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Jan
26

Tear it down

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(GENE J. PUSKAR/AP)

Even With last night’s win against the Sharks, the Rangers head into the All-Star break in a complete free fall.  We have all known for months that the process has sucked, and Henrik Lundqvist had been keeping the team afloat.  Well, now that Chris Kreider is hurt and a consistent rotation of random injuries keep hitting the roster, the team has had to bring up a carousel of AHL talent.  The goals are starting to dry up and Alain Vigneault’s “quality over quantity” system has stalled.

For the past several years, the deployment and systems philosophy had run contrary to our conventional understanding of hockey analytics, and the Rangers’ relative success had many analysts questioning whether the team existed between the lines of the current stats.  While it still might be a true statement, this years’ incarnation (which had apparent depth issues from the outset) has put any evanescent hopes of contention firmly out of reality. Read More→

Categories : Rants
Comments (87)
Jan
19

Random Friday Thoughts

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Photo credit: Julie Jacobson

With their nail biter win last night, the Rangers have now won two in a row and the process looks a lot better than it did a week ago, despite a rash of injuries.  The Blueshirts have four games remaining before the All-Star break, all against Western Conference opponents.  Should be an interesting week. Anyway, I have some thoughts…

1. It’s nice to see Rick Nash see some reward for his effort.  According to Matthew Barlowe (@matt_barlowe), Nash leads the Rangers in discrepancy between his iXG (expected goals) and actual goals.  The implication here is that Nash is snake bitten, which is certainly true, but I think there is also reality that he just simply isn’t the finisher that he used to be.  He still creates, as he is 26th in the league overall in iXG, and we are seeing some of that statistical correction this week, with four goals in his past two games.  This raises his season total to 13 on the season, which increases his pace to just over 23 goals for the season.  Obviously, not what you would expect for a $7.8 million cap hit, but this is still a very useful player the team should re-sign if the cost is reasonable.

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Categories : Uncategorized
Comments (16)
Jan
12

Mid-season report card: the goalies

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Jared Silber/NHLI via Getty Images

The Rangers went into this season with question marks surrounding both of their goaltenders.  Henrik Lundqvist was shaking off questions about an uncharacteristically poor season last year, and Ondrej Pavelec, Benoit Allaire’s latest pet project, had one foot out of the NHL.  There were good reasons for fans and pundits alike to be skeptical of the stability in the Ranger crease, especially with Lundqvist turning 36 this season and the ridiculously high-quality backup goaltenders the Rangers have had the past four years.

At the halfway mark of the season, it seems that many of those fears have been unfounded (mine included), as both goaltenders have been strong through the team’s first 42 games. Let’s a dig a little deeper at each of their respective performances, shall we?

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Comments (9)
Jan
05

Poll: the Rangers’ deadline approach

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(AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)

As the Rangers approach the half-way mark the season, they find themselves in an interesting spot.  They currently sit in the first wild-card spot, three points from dropping out of the playoff picture entirely, yet only four points from home ice advantage in the first round.  They have a soon-to-be 36 year-old franchise goaltender with more three seasons remaining on his contract at $8.5m per year.  They have several attractive soon-to-be UFA forwards on the roster in the form of Rick Nash and Michael Grabner.  They also have a surprising amount of young talent at the NHL level for a team that has been in full stop “go for it” mode for over a decade.

The team plays a counter-punching style, focusing on creating high-danger scoring chances, and relying on quality over quantity in the shots department.  This has created a difficult analysis in determining whether they actually have a sustainable profile as a contender.  There have been ups and downs in performance so, far, creating a “will the real New York Rangers please stand up” scenario over the season’s first half.  There are deployment issues and a fan base looking at a coach with a razor thin margin.  There is no question there are depth issues, personnel issues and coaching issues when determining whether this team is capable of making a run.

