Nov
24

The scoring concern at even strength

November 24, 2017, by

chris kreider

The Rangers are a weird team this year. I’ve been saying that a lot, but it’s especially true. We are used to strong even strength scoring and a poor powerplay. But this year it’s in reverse. The Rangers can’t score at even strength but the powerplay is one of the best in the league.

Alain Vigneault lives and dies by the counter attack at even strength, and so far this year it has been a relative failure. It’s not for lack of chances, either, as the Rangers are 6th in xGF/60 in the league. It’s that they haven’t finished at the rate they usually do.

At even strength, the Rangers have just three players with at least five goals (Hayes, Grabner, Zibanejad). Through 21 games, only three guys have five even strength goals. That is not good.

The good news, at least from a statistical standpoint, is that the even strength concerns may not last much longer for a few guys. Chris Kreider (2 ES goals) is shooting just 5.13% at even strength. Rick Nash (4 ES goals) is shooting just 8.16% at even strength.

The anticipated increase from Kreider and Nash will likely come as Grabner (14.29%) and David Desharnais (2 ES goals, 14.29% shooting) fall back to Earth. When you factor in ice time, that is actually a net positive for the Rangers.

Even strength play will dictate future success, especially as the number of powerplays start to decrease as players get used to the “new rules,” or as the refs stop calling them. Rest assured, they won’t be calling this many penalties in the playoffs. So either way, even strength play needs to improve.

It has certainly been a weird year for the Rangers thus far. It seems like we are in bizarro world. But the good news is that some of the big names are due for some positive regression. We may witnessing the dreaded middle, but these Rangers aren’t that far off from competing for a Cup.

Categories : Analysis

35 comments

  1. Reenavipul says:

    There goes the narrative that Hayes is no good.

    • Richter1994 says:

      Fast is a nice player but why the coach thinks that he is better with Hayes than Vesey is a mystery.

      I know that Fast had a great game on Wednesday but over the long-term Vesey will provide Hayes with better offensive opportunities.

      Fast is and always should be a 4th line player

      • Mintgecko says:

        Vesey really shouldn’t ever play with Hayes again imo. When he’s in the offensive zone he gets exposed with his board work. There’s been countless of times where when Hayes has had two guys on him during a cycle and he would send it back down low and Vesey only has to worry about one guy but yet he’ll still lose the puck. Hayes has hooked him up with passes that lead to open nets and lastly he always forces a pass to Hayes no matter where he is located on the ice. You can see on the PP he’s usually the one who ruins the possession for them. It would never work long term because Hayes shutsdown top lines while Vesey shouldn’t even see the PK if this team runs into health problems.

        JT should be playing up there with him but I know Evander Kane would look cool in Ranger blue and next to Hayes.

        • Richter1994 says:

          I agree with you on the board work on Vesey which is why if you have him with Nash or Zuc then that would solve the problem.

          My other reasoning for having Fast on the 4th is because of his excellent board work, by creating valuable possession time that a 4th line normally would not produce.

        • Bobby B says:

          Mint, pay no attension to the 4 thumbs down. I have been preaching to try to get Kane for 2 years. He can be acquired. Evander Kane is an elite power forward who plays with an edge, he is Chris Kreider with a maen streak. We acquire Kane it gives us a scorer and a player that other teams will think twice before they run Hank or one of our many skilled player. By obtaining Kane you solve 2 problems, even strength scoring and a severe lack of grit and toughness. Gorten get Evander Kane ASAP.

  2. amy says:

    Jaesper had an excellent game on Wednesday night in Carolina and so did Kreider but it is time for zucc to kick it up a notch good luck tonight boys and on sunday as well see you on Tuesday and Friday

  3. Richter1994 says:

    There are several issues with the 5 on 5 scoring.

    The first is simply lack of talent. Which Ranger is on shooting par with the likes of Tarasenko, Ovi, Malkin, etc? Or even a cut below those star players? Nash is the closest thing and his skills are declining. Shooting, like every other facet of hockey, is a skill and talent and it is quite evident that Zib is now their best “goal scorer” with the best shot on the team.

