The Rangers own again last night in Colorado, and are now 6-0-2 in their last eight games. Now the Rangers make the short trip back to Phoenix to wrap up the season series against the Coyotes. The Yotes score a lot (3 goals per game) and get scored on a lot (also 3 goals per game). They have a lot of young skill, but minimal depth. Antoine Vermette is also injured, which takes away from their offensive punch and already short depth.
The Yotes should eventually fall back to lottery territory, but it’s about when you play a team. They are still relatively scary, since the goaltending has been good and the scoring has been coming in bunches. Mike Smith is down to a .904 SV% though, so putting shots on him will go a long way.
What have they done lately?
*-No goal breakdown from last night or tonight. I’m at a wedding in Maryland. Sorry.
The Rangers won again last night, this time beating the Colorado Avalanche by a score of 2-1. This makes the Rangers 6-0-2 in their last eight games, and 9-2-2 to start the season. They sit atop the Metro Division, and this marks the first time in recent memory that an Alain Vigneault team didn’t start the season with a .500 record.
With any hot start, there are a lot of things to like about the Rangers. But with any hot start, there are some pretty big flaws that are being masked at the moment.
What to Like
The Rangers escaped with a win against Washington, and are now 5-0-2 in their last seven games. They are in Denver tonight to take on the Colorado Avalanche. The Avs are pretty bad this year, as expected. They can score goals (33 in 12 games), but allow even more (36) due to porous defense and shaky goaltending.
With the Rangers rolling and the Avs struggling, on paper this seems to be a mismatch. The Rangers are incredibly deep and should be able to exploit poor goaltending and bad defense. Even against good teams, the Rangers are able to exploit teams that can’t match their depth. The Avs also played last night, so they should be a bit tired.
Fun fact: This is one of those games where we get to say, “Oh wow, the Avs still have Alex Tanguay?”
What have they done lately?
Per Andrew Gross, Alain Vigneault moved J.T. Miller up to the second line with Chris Kreider and Derek Stepan. Jesper Fast was back to the fourth line, rotating with Dominic Moore, Jarret Stoll, and Emerson Etem. The other two lines remained the same.
The defense pairings remained the same.
Update: Rick Nash is day-to-day after twisting his back at practice.
Toronto Marlies 5, Hartford Wolf Pack 0
By Phil Oxnard
Hartford, CT, November 4, 2015 – The Hartford Wolf Pack drew a crowd of 5,976 to their annual “Sonar’s Edu-Skate” school-day game Wednesday at the XL Center, but the Toronto Marlies spoiled the day with a 5-0 defeat of the Wolf Pack.
Marlies goaltender Garret Sparks dominated the net, saving all 30 shots against him, and former Yale Eli, and Milford, CT native, Mark Arcobello had a goal and an assist for Toronto.
Wolf Pack captain Ryan Bourque said, “Every team goes through this, so we’re just gonna come to work tomorrow and try to get better.”
The Wolf Pack defense started out strong, not allowing any shots in the first five minutes. Toronto had an opportunity on a power play at 4:23 when Hartford’s Tanner Glass was penalized for boarding, but Hartford’s defense stayed strong.
The Rangers got off to a quick start against the Caps last night, jumping out to a 1-0 lead early on an Oscar Lindberg goal. After relinquishing the lead, the Rangers scored three straight and never looked back en route to a 5-2 win. The Rangers scored twice in the second, but they were completely dominated in that period. Elite goaltending was the difference here, as Henrik Lundqvist was sensational in that period. Hank stopped 13 of 14 shots, including two powerplays.
The top line looked really good in this game, as Mats Zuccarello, Derick Brassard, and Rick Nash pressured the Caps constantly, got a few scoring chances, and buried two goals in the second period. That said, it was only the third line that finished in the black in the possession game. This shouldn’t surprise anyone, as the Caps basically pinned the Rangers in their own zone for two periods. Just one goal though, and that was the difference.
The Rangers are back in action tonight, taking on the Washington Capitals for the first time since Derek Stepan completed a 3-1 series comeback. That’s the back story behind this game, that the Caps are out for revenge. But let’s be honest here. The revenge they seek would be in the playoffs, not in Game 12 of the regular season.
The Caps bolstered their forward depth this offseason by signing Justin Williams and trading Joel Ward for T.J. Oshie. They lost Mike Green, but between Nate Schmidt and Dmitry Orlov –and John Carlson on the powerplay– they haven’t really missed a beat. It will likely be the Rangers and Caps in a bloodbath for the Metro Division as the season progresses.
What have they done lately?
It feels like the Rangers are on an NFL schedule lately. One game per week, nothing really doing in between the games. It’s a bit boring, and it honestly makes for a difficult week, since there’s not much to write about. The same old topics are the same old topics, so here are just some of my random thoughts before this game tonight.
- The goaltending duo of Henrik Lundqvist and Antti Raanta has been outstanding to start the season, but they won’t continue with a .960 SV% at even strength. Naturally this means more goals, but if the defense starts waking up a bit and limiting shots, then we might not see an overall difference in goals against. That’s a big if though.
- Speaking of the defense, a lot of folks are killing Alain Vigneault for putting Dan Girardi back with Ryan McDonagh against Alex Ovechkin. Over the past three seasons, Girardi’s done a solid job shutting him down, so it’s not crazy. Ovechkin’s style is to cut back to the middle and use his defenseman as a screen for a shot. He’s not someone who will burn you to the outside, which is what Girardi struggles with. On paper, it makes sense to at least try, even with Girardi’s regression this season.
- That said, Girardi is getting older and his effectiveness in the past may not translate to future success against Ovechkin. Won’t know until tonight, though.
Lazy narratives are everywhere. They exist prominently in all sports, but the ones in hockey are almost unbearable. Carolyn Wilke went on a great rant about lazy hockey narratives (beginning with this tweet, you should read it). The focus of the rant is around the statement, “He is tough to play against.” What exactly makes the player tough to play against? Board battles? Tough to get off the puck? A little more detail in that statement please. It’s lazy and doesn’t add value.
But there’s one thing that is generally ignored, and something I’m seeing a lot of lately. That is lazy narratives among “stats people.” These exist too. Hockey is a very situational and matchup dependent game. Some guys excel in one system that plays to their strengths while failing in another. Some guys play well against some slower opponents but not some faster players. This is one aspect of the stats analysis that is missing, and it’s because we may not have the tools to do so.
The Rangers have assigned goalie Mackenzie Skapski to the ECHL’s Greenville Swamp Rabbits. Skapski has not seen any action thus far due to injury. With Magnus Hellberg playing well in Hartford, Skapski needs playing time to rehab his injury, and the ECHL is the only logical choice at the moment.
My guess is that Skapski will be back in the AHL relatively soon.