Olympic hockey systems starting to take shape

Last week in my NHL fan guide to Olympic hockey, I briefly spoke about how systems on international ice can be a bit different than what we are used to seeing in North American rinks. After watching much of group play, we’re starting to get a sense of how teams are tactically approaching their opponents with the extra 15 feet of ice.

If there’s one common denominator in many of these games, it is that there’s still not a hell of a lot of room out there, especially in the neutral zone. I expected a lot of trapping from the Latvia’s and Slovenia’s, as overmatched teams generally employ such systems. However, even top teams like Canada, Sweden, and Finland are using these same conservative structures.

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NHL fan guide to Olympic hockey

The King

The King

The 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi are underway and soon hockey fans from around the globe will be treated to the best ice hockey tournament not named the Stanley Cup playoffs. For the 5th straight Winter games, NHL players will officially be allowed to participate. And as a result, expectations for gold are highest around Canada, Sweden, the US, and of course the host country - Mother Russia.

Tracking the quest for gold is always the main reason for following the Olympics. However, this year in particular there are quite a few other narratives that are equally compelling and definitely worth waking up early to watch.

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Goal breakdown: Rangers vs. Oilers

So close

So close

Although the Rangers won the puck possession game with 60 even strength Corsi events (shots+missed shots+attempts blocked) to Edmonton’s 46, they just couldn’t find a way to win. The Rangers also had way too many giveaways — 15 to be exact — to a team they should have had a better time managing the puck against.

On the positive side, Captain Callahan had another solid game with 8 hits, 2 blocked shots and several grade A chances, including a breakaway that just wouldn’t go. I know, I’m starting to sound like Doc.

And a shotttttttttttt!

Anyway, on to the goals:

Rangers 0, Oilers 1

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Monday Mailbag: Systems, Trade winds & more

You got questions. The Suit has answers.
You got questions. The Suit has answers.

Happy Monday Rangers fans. I hope everyone had a fun and safe Super Bowl Sunday. We received a few good questions over the past few weeks, so hopefully I can provide some good answers as the Rangers continue their push towards the playoffs.

You’ve written that the Rangers play an ‘overload defense’ but NBC continues to label the Rangers as team that plays man-on-man coverage, which is it?
-Bob

When it comes to defensive zone coverages, a lot of coaches just don’t want their clubs playing one way anymore. Alain Vigneault is one of those coaches. Without getting too repetitive, as I’ve covered this before, AV has our boys playing an overload defense when the puck is along the half wall. However, when the puck ends up down low, they switch to man-on-man. Recognizing the overload vs. man-on-man vs. zone isn’t too hard to spot.

The overload has defenses outnumbering the opposition (e.g., 3-on-2, 2-on-1) in certain parts of the ice. Man-on-man coverages mean players defend evenly and will follow their check. There is often a lot of movement around the slot, almost resembling a cyclone with guys swirling everywhere. Zone means skaters will defend a patch of ice, so defenses end up looking like a more static geometric shape (e.g., box+1, triangle+2, etc.).

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Ryan Callahan and his future in blue

Courtesy of NYR Zone

Courtesy of NYR Zone

When the clock strikes 3pm on Wednesday, March 5th signaling the time which any player acquired by a team can be eligible to participate in the postseason (also known as the trade deadline), it is all but certain Ryan Callahan will still be Captain of the New York Rangers Hockey Club. However, what happens between March 5th and July 1st is still anyone’s guess.

Today, we’re going to take a look at a few different scenarios around what the Rangers might look like with and without our Captain heading into next year, and what the cost implications might be. Realistically, barring a trade (which is unlikely to begin with), there are only two scenarios for the Rangers: They re-sign Cally, or they do not re-sign Cally.

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Four breakout plays every hockey fan should know

The image that keeps on giving

The jpg that keeps on giving

Over the past several