    So, with the lack of bonfide shooting goal scorers, the next way to get around that flaw is to SHOOT the puck and CRASH THE NET, looking for rebounds and 2nd chances.

    I mean honestly, ho many odd man rushes result in not even getting a shot on goal? Or how many prime scoring chances are passed up because the Rangers are looking to score beauty points for a goal?

    We all pretty much agree that this is not an overly talented team, so firing pucks at opposing goalies while looking for rebounds and put backs. All too often the Rangers are “one and done” meaning they are content by taking a shot from the outside with no one in front, that usually results in the goalie making the save and holding it for a face off. This happens all too often.

    Then there’s deployment. I love Fast, but he’s in the top 6. Really? I would:

    KZB
    Nash-Hayes-Zuc
    Vesey-Miller-Grabner
    Lettieri-Nieves-Fast

    It’s also important to get the slower D men out of the line up to generate offense from the back end to help 5 on 5 scoring. If the Rangers do not get better in this area, then come January when teams start to play better, the Rangers could be left out of a playoff spot.

    • Playground 9 says:

      My only tweak is Lettieri on the right with Vesey and Miller. He shoots right which is uncommon on this team and think he would fit well with Vesey and Miller. Grabs with Boo and Fast.
      Wish they would give Lettieri a shot – even just a couple of games – see how he performs. Love his style of up tempo grinding hockey. Plus then I could shut up about him……

      • Richter1994 says:

        I’m ok with that PG9.

      • RichS says:

        Spot on again for you Playground 9 !!!!! Not sure whats taking so long for Letteri to get a shot here…….up tempo , grinding hockey…..thats what I liked about him as well…….

    • Eddie!Eddie!Eddie! says:

      Richter-

      I largely agree with your premise. I’ve said this many, many times—historically speaking anyway, this is a team with good but not great talent that yields good but not great results. I still cringe every time I see Tarasenko in a Blues uniform. That one critical drafting mistake is likely the primary reason why the Rangers have not won a Cup in this current era. We lack that one true elite scoring weapon that strikes fear in the hearts of defenders and goaltenders every time he is on the ice.

      But that ship has long since sailed. Where are we now? Well, perhaps, just perhaps, we are starting to see the emergence of certain players like Buch, like Mika. Still too soon to tell. I will say this about our 5v5 play. Over the last four games, 11 of the last 12 goals the Rangers have scored have been done when at even strength. Is that more a function off the PP leveling off more so than the 5v5 improving? I’d say it’s too soon to tell. But there are signs that perhaps the 5v5 is improving.

      On the line deployments, I do think there is a tendency by you and others to overthink it. Coach Q has been shuffling and shaking up lines quite frequently thus far, trying to find the right combinations in Chicago. If he were here (my fantasy choice for our next coach), would our lines really look much different? I’m not no sure.

      I think we place too much emphasis on who is really a second line guy vs a fourth line guy. That seems a little too old school for me. In this day and age, I suspect if you talked to most coaches, they don’t look at players that way all that much anymore. It’s more about line chemistry, what is working, and who it is working with. And unless you have GAG line type talent, lines are subject to be shuffled and broken up more frequently than many fans might like.

      It is long been debated here where Fast should play. In an ideal world, with the enough high end talent, I’d say you are right…he’s probably more of a 4th line guy. But what is wrong with having him on the second line? He does the dirty work, is a good passer, rarely makes defensive mistakes, and allows his more naturally skilled linemates to shine. There is a reason why it has been reported that his teammates literally lobby the coaching staff to have him on this lines.

      So I’m not saying you are right or wrong here. I just think this is one of those overblown narratives that really doesnt matter all that much. Good coaches usually tinker, especially when things aren’t working as they should. The league now a days is more about four lines that work, and not as much labeling guys as top pairs or bottom pairs, especially when you are a team like the Rangers that lacks the high end talent that other contenders have.