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Comments (60)
Dec
29

Some Friday thoughts

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www.NHL.com

The Rangers showed improved process on Wednesday night, winning a nail biter against Washington in a shootout.  They look to build on that game tonight against the Red Wings in Detroit.  The big news the past few days was the loss of Chris Kreider to a blood clot in his arm.  With these developments and the Winter Classic coming up, as you can imagine, I have some thoughts…

1. First, the Kreider injury.  This is one of those situations where the health of a human being supersedes anything hockey related.  First and foremost, you hope Kreider makes a full recovery, simply because blood clots can be extremely dangerous.  Complications can lead to stroke or heart attack.  Get well soon, Mr. Kreider. Read More→

Categories : Musings
Comments (10)

(AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)

Last night, the Rangers fell in a shootout to the division rival NJ Devils, a game in which they were severely outplayed.  These things happen over the course of an 82-game season, chock it up to a bad performance and move on.  Unfortunately, this game was just another in a string of games that begins to show a developing pattern.  The macro is that the Rangers are surviving, if not thriving at the moment, in the face of all of current analytics than tend to predict success.

The micro is that Henrik Lundqvist is facing a massively heavy workload and is a huge reason why the Rangers are back in the playoff picture.

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Categories : Goaltending
Comments (20)
Dec
15

A difference in goaltending styles

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Jared Silber/NHLI via Getty Images

So far this season, Henrik Lundqvist has received the bulk of the playing time for the Rangers.  Hank had played remarkably well considering the Rangers are currently dead last in the league in xGA/60 and 27th in the league in CF% (all stats per Corsica.hockey).  Alain Vigneault has leaned on Lundqvist heavily as the Blueshirts have tried to rebound from their putrid start to try to gain solid footing in the division race.  This adjustment has forced Ondrej Pavelec into a much lesser role than the organization originally intended, as they had hoped he would be a ~25 game backup.  So far, he has started only five games.

When the signing was originally announced, I wasn’t crazy about it.  Spoiled by four consecutive years of high-quality backup performances by Cam Talbot and Antti Raanta, I didn’t see the same level of success coming from Pavelec.  After all, Talbot and Raanta were both younger goaltenders hoping to take the next step in their development and be in a position to start.  With Pavelec, that ship had already sailed and he was looking to retain a roster spot in the NHL.  At 30, his style was what it was and had no real reason to make meaningful adjustments.

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Categories : Analysis, Goaltending
Comments (6)
Dec
08

Thoughts before the Caps game tonight

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NY Daily News

It’s been a bit of a slow week in Rangerland.  Credit only having two games since I last posted, I suppose.  The Blueshirts take on the Caps tonight, in the wake of Barry Trotz’ completely unnecessary criticism of Kevin Shattenkirk; the Rangers should have some motivation to make him eat his words.  In any event, I have some thoughts…

1. The Rangers have gone 7-3-0 in their past ten games and they are still sixth (!) in the Metro.  It just goes to show what a meat grinder this division is.  The five teams ahead of them are separated by a single point. A single point. At least the Rangers have games in hand on everyone but the Devils, who are still inexplicably sitting atop the pile.  The Rangers also have the second-best goal differential in the division, so hopefully regression will hit some of those other clubs a bit harder in the coming weeks.

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Categories : Musings
Comments (28)

NBC Sports

There is no way around it; Mika Zibanejad going down with a concussion is about the worst case scenario for the Rangers short of losing Henrik Lundqvist (especially on a senseless, late hit like that).  With already severely compromised center depth, both the short and potential long-term blow to the lineup is massive.  When the season started there were serious concerns about the lack of qualified replacements for Derek Stepan and Oscar Lindberg.  The Blueshirts were left with a ragtag group in the bottom six, and now their depth will be tested even further. Read More→

Nov
17

Some quick Friday thoughts

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(Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Happy Friday, BSB faithful!  Through more or less the quarter season mark, it has been the tale of two campaigns for the Rangers thus far: the tire fire first twelve games, which saw the Blueshirts go 3-7-2 and the much improved last seven games, when they went 6-1-0.  The Rangers have jumped back into the playoff picture with the win streak, so naturally, I have some thoughts…

1. As Dave has mentioned several times, the need for another center (or forward depth in general) just isn’t going away.  Mika Zibanejad has been a revelation and Kevin Hayes has been a much more effective 2C than I would have imagined.  However, for this team to actually contend, they need to be able to create matchup headaches lower in the lineup. Read More→

Categories : Musings
Comments (63)