Happy 2017, BSB faithful! Now that that the dumpster fire that was 2016 is in the books, time to get back to business. The Rangers have had something of an interesting week; a horrific showing against Buffalo, a nice bounce back win against Philly, some defensive adjustments and a looming matchup with the red-hot Blue Jackets. Unfortunately, the Caps bludgeoned Columbus last night, so we won’t get to see our potentially record breaking showdown, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have some thoughts…
1) Since the back-to-back shellacking’s against Minnesota and Pittsburgh, the Rangers have had a very soft schedule, and for the most part, have taken advantage. There were some suspect performances along the way, but you could do a whole lot worse than 4-1 through that stretch.
The Rangers have gone 8-3 in their last eleven games, which is obviously a good thing. However, there has been some really bad process along the way. I don’t think there is any question at this point that the Rangers are most definitely a playoff team, but the bigger concern lies in their ability to win a seven game series with the likes of the Penguins and Capitals.
At BSB, we analyze performance on a game-by-game basis, while trying to identify good and bad traits in what is happening on the ice. We also like to take macro view of overall production and trends, which can hopefully be predictive of future performance and adjustments that need to be made for sustained success. I suppose what makes analyzing this stretch of Rangers’ hockey frustrating is the injuries to several key forwards, namely Rick Nash, Mika Zibanejad and Pavel Buchnevich.
Last night during the Rangers 2-0 win over the Dallas Stars, Henrik Lundqvist was absolutely decimated by an extremely dirty hit from Cody Eakin (see below). Lundqvist left the ice for league mandated concussion protocols, but returned approximately five minutes later to ultimately finish the game and the shutout.
There does not seem to be much doubt around the league that the hit was deplorable and Eakin is deserving of supplementary discipline. However, it has again spurned the discussion of the Rangers’ response to the hit and the role of goaltenders and their safety outside the sanctum of their crease. I’d like to talk about both of those things today.
The Rangers are in a weird spot right now. Still riding their hot start, they remain tied for the second highest point total in the NHL, with a comfortable playoff position and league best goal differential. On the other hand, they are only 5-4-1 in their last ten games, they are missing four (!) top nine forwards and have seen their shot differentials trending in the way wrong direction.
So, how are we currently supposed to be feeling as Ranger fans? We know the defense has not been up to snuff. Henrik Lundqvist has not been his usual self so far this season (sidebar: I plan to do an analysis shortly about why exactly that is) and the Rangers ability to create offensive chances can be stifled with conservative neutral zone tactics. Yet, despite all this, they are having (overall) success. Now, the old analytics argument is starting to rear its ugly head again on regression versus fan enjoyment, but there are a lot of moving parts here. Let’s break it down a little. Read More→
The Rangers return to a more civilized time zone tonight, after a massively successful western Canadian swing. After an embarrassing loss to the Canucks the week before, the Rangers bore down for the victory to close out the trip, despite some of their depth being tested. Tonight, they will be back east to see our old buddy Torts and the predictably mediocre Blue Jackets.
This begins another difficult stretch for the Rangers, with seven games in twelve days to close out the month, including a home and home against the defending Stanley Cup champion Penguins. The Blueshirts deal with a significant amount of schedule congestion this month and for December, with January seeing only eleven games in thirty-one days. This is the toughest stretch of the season. Read More→
Last night, the Rangers collected their eight victory of the season over the red hot (?!) Edmonton Oilers. The Blueshirts spoiled Cam Talbot’s return to the Garden and scored five goals for the sixth time in eleven games this season, which is nuts. Any way, I have some thoughts.
1. There has been a lot of discussion about PDO when it comes to the Rangers performance thus far. It’s not like last year where unsustainably hot goaltending was masking other issues, but more of a discussion about high shooting percentage and low save percentage evening out. The Rangers would still be a very good team under this analysis, but just not the offensive powerhouse that they have been to this point. Read More→
Yesterday, the New York Rangers waived Dylan McIlrath, with the intention of sending him down to the Wolf Pack. As you can imagine, this sent fans into a bit of an uproar. After all, Josh Jooris was just diagnosed with a separated shoulder and was destined to hit LTIR. This would have given the Rangers more roster flexibility with the imminent returns of Pavel Buchnevich and Chris Kreider. The Rangers didn’t have to make a move.
As of this writing, there are still several hours left in the waiver period, so we are not yet sure if the team will lose McIlrath for nothing yet. There seems to be no consensus on the likelihood of a claim (I tend to think there is a good possibility of one). If McIlrath sneaks through to Hartford that will be some grade A depth in the minors in case of future injuries, and additional ice time can only help his continued development. If he is claimed, it will highlight some poor asset management on the part of the organization, especially since he did not have to be waived at the moment.
Even though the Rangers have started the season 2-2, there have been plenty of reasons for optimism. The team has dominated possession and scoring chances in the two losses, and were simply stymied by two goaltenders on their game. There have been some highlights and lowlights since the season began, and as you can imagine, I have some thoughts…
1. This forward group has been really impressive so far. There is speed up and down the lineup. Oddly good chemistry has developed on certain lines very quickly (coughKreiderZBadBuchcough) and the special teams have had a much better look, as well. The sample sizes are still to small to look at efficiency or league rankings, etc., but the visual analysis tells me that it has been much improved.
2. It is really nice to have some shooters in the lineup for a change. There is obviously a point of diminishing returns with simply firing at the net with every touch, but having those guys with a shoot first instinct has made the offense much more dynamic. Mika Zibanejad has been especially impressive thus far.
The Rangers closed out their exhibition schedule last night, dropping the finale to the Flyers, 4-2. With all the competition in camp, it has certainly been an interesting pre-season. After Wednesday’s cuts, the Rangers sit at 28 remaining players in camp. As we all sit with baited breathe to see if we are stuck with yet another full season of Tanner Glass, I’m going to lay out my cuts and ideal opening night roster.
This is all for fun and will probably differ, not only from what the club will actually do, but also, these things will change and evolve as the season goes along.
The Rangers have secured victories in their first two pre-season games, and the forward group has shown a lot to be excited about. There was significant turnover in the roster for the first two games, and a lot to digest and analyze as the front office and coaching staff try to mold a group of twenty-three out of a very packed field. As you can imagine, I have some thoughts…
- In watching the first two games of the pre-season, offensive zone puck movement has jumped out at me the most. They are finding lanes, showing patience and creating a net front presence we haven’t seen over the past few seasons. Kevin Hayes continued to show elite vision, even if I wish he would pull the trigger a little more often. I suppose that’s what we now have Brandon Pirri and Mika Zibenejad for.