He’s, at worst, on par with Klein and Girardi in his own end. But Clendo can at least skate and move the puck. He will hopefully be getting more playing time.

Midseason grade: Incomplete

"Midseason report cards: The defense", 5 out of 5 based on 13 ratings.

65 comments

  1. Richter1994 says:

    Girardi deserves an F based on how his bad play influences his defense partner and the rest of the team. It’s not a coincidence that whomever is partnered with him is a train wreck for that game.

    Clendening is a much better option and more fits AV’s puck moving system. It’s about time the coach finally admits it and starts rotating G and KK, leaving Adam in permanently until trades are made.

    • LoosMoose says:

      Absolutely correct. Giradi has to know that his play is hurting the team, I wonder how that plays out with the team members themselves. I don’t believe it is from lack of effort, or professionalism I think he would put in the effort to improve if it were within his ability to do so, but sadly for everyone that ship has sailed. I figured AV would do something to torpedo Clendo again but am relieved that he has had a chance and he has made good with it. Talk about PRESSURE! Let the guy get in solid with the team and not fear his own coaches and he will do even better.

      Klein doesn’t even have the excuses or support Girardi does. I would give Staal a B- in reality because the poor play of G and KK have made his play look better than it really is.

  2. amy says:

    the grades were well deserved can’t wait to see the forwards

  3. Ranger11 says:

    Yeah I don’t get it either. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see Klein is sinking like a stone this year and Girardi just doesn’t have it anymore and hasn’t for a while now. I would have thought Clending would have had some more ice time while Klein n Girardi take turns sitting. It’s a shame, we finally have a team that can score goals and now we don’t have the D. It wasn’t long ago we were one of the best D’s in the league and now it’s our D that’s causing us problems.

  4. John B says:

    1)McDonagh. Fully agree. While his advanced metrics aren’t the great, a lot of that is from being saddled with Girardi at 5×5 for a large chunk of the season to date. McD’s “cool off” started with the elevation of Girardi back to his side. He still however sports a Defense Corps best xGA60 of 2.38 and a team fewest SCA60 of 8.57.

    2) Holden. I’d go with a B-. His xGF60 is 2.56 but his xGA60 is 2.54, coupled with a HIGH PDO of104.85, means the return to average is going to be a wake up call. He can still skate better than all but 2 others in the Defense Corps so if need be, I can live with him on the second pair but its so far from ideal its not even an argument.

    3) Skjei. I have to disagree here. I’d give him at best a C+, closer to a C. Even while sheltered on the third pair for 90% of the season to date, Skjei is bleeding shots against and scoring chances against, to the tune of a team high 9.78 SCA60. I like the upside with him. His skating and passing. But he like Holden is riding a high PDO of 102.26, which means his scoring is going to coming back to average sooner rather than later. He’s a rookie, I’m not going to crucify him. But he is 23 now but still a rookie.

    4) Staal. Again. C- is where I’d lean, maybe a C. He like Skjei is bleeding chances and shots against. his xGA60 is a team high 2.65, even higher than Girardi’s. He gives up SCA60 of 9.56 just behind Girardi again. His play has “improved” yes, down from a xGA60 of 2.76 and SCA60 of 10.61. But when the bar is that low, an ant’s high jump can exceed it.

    5)Klein and Girardi. Even with the start, they both deserve less than an F. We need to invent a grade worse than F. They both have the exact same xGA60 of 2.6, Girardi gives up “less” SCA60 to the tune of 9.16 vs 9.67, but Klein at least generates 10.28 SCF60 to Girardi’s 9.06 SCF60. They can’t skate. They can’t move the puck. What more is there to say about them?

    6)Clendening. Agreed, incomplete. I like what I see. He drives offense, as his xGF60 is 2.6 and xGA60 is 2.06. He can skate. Is he perfect? No. Is he better than at least 33% of our defenseman we ice on a regular basis, I can’t see how anyone can say otherwise.

