Mar
25

These are not the droids we’re looking for

March 25, 2017, by

alain vigneault

The Rangers are in an interesting spot with their lineup decisions. On the one hand, there are guys coming back from injury who could probably do for some ice time and the team is looking to get into a pre-playoff groove. On the other hand guys are banged up and worn down from the long season and could probably go for some rest. In either event, these aren’t the lines/combos we’re looking for.

Let’s go with the first scenario. Dan Girardi is now ready to go, and Kevin Klein likely is not far behind. Henrik Lundqvist too is set to play against Anaheim on this upcoming road trip. There’s a a certain logic that says that you want to find a sweet spot with your lineup as the playoffs approach, and so you play your best guys.

Unfortunately, Dan Girardi on the top pair is not that, and while Kevin Klein’s days may be numbered, Girardi certainly isn’t going anywhere (at least for now). Getting Henrik Lundqvist into a groove might be a number one priority, but even that may not be the best idea (more on that later). In short, if your goal really is to win as many of these games as possible (for whatever reason) then this probably isn’t the way to do it.

The reverse of this line of thinking is that the upcoming games don’t matter, and that you should give guys rest. If that’s the case, then icing your likely playoff lineup is more counterintuitive, with that approach subsuming rest to readiness.

Especially at forward, guys on the top two lines could maybe use some rest. With regard to Dan Girardi, if you do plan on playing him during the playoffs he needs all the rest he can get. The big issue here for me is Henrik Lundqvist. While there’s certainly something to be said for getting him some playing time before games really start to matter, anything with goalies, age, and hip injuries should raise red flags. All precaution should be taken here; despite the fact that he’s a competitor we want him to actually compete when it’s important to do so.

Now, all of this isn’t to say that I think the Rangers are wrong no matter what they do and AV is an idiot and yadda yadda. What I’m trying to get at is the idea that the Rangers are sort of damned if they do, damned if they don’t. Being in this quandary means that they really need to cut the Gordian knot, and instead they seem to not be thinking things through.

If I were them what I would do is, providing you’re insisting on playing Girardi, rotate him in every other game on the first pair with either Kampfer or ideally Clendening coming in. From there rotate a top line forward out each game in order to spread some R&R around. Lastly, play Hank less than half of these upcoming games, preferably the later ones.

Maybe I’m crazy, but I feel like this plan might just work at getting what the Rangers want out of their lineup for these last few games while simultaneously giving the players the rest they need to be at their best. After all, that’s what this is all about – icing the best possible team come playoff time.

"These are not the droids we're looking for", 1 out of 5 based on 7 ratings.
Categories : Lineup Changes

9 comments

  1. DAVID k says:

    Three player rotation is probably the best idea.

  2. Hockey Sittoo says:

    I agree with rotating Dmen and line combos. I’d also like to see Mac get some rest. But Hank needs to play to get in a rhythm. He’s said that for years, and his play when he is not working regularly bears it out. I think he needs to get at least 5 or 6 games. If he plays these next 2 in Cali and looks in the groove then maybe ease him back to just another couple at home.

  3. Pony says:

    Shouldn’t rest anyone until they win and/or clinch.

  4. Eddie!Eddie!Eddie! says:

    Pat-

    You make some good points but I agree with Pony. Job one is getting the “check mark” next to your name. Sure, a playoff spot is a virtual lock, but why risk furthering a losing streak and making it necessary to play with a little more urgency in the final week of the season, when rest may be more beneficial. Get the playoff spot locked up as soon as possible.

    Job two as I see it is simple–play Hank as much as he needs to play. If I’m AV, i talk to Benny and Hank and simply say to them–“tell me what you want to do”. Hank has had plenty of time to rest. History shows he thrives on work. He needs to play–period. Other than back to backs, I’d play him in every game the rest of the way. You can’t worry about Hank getting hurt, not when the flip side is he needs to play to be at the top of his game. If he gets hurt, than the hockey gods simply are saying a playoff run isn’t meant to be.

    Job 3 is that fine line between resting and getting players into a playoff groove. We have no idea who’s banged up and who isn’t. Most guys thrive on work. But a guy like Buch for example, I’d be careful with his back. AV needs to work some combos on defense to see what will work best. Girardi is back and I for one think that is a good thing. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that our drop off in play started around the time of his injury. Top pair minutes? That’s another discussion. But I have no issue trying that first game back just to see. Klein? Hard to know where or when he will fit in. I suspect eventually the decision will be Holden vs Klein. Tough call.

    As for the forwards, these guys don’t need rest. They need to get their heads out of their rear ends and start doing their jobs. This needs to be an audition for playing time and line combos. Players need to be in a rhythm. Resting guys can be counter to that. Maybe in the final few games, but not now.

    • Chris F says:

      Girardi –or Buekeboom, or both– gets it.

      His play really ramped up the few weeks before his injury. He stopped pinching, he stopped coming too far up on the blue line, and he simplified his game. He stayed back, he played the angles, and he generally avoided getting himself in a footrace or turned around.

      If he plays that way, we’re better with him in the lineup than without.

  5. Reenavipul says:

    Just have to rotate everybody; line by line, pair by pair the rest of the way as nothing left to play for. When it comes every other night you’ll need to have everybody’s tanks topped off.

    That way you can try and put the Atlantic teams to the sword quickly to get more rest.

    • Eddie!Eddie!Eddie! says:

      Rotate everybody? Therefore double down on rest at the expense of getting players and lines into a winning rhythm? Doesn’t seem like a strategy most would take here.

      These guys are not a bunch of old geezers. If they are healthy, they should play. Any rotation of players will likely be based more on experimenting with pairings on defense and determining whether a Buch lets say is a better choice over Glass.

      I doubt rest will really come into play except in back to backs of possibly in the final couple of games of the season.

      • Reenavipul says:

        Everybody rests and you keep your lines locked down. Otherwise you lose your chemistry.

        Getting into a groove is something even the tinkerer should’ve gotten down to by now, yet here we are. Attention to detail is needed to gain unit cohesion. A night in the press box, provided the players are told in advance, will not bruise their egos and can give them a fresh mental reset better than a video session will. Processing trends and tactics in real time is better than a video shot without full coverage.

        Straight rotation in goal is desirable as it gives each goalie extra time to focus on opponent tendencies, something that happens in the playoffs.

        Enjoy yourself today because in two weeks we go into battle.

    • Eddie!Eddie!Eddie! says:

      To clarify a bit, to me the biggest candidates for rest would be Buch, Vesey, Nash, and Staal. The former two because they are rookies that are not used to playing this many games and in Buch’s case, the additional concern with his back. Nash and Staal because they are older players with a lot of tread on their tires. I would not rest Girardi and Klein much at the moment simply because they are nothing right now if not rested. They need to play as much as possible to see if they can be meaningful playoff contributors.

      Unless the other guys are banged up, everyone else needs to play and play a lot. I agree with Reena that rest is important, but getting guys on a roll going into the playoffs matters as well.