The All Star break is over, and now begins the playoff push for the Rangers. They’ve been playing better of late, 6-3-1 in their last ten, but the overall performance has still left something to be desired. The process is certainly better on the ice, and the forwards have been better as well, but defensive issues remain.
This is a rather important game for the Rangers, as the Devils are four points behind the Blueshirts, but the Rangers have a game in hand. A regulation win makes it a six point cushion with a game in hand –potentially eight point lead– which is almost insurmountable with the three-point game system we have today.
It’s amazing how quickly public opinion can turn on a player. Last year Kevin Hayes could do no wrong, aside from faceoffs. This year, he’s the worst player on the team and needs to be traded. I find this to be humorous, because these are not only opposite ends of the spectrum, but incorrect talent evaluations. It’s one made from subjectivity, not objectivity.
In reality, Kevin Hayes is just fine. Hayes has seen better performance in relative Corsi (up to 3.0 from 2.2 last season), shots on goal (on pace for 144 this season, to 111 last season), and assists (on pace for 30 assists to 25 last year). People are focusing on his seven goals, which is down from last year. But in reality, I think it’s just unrealistic expectations that are causing all this unwarranted hate.
The first half of the 2015-2016 season for the Rangers can only be described as a roller coaster. They stormed out of the gate with three quick wins before going 0-2-1 to level expectations. Then came the run that no one could have predicted, going 13-1-1 over the next 15 games to start the season at 16-3-2, a team record. Then came the fall, as the Rangers went 3-9-2 over their next 14, literally crashing down to Earth.
The process was terrible throughout, but the recent games from the end of December through January have been cause for hope. The process is improving, and the team has started to turn it around, going 6-3-1 in their last ten games. But like every team not based in Washington D.C., there are a few questions that the Rangers will need to find answers for heading into the second half of the season.
The East won the Skills Competition last night, with full results here. The highlight was definitely P.K. Subban donning a Panthers jersey/mullet wig and doing his best Jaromir Jagr impression, complete with the salute. Ryan McDoangh participated in the Skills Challenge Relay, with his team losing his heat.
Today is the 3-on-3 tournament by division, with the winning teams in the opening round playing once more in the finals. Use this as your open thread to discuss the skills competition, the game, or anything else you want.
It was a Glen Sather staple. Perhaps the last of a dying breed of the black-and-white “all-in” or “rebuild.” It was the all-in move, one that is rarely seen today, that has cost the Rangers four first round picks and the best and most electric prospect this organization has seen in what feels like a generation.
Starting at the 2014 trade deadline, the Rangers went for it all, which was the right choice. They had previously sacrificed a first round pick for Rick Nash, a deal they absolutely had to make and really didn’t cost them much in the grand scheme of things. But they then sacrificed two first round picks –and captain Ryan Callahan– for an aging Martin St. Louis. He brought that scoring punch. The Rangers lost in the Stanley Cup Final in the closest five game series you will ever see.
So I didn’t get home until the second period, and that’s the only period of the game I caught. Instead of a goal breakdown, let’s go through a bullet point list of what I noticed.
- The speed by Viktor Stalberg sure is something. That’s something the Rangers don’t do enough, which is build speed through the neutral zone and get defenders on their heels. It leads to great chances and penalties, like it did with Cody Franson. That’s why the Rangers don’t get many powerplay opportunities, it’s because they aren’t generating speed through the neutral zone.
- That powerplay needs to just pull the trigger. Too many times I saw them defer to the pass or to someone who makes more money. It’s a tad ridiculous. If you have a lane, shoot the puck. If you don’t have a lane, be patient and move. Which is another thing they don’t really do that much: Move. They skate in circles around where they are supposed to positioned, instead of creating space.
After yesterday’s stinker, the Rangers are back home for one last game before the All Star break against the Sabres. These aren’t the same Sabres from last year that Mackenzie Skapski blanked twice. The Sabres basically built their top line in three months, getting Evander Kane, Jack Eichel, and Ryan O’Reilly in separate moves from the trade deadline through the draft.
The good news is that while they are certainly capable of scoring, they haven’t. That’s likely due to lack of depth at forward and defensemen that can push the puck up the ice (sound familiar?). Their team has skill, but hasn’t put all the depth and have very poor possession numbers. This is not a strong team, but they are a talented team. The Rangers usually feast on teams that lack depth, so this should be a good opportunity for a rebound game.
Winter storm Jonas affected the Rangers’ travel plans, meaning they didn’t skate for two days before the game yesterday, and it showed. The Rangers were just flat all game, getting outworked, outmuscled, and just overall outplayed by the Sens all game. The Blueshirts had no answer for the Sens forecheck, which pressured the Rangers into multiple turnovers and forced some great saves from Henrik Lundqvist.
While the defense was shaky for most of the game, it was the inability to generate sustained offense that killed the Rangers. They had very few legitimate scoring chances, and the only two I can really pinpoint hopped over sticks. One of them actually led to the second goal by the Sens. Just a rough game all around for the Rangers, who really needed to build on two strong games prior.
As always, you can view the full videos on our video page here.
All GIFs are on nyrgifs.com, filtered under the date of the game. I crossed out that sentence because this was the first game in the history of that site that I did not add a single gif to the site. I add the ones that people might like to search by, and there was not one worthwhile gif to keep at easy access.
On to the goals:
The Rangers are coming off two very strong wins against Vancouver and Carolina where they played the game the way we’ve come to expect. They dominated both games through and through, both on the ice and on the scoreboard (yes, there’s a difference).
The Sens are struggling mightily right now. They’ve given up 11 goals in the past two games to noted offensive juggernauts the Devils and the Islanders. They’ve also given up a whopping 28 goals in their past six games. Suffice it to say, the goaltending and the defense are slightly suspect, especially without Marc Methot. Kyle Turris is hurt as well.
This is another opportunity for the Rangers to really build on what they’ve put together the last two games. They’ve played relatively solid team defense, they’ve generated sustained offense, and they’ve capitalized on chances. A third win in a row, for the first time since their nine game win streak, would be nice.
Two questions for this week’s mailbag. As always, email us your questions using the form on the right.
Felix asks: Given all the (well deserved) criticism about AV’s stubbornness in sticking with declining aging players, why do think he hasn’t learned his lesson from his Vancouver days and is seemingly recreating his own demise, this time in New York?
This is tough to answer. Part of AV’s dismissal in Vancouver was due to reluctance to play younger guys. That appears to be true this year, especially with Dylan McIlrath. However Chris Kreider, J.T. Miller, and Kevin Hayes have all flourished under AV. The argument can be made that Kreider, Miller, and Hayes all had to play, as the Rangers had no other option and that when there is an option, AV leans on veterans at the detriment to the team.