    • Hatrick Swayze says:

      Sounds like you’d grade Girardi a G, or maybe G- ……

      Sorry, I had to.

      • John B says:

        Honestly a ‘G’ is still too high in the alphabet for him. All I can think of is that scene in Billy Madison when talking about Girardi playing hockey:

        “At no point in your rambling, incoherent play were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational or constructive. Everyone in this arena is now dumber for having seen it and your play. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.”

      • Rangers_Underscore says:

        Funny

  5. Reenavipul says:

    The one time Klein was a healthy scratch, his game back he looked really good. He and Girardi should be on a straight rotation to keep them fresh and hopefully raise their game. If they have a problem with getting paid for playing half as much(playing isn’t work: practice is work, media is work, travel is work)…

    27-76 (playing north of 25 minutes)
    18-4
    22-8&5

  6. SalMerc says:

    We all see players with our own set of objective or nonobjective set of eyes. I think Klein has been the worst, and Girardi a close second worst. The grades themselves are subjective. I do take issue with the Brady Skjei getting a higher grade than Holden. Is this because of expectations? The rookie status? I feel Skjei has made more mistakes than Holden and Holden has added much more to the offense than Brady has, warranting a higher grade. Let’s not base the grade on rookie expectations, but of the actual output and deliverable on the ice. Let’s remember that Holden is tied with Zucc in goals and just 1 behind Stepan. Either way, that says an awful lot about all three players.

  7. Walt says:

    Joe Fortunato, on Blueshirt. com, writes a great article about AV being a good coach, while being his worst enemy. E3 should read this, he reinforces many points made on BSB, and it makes for some good reading!!!!!!

    As for the grading of the defense:

    Mc Truck, doing a decent job, unfortunately his partner, Girardi, usually drags him down into the gutter.

    Holden is a welcome surprise, nice return for what was it a fourth, or fifth round pick???

    Skjei is doing just fine, making rookie mistakes, but is learning quickly.

    Klein, and Girardi are two tire fires, what more can we say. Kevin should have been traded last season, before his value plummeted like a rock.

    Staal is serviceable, barely, and would replace him as well by Graves, when he is ready……..

    • Blueshirts94 says:

      Holden was a fourth. Looks like a huge steal, glad we snagged him.

    • Eddie!Eddie!Eddie! says:

      Walt-

      Great article. I responded to your original post on the BSB podcast page. Thanks for letting me know about it!

      • Walt says:

        I posted it twice, and because it had a .com in the name, it didn’t post, so I did it again this morning…..

  8. Spozo says:

    I don’t necessarily disagree with the grades. And honestly the grades are very subjective. You got the order of the best through the worst correct so honestly what’s the difference if you gave Klein an F or a D as long as he was reviewed as the defenseman who has struggled the most.

  9. Spozo says:

    Wasn’t it not too long ago that AV was bashed for playing Nick Holden so much?

    • Reenavipul says:

      AV cut Holden’s minutes and his play has stabilized over the last month.

      • Spozo says:

        I didn’t mean “so much” as in amount of time. I specifically remember some comments about how Holden was awful and AV only played him because Patrick Roy said he was good.

        • John B says:

          Holden did start the year off horribly. He had many “Girardi-lite” moments. He was playing way over his head in the deep end of the pool with first pairing duties.

          Has he steadied his own ship? Yes. Has his play improved? Eh, to the point where its OK to have him on the 2nd pair because we literally have no one else to play there unless we play a 13th forward there. Is it ideal for him? No.

          As Dave pointed out. He is Klein 2.0. He’s riding a high PDO and is scoring so everyone points to the stats. But if you look at the total body of work. He’s giving up 9.38 SCA60, giving up 28.73 SA60 and even with a high PDO, he’s only at an xGF60 of 2.56 (his xGA60 is 2.54). So Holden is giving a bit (for us) but he’s also taking too.

          Perfect world- he’s a serviceable 3rd pairing defenseman who can skate.