      As for Lettieri, I fail to understand your obsession with him. He is having a nice year in the AHL….right up there with former Rangers Chris Bourque and Ryan Haggerty. Are the Pens and Caps similarly foolish for not calling those guys up? I am sure that Chris Drury and company will know when and if the kid is ready. This is the same argument as we saw with DeAngelo, our October obsession. Now he’s back in the minors and looking pretty ordinary, so our November obsession has shifted to Lettieri. Obviously, if those guys were ready, they’d be here. They obviously aren’t ready quite yet. I just had a delicious Thanksgiving dinner. But I don’t want to eat it until it’s actually ready, otherwise it will be disappointing.

      The Rangers are one of the hottest teams in hockey right now, and yet despite going 8-2, they are still out of the playoffs at the moment. Every point is crucial right now. Experimenting with iffy minor leaguers on a team with less than remarkable talent to compensate for the growing pains is a recipe for disaster if the goal is to make the playoffs.

      The best course is what we are seeing. Ride what is working, Get the ship righted. Let Lettieri and DeAngelo get valuable development time. Then, when they are ready and the team is ready for them, THEN they get called up.

      • Richter1994 says:

        The Tarasenko and the Cherapanov (RIP) drafts were devastating to the franchise for different reasons, obviously. I don’t know why the franchise refuses to draft high end forward talent. Even look at Gropp vs. Sprong. Sprong was the best natural goal scorer in the draft and was available after the Rangers made the Hagelin trade. Dumb.

        Fast does not have the offensive skills for top 9. Plus his excellent board work is perfect for the 4th line. It drives possession and helps create scoring chances against opponent matchups (meaning their 4th line) that will result in scoring chances. You put 2 young players with him that have some skill and they will be a productive 4th line unit.

        I’m not obsessed with Lettieri. I want him up based on the stiffs who are playing now. Carey tries, no question, but he’s a 28 year old AHL lifer. I liked Vinnie’s camp and I had hoped he would stick here. I understood his Hartford time but he’s older after playing college and he’s proven that he can play the game. I would much rather give a spot to him than Carey or DD, especially in November to find out if he has the NHL goods.

    • Reenavipul says:

      It’s important to get the slower D out of the lineup so we don’t have to rely on stretch passes and use the talent on the blue line to carry the puck out of their own end. When they do it, it works.

      Try it that way, recycle if the exit isn’t there, when the forecheck shape gets broken then think about the stretch.

      • Richter1994 says:

        I agree and having the faster back end is in line with AV’s up tempo system.

        That’s what makes me crazy about the coach, he wants up tempo but then doesn’t play the players that play that style. I think he’s bipolar.

        • Eddie!Eddie!Eddie! says:

          And the faster D choices that are NHL ready available to the team at the moment are who exactly? Even in the past, name an example of where AV did that? And please, don’t go with the exteremely mediocre former Ranger now toiling away in Tucson, Adam Clendening. 🙂

          The roster construction is the job of the GM. The lineup is what it is. I don’t see that at all as a referendum on the coach.

  4. Mikeyyy says:

    Regression to the mean sucks.

  5. Spozo says:

    I think their lack of 5v5 scoring is directly related to their lack of depth down the middle. Hayes is being forced to take the heavy defensive assignments (they have literally no other choice about this right now). If you shift miller to center then you lose his production on the wing.

    This ones on Gorton and his offseason moves. But maybe the Stepan trade was never about putting a good team on the ice this season. Maybe Gorton was ready to concede this season (not only by not competing for the cup, but possibly missing the playoffs outright) and is setting this team up for success in the future. I’m afraid of how Gorton addresses the hole down the middle in a trade. I would much rather be patient and wait until Chytil is ready than to gut whatever young talent we have to add an over 30 center just to try and make the playoffs this season.