          NYR world of defensive ineptitude- 2nd pairing D-man because he has to be

          • Spozo says:

            I’m not debating how good of a player he is. I’m just pointing out that there were quite a few on here that were calling for AVs head for even letting the guy dress every night. But it looks like AV actually knew what he was doing.

            • Rangers_Underscore says:

              AV has a head?

            • Reenavipul says:

              I was one of them early and knew much quicker than the coach that he was utilizing Holden poorly. It took him 30 games, we saw it in 10 or less.

              But hey, Patty Roy is a great evaluator of talent and a proponent of playing the game “the right way” and I’m just some guy on teh interwebz.

        • Walt says:

          that’s because he had Holden playing on the wrong side, remember ???????????

  10. Al Dugan says:

    And if Staal hadn’t gotten hurt, Sjkei would have sat for the Flyers game. That’s how bad he was against the Sabres.

    Your Grade for Sjkei is WAY TOOOO high.

    • mo she says:

      you are so right. He is a year away.
      terrible defender on the right side. good skater but average acceleration.
      The rangers like him because he has “guts”. turning into a feisty guy and that is what the rangers need more of

  11. Pas44 says:

    Great stuff.

    These guys own their grades in part to the offense so far this year, without some of the gordon moves, I think we’d be seeing lower scores for sure…

    LGR!!!!!

  12. paulronty says:

    Your grades are reasonable, except for Brady Skjei, when you were swept up by the overhype machine & his rookie status. An A-? C’mon Dave, he rates about a C because he’s not very good in his own end, at least at this point. He should be cut some slack, I admit, because he’s a rookie & the transition for a rookie D is a tough one.

    • mo she says:

      you are so right. He is a year away.
      terrible defender on the right side. good skater but average acceleration.
      The rangers like him because he has “guts”. turning into a feisty guy and that is what the rangers need more of

  13. Ray says:

    The Rangers have 15 more wins than regulation losses. Their forward corps is depleted by injuries and their #1 goaltender is on again off again.

    You do not accomplish this with one of the five worst defenses in the league. Two out of three right dmen are tire fires – give me a break. When it comes to evaluating the defense, you see what you want to see.

    • John B says:

      Ahh, the “standings” argument.

      You realize that statically the only defenseman with a WORSE CF% than Girardi in the NHL over 500 min played is Leddy, Lovejoy and Hammonic? You realize as unposted earlier that they both can account for 2.6 goals against for every 60 minutes they’re on the ice? They both give up a lot of scoring chances against. So yes, it’s impossible to argue that 2/3 of our RD’s don’t suck, when the evidence by any measure you want to use is there. Use your eyes. Use stats. They both say the same thing

      As for Hank? Again right now track with career norms at 5×5 with only a drop in MDSV%. But that would discount the narrative that our defense doesn’t suck right?

      • Ray says:

        Basically I think Corsi is crap, so let’s discount that, shall we. After all, you say by any measure you want to use. Using +/-, both Girardi and Klein are +5. That is hardly outstanding on a team as good as the Rangers. However, the Rangers are simply not being destroyed when Girardi is on the ice.

        • John B says:

          I’ll go with +/- if you’ll accept that it is an incredibly flawed stat.

          At true 5×5, as in 5 skaters and 1 goalie against 5 skaters and 1 goalie, Girardi has been on the ice for 26 goals scored vs 29 against, or a -3.

          At PK he’s in a 3 and 9 hole, or -6.

          What does that mean? Girardi’s been on the ice for 7 empty net goals. Take those away and he’s a minus player using YOUR stat.

          Klein 26 for, 27 against at true 5×5 Or -1. 2 and 5 at the PK or -3

          Defense still rests. They are hurting the team. And again, that’s using YOUR +/- stat, which all but you and Don Cherry have completely accepted is a deeply flawed stat as it counts some goals but not others.

          • John B says:

            Fingers moved slower than mind.

            That should be Girardi’s been on the ice for something like 7 empty net goals against. Take away empty net goals, and he’s a minus player using YOUR stat.

          • Rod Seiling's Twilight Zone says:

            And the NYR with the highest career +/- is?

            • John B says:

              Don’t care, because prior to the tracking of stats more efficiently at proper skating levels it was still a flawed stat.

              I can tell you that since January of 2005, Dan Girardi has been on the ice for 465 GF, and 477 GA at 5×5 for a -12. On the PK it’s 34 for, 171 against for a – 137.

            • Eddie!Eddie!Eddie! says:

              I believe the current Ranger with the highest career +/- is McDonagh at +123, followed by Stepan at +103. Girardi last I checked was +54.

              But your guy Rod Seiling is the all time leader at +208. Never would have guessed that! 😉

            • Eddie!Eddie!Eddie! says:

              That would be your guy….the immortal Rod Seiling!

              Current Rangers? It’s McDonagh and Stepan.

              • Eddie!Eddie!Eddie! says:

                Sorry for the repeat. For some reason, posting is taking a lot longer than usual, at least for me.

              • Rod Seiling's Twilight Zone says:

                And thus was born Rod Seiling’s Twilight Zone – a place beyond space and time where a solid, yet some would say rather pedestrian d-man of yore owns a career record for a stat of questionable value!

          • Ray says:

            I will not argue that it is not flawed. I agree it must be used with care. However, it is better than a random number, which is basically what Corsi is.

            I will agree that your -3 is more accurate than the +5 I listed.

            • John B says:

              Not sure why you view it as a random number. It is simply counting shots directed at a net, either for or against, by any player that’s on the ice at time that player is on the ice for.

              In Girardis case, either he or any player at 5×5 moved the puck on goal 547 times. The puck was moved towards our goal 642 times. All that means, is the puck is in our end of the ice a lot more when he’s on the ice. If you prefer Fenwick, all that does is eliminate blocked shots from the Corsi equation. I’ll warn you, it’s no better (384/444).

              I’ll more than agree that when he first came to Rangers in 05 he was a serviceable ok defenseman. However for the past 4-5 years his time has passed and now he’s killing us

              • Ray says:

                I looked at the 5v5 numbers last year and using Corsi to predict who would make the playoffs gave you a prediction roughly as good as throwing darts. In fact, Toronto was better than Washington – so it didn’t even get the order of the best and worst teams in the league right.

                Saw a game a few days ago where Klein gave up the puck in front of the net for an easy goal against. He was trying to pass the puck up ice, but got jostled and the pass didn’t get through. Usually he will be successful and get the pass up ice, so it was a good Corsi play. The correct +/- play was to bat the puck behind the net.

                Girardi doesn’t just block shots; he increases the likelihood that the shots will miss. Corsi measures some things that are relevant. If you had two players about which you know nothing, you want the good Corsi player. But NHL players are not blank slates. Dan Girardi has been a successful NHL regular for years, believed in by various coaches, despite being a poor Corsi player. That means he does likely excel in the things that Corsi ignores – ditto for all long time poor Corsi players.

                Rating players by Corsi is a lot like picking stocks by a simple criterion. The fact is that stock values weight all criteria including the one you choose and so your system won’t get better results.

              • John B says:

                “I looked at the 5v5 numbers last year and using Corsi to predict who would make the playoffs gave you a prediction roughly as good as throwing darts”

                Of the top 10 teams in Corsi, all but 1…90% made the playoffs.

                Of the top 15 teams, 73% made the playoffs.

                Thinking that CF% means that you WILL make the playoffs is not what Corsi is used to measure. Corsi indicates your ability to keep the puck in the offensive zone and away from your zone. Toronto installed a new system with Babcock and began possessing the puck and putting chances for in the Offensive zone. Corsi does NOT measure the talent level of the player(s) taking those shots or the quality of the goaltending for your team. So using Corsi as an indication if you’ll make the playoffs or not indicates a lack of understanding of the stat or an semantically large leap or twisting of what the stat measures.