    • Mintgecko says:

      Stepan was suppose to be traded the summer before last and even he has come out to admitt that. Teams like the Wild didn’t think he was worth giving up their youth and I’m sure the USA alumni team of Parise and Sutter didn’t put a good word in for him. I highly doubt JG put time away in the big apple to call a season a scratch after he traded him and he definitely wouldn’t do that to Hank. Plot twist: Hank and AV told the higher ups that this team has a better chance at competing with names like Shatty and Mika with Hayes as your 1c and 2c. There’s proof that he’s told the press that this was his rebuild on the fly and that he thinks that the NYR can contend for the cup.

    • Richter1994 says:

      I’ve said this many times Spozo, and you can check back during the summer the comments of both Gorton and AV: They both thought that they would have a deal in place as the back up plan for trading Stepan. AV even made it sound like a trade was “imminent” at that time. Didn’t happen for whatever reason.

      I heard that the Rangers were in on Duchene big time and even had a fair market vale trade on the table (I don’t know who the Rangers were that were to be in the deal).

      Then, Chytil and Andersson were not NHL ready and here we are.

      It was never about a real rebuild, but more like competing while getting younger, similar to the Brass for Zib deal. Gorton was obsessed with dumping Stepan and his NTC (and $6.5M cap hit) because they were convinced that it would be downhill from here for Derek AND the Ranger believe that both Andersson and Chytil will both be in the line up next year.

      Hayes is a trade chip after this year, so don’t be surprised if he is traded as he is an RFA with arb rights, so his next contract may be in the $4M per range.

  6. Pete says:

    One quibble Dave, and I hate to harp on Grabner again but will do it anyway!

    Grabner shot over 14% over the regular season for the Rangers last year. Then, he shot 15% in the playoffs. He has had a few seasons where he shot close to 14% in his career. What that tells me is if you deploy him properly, you have a guy capable of netting 20 goals because of his speed, nose for the net and his general hockey acumen. He also defends quite well. While definitely a role player, it is befuddling why Grabner just gets no respect from some. He’s been great on this team. May it continue!

    • Reenavipul says:

      What’s the sh% for Grabner if you take out empty netters?

      • Pete says:

        He gets empty netters because of his smarts and speed. Why discount them? Also, he doesn’t miss many. Can that be said of some others on the team. Ha! 🙂

      • Mancunian Candidate says:

        What’s Hank’s SV% in his last 10 straight starts, since you laughably called him injured with a sprained MCL that never actually happened in real life?

    • RichS says:

      Agree 100 % Pete……..grabner also , I believe, led the rangers in plus -minus last season and had 26 even strength goals to lead the team!!!!!
      By the way for all the stepan lovers he had only 12……….and even zucc had just 10!!!!!!!!!……Imagine how many total goals grabner would of had if he got PP time?????//
      I have been saying it for 2 years now……dont trade him , dont expose him in the expansion draft [ lucky we didnt lose him] , lock him up for the next 3 years!!!!!!!!!!!

      • Eddie!Eddie!Eddie! says:

        Rich-

        You are overreacting once again! Grabner has been great, but in a salary cap world locking him up long term will not be easy. If he has another big year, you think he will give the Rangers a discount? I doubt it. The Rangers have some big decisions to make with RFAs—your elite beasts Hayes and Miller, not to mention Vesey and Skjei—all of whom will get some pretty nice size raises.

        So retaining Grabner will really depend on what he will command on the open market, and I suspect it will be probably double what he is making now. He will be 31 next year. I’m not so sure that the Rangers, who are obviously trying to get younger, will go 3 years/$3.3 million.

        • Pete says:

          I would agree with you on that Eddie. I don’t want to lock up a 30+ guy long term. The salary cap makes you constantly have to shed players you’d rather keep if circumstances were different. Grabner has been awesome. If he nets over 20 again, and it seems that he is likely to do so, then his next contract will probably be too rich for the Rangers’s needs and cap situation. However, the guy has been fun to watch.

          • Eddie!Eddie!Eddie! says:

            In fact, I’d go a step further. If (and hopefully it doesnt come to this), the Rangers are not a contender….. Let’s say McDonagh is in fact hurt and is out long term, and maybe the Rangers suffer another injury, I’d look to deal him prior to the deadline to grab some picks and/or future prospects. Nash as well.