                Did the NY Rangers spend too much time in their own end of the ice last year? YES. Does the CF% of the Rangers show a corresponding indication of that? YES. Did the Rangers have sustained success last year driving offense? NO.

                Did we go to the 2014 Cup Finals? Yes. Did we have a strong CF% that playoff year? NO. What happened in the Finals? A team that had and exhibited a better Corsi strength than us, beat us. The correlations are there, about the style of play that the team plays and long term success.

                “Girardi doesn’t just block shots; he increases the likelihood that the shots will miss.”

                Again, simply not true. By Corsi, Girardi has given up over 1,200 more against. If you want to use Fenwick which eliminates blocked shots, he’s given up 558 more attempts against. The NY Rangers TEAM, Corsi, Fenwick, expected goals, shots for, and scoring chances for all go UP when Girardi is off the ice. Corsi against, Fenwick against, expected goals allowed and scoring chances against all go DOWN substantially when Girardi is off the ice.

                I agree, that in 2005-2012 Girardi was an acceptable 3rd Pair defenseman at best. Since 2012, Dan Girardi is statistically one of the top 5 worst defenseman in the entire NHL. I’m baffled how anyone can argue against it. That’s not to say that he doesn’t try, that he doesn’t put forth effort, that he’s a bad person. None of that. He’s a bad hockey player. And as I said, EVERY stat you can possibly use, proves just how bad he is.

            • John B says:

              Not sure why you view it as a random number. It is simply counting shots directed at a net, either for or against, by any player that’s on the ice at time that player is on the ice for.

              In Girardis case, either he or any player at 5×5 moved the puck on goal 547 times. The puck was moved towards our goal 642 times. All that means, is the puck is in our end of the ice a lot more when he’s on the ice. If you prefer Fenwick, all that does is eliminate blocked shots from the Corsi equation. I’ll warn you, it’s no better (384/444)

              I’ll agree when he first came he was a serviceable defenseman. But in past 4 1/2 years his play is killing his teammates and the team now

    • Rod Seiling's Twilight Zone says:

      And Ray, don’t forget that this team with a coach who doesn’t know how to develop or utilize players, a HOF goalie who’s play in net has been pretty pedestrian so far, and three top-9 forwards out for much of the first half of the season — to go along with their “bottom 5” defense! — still has the 9th best GAA in the league (as well as the 6th best points percentage).

      • John B says:

        If “pedestrian” play is being amongst the league leaders in high danger scoring chances against and saves (as in top 5 best), and the facing the shots at the closest distance…

        But hey…those stats look awesome right!! Its all Hanks fault right?

        • Rod Seiling's Twilight Zone says:

          Characterizing Hank’s play as “pretty pedestrian” isn’t exactly the same as saying that “it’s all Hank’s fault”, now is it?

          • John B says:

            Yet his play hasn’t been pedisterian at all. Does he have an off goal or two against? Of course.

            How many goals against is he hung out to dry on? He’s playing exactly at his career norms in every area, except medium danger shots against. His MDSV% is down.

            We’re all used to him bailing The defense out. So it looks pedisterian, but it’s so far from that.

            We’re ALL in for a rude awakening when we get normal goal tending in a few years.

            • Eddie!Eddie!Eddie! says:

              I partially agree. I’m a huge Hank supporter and agree completely that once he is done, then likely so are we. The idea some have espoused that we could have been equally successful with Talbot or Raanta is laughable–small samples of stats not withstanding.

              But that being said, I agree more with Rod and would bet you anything that Hank and Benny would be the first to agree. Hank has been fine, but he’s hardly been outstanding–at least not for extended periods like he’s done in the past.

              Has the defense hung him out to dry at times? Sure. But he hasn’t been as sharp as he can be and I believe as sharp as he WILL be. Hank almost always rounds into form when the calendar turns to the new year.

              He’s our best player. He needs to play like a Vezina-caliber goalie for this team to win. There’s another level he can raise his game to and he knows it.

              • Rod Seiling's Twilight Zone says:

                E!: Exactly. Hank’s been pedestrian for Hank, not necessarily when compared to others. And the NYR roster of outstanding goalies may continue past Hank. Shestyorkin is looking like he may be special.

  14. mo she says:

    the rangers will keep Grabner and let “Nash” go in expansion draft.
    Nash will forever be on and off with injuries (the rangers David Wright)
    He is about a 8 million dollar cap hit.
    they will sign a hot shot defenseman.
    (shed Girardi salary and they really have cap room)

    young upstarts like Graves , Gropp, Nieves, Day etc will get a look

  15. Marshall Klein says:

    How have the Rangers stayed competitive with inconsistent goaltending; one-third of their top six forwards out; lousy faceoffs at key moments; defense injuries; a brutal compressed schedule; forwards with long goalless droughts; defense combos changing like a square dance????
    They are either much worse than their record or not as bad as they seem sometimes…Girardi, Klein, Skjei and Staal all have terrible moments, but also all have been warriors at times…even McDonough has some terrible shifts…Holden is the most consistent of the six (thank the hockey gods)…the saddest fact is that Hartford has zilch while other teams like the Penguins and Caps are prospect rich…Clendening is the number one sub so the future is very iffy…These seven will make or break the season

    • Eddie!Eddie!Eddie! says:

      I largely agree with you Marshall.

      In hockey, defensive play is about the forwards too. I’m withholding grades and judgment until the team is healthy. The only thing we know about this team is that they are resilient and have found a way to win. We won’t know if the defense is passable (a la Pit last year) and therefore can be part of a contending formula until everyone is healthy.

    • John B says:

      Sometimes I wonder if everyone watches the same team….
      1. Not touching inconsistent goaltending. It’s been disproven. When shooters take shots 30′ away or closer….
      2. We’ve been without 3 players together for not that long. Nash has missed 11 games. Before that Buch was on the 4th line. He’s a 21yo 1st year pro. If he’s the savior to our “defense”….is there a more telling statement than that? Injuries are an excuse. Everyone has them.
      3. Face offs? We’ve sucked for the past 5 to 6 years at those. But here’s a novel concept, don’t ice the puck so much we wouldn’t have to worry as much. But when your defenseman consistently ice the puck, yea I see it’s a big issue too.
      4. What injuries on defense? Staal 2 games ago? G for a few games earlier? Klein for 6 to start year? Ironically enough, best team on ice so far this year was Klein hurt and G hidden on 3rd pair. G gets elevated to 1RD and Klein comes back in all of a sudden we start going downhill.
      Skip to, “defense combos changing like a square dance????” Are you asking, cause we’ve iced the same 6 in same combos most of year

      27/5- 464.8 min
      18/22- 422.05
      8/76- 305.24

      Then
      22/27- 105.8
      8/18- 105.3
      8/22- 73.3
      8/27- 72.6
      5/76- 66.6
      18/76- 66.3
      22/76- 58.1
      4/75- 56.5

      So the defense pairings are fairly static. Skjei and Staal have had terrible moments, 100% agree. Klein and Girardi are having terrible GAMES, and long stretches of games at that.

  16. James says:

    Is now a good time to mention Can Fowler made the all star team?

  17. bernmeister says:

    Spot on, w/one exception vigorously noted here:
    swap Klein F to D
    and Girardi D to F

    that’s it IMHO.

  18. jrd1436 says:

    Mostly agree with everything written. The only thing i would like to point out that Holden has had very few holes in his game. His defense has been exceptional this year and you can count his (and Mac’s) mistakes on one hand. And where/when was Skjei overhyped? He was never projected to be a perennial allstar or Norris winner, just a solid 2nd line defenseman.