            Grabner has been a wonderful addition to this team, but his age and likely his future contract demands make him a risky proposition long term.

            • Pete says:

              I’d agree on that too. If they are out of contention, all of their older players would be potential trade bait for younger skilled players and picks. Grabner and Nash definitely.

        • RichS says:

          3E
          You may be right salary cap wise…..I really dont factor it in , but maybe I should…..that being said Nash comes off the books I think, so that is what, 7 million saved and at 34?
          I would rather give grabner the 3 years at 3.3 if that gets it done……
          Also, maybe stall gets bought out and thats 5? million more? I dont know how a buyout works…….
          And the good news …is .. My elites…..hayes , miller , vesey are NOT having big scoring years so that is a benefit for cap money going forward….

          • Mancunian Candidate says:

            Your elites are not elite. Vesey sucks, and Hayes & Miller are decent players at best.

            • Richter1994 says:

              I think you’re being a bit harsh MC. Here’s my list.

              Elite: King, McD (when he’s healthy), Shatty.

              Very good: Zib (he could turn out to be elite), Nash, Zuc, Buch (he could turn out to be elite), Skjei.

              Good: Hayes, Miller, Kreider (should be elite), Grabner, Fast.

              Average: Vesey, Smith.

              No use for them: Staal, Holden, Kampfer, DD, Carey.

              Too early to tell: Boo.

              The bottom line is that if this team is going to contend then it needs a solid line up for all lines and all pairs, because there is no one player they can rely on to get a goal at a moment’s notice.

              • Mancunian Candidate says:

                I don’t think I’m being too harsh—elite is a very specific word, and the 3 guys RichS named are nowhere near elite player status. Elite to me means the top 10 at a position across the entire NHL spectrum. NYR doesn’t have a single skater who fits that category. Lundqvist is the only one who’d qualify and though he’s rebounded nicely into a top 10 elite goalie already this season, he slipped off that list (just barely, playoffs showed he could still dominate) with his relatively poor regular season last year. McDonagh sits outside this grouping, he’s not in the same class as the truly elite defenders in this league even when healthy.

                And seriously? RichS calls Jimmy Vesey elite? The guy is garbage on skates….as far as Miller, his horrendous playoff stats pretty much invalidate his one good NHL season. Simply can’t be called elite or great with his playoff track record. And Hayes is a decent to good player, nothing more—he is who he is at this point. A guy who isn’t in the right role to maximize his abilities, whose 50-55 point ability is withering on the vine due to lack of PP time and the coach’s weird insistence upon making Hayes a shutdown center. Again, there’s no elite talent here among the skaters—but they are a relatively formidable collection of good, fast, athletic players nonetheless.

              • Eddie!Eddie!Eddie! says:

                I’m not sure I would classify McDonagh as elite. I put him in the next category. Shatty is an elite PP specialist. He’s never really been an elite player. Indeed, he’s never really been a first pair guy. I’d put him in the next category.

                Even Hank, as great as he is playing at the moment, I would classify as “elite emeritus”. He’s been elite in the past and is playing elite now, but is it realistic that he can maintain this play at age 35? I will take “very good” from him at this point.

                The rest I would agree with until you get to the end. I don’t think Staal, Holden, Kampfer and even DD have been bad. Kampfer and Holden in fact are playing well right now. Staal has been fine. DD ok. Carey gets an incomplete in my book.

              • Eddie!Eddie!Eddie! says:

                MC-

                Rich has a tendency to go a bit overboard in his characterizations of our players, that is certainly true. I largely agree with you.

                The only thing I would disagree with you here is Vesey. Certainly, he is not elite, nor do I foresee him ever being elite. But “garbage on skates”? That seems a little harsh. He’s a young player, still learning the NHL game, probably projects out to be a solid contributor but nothing more than that. For his role on the team, I think he’s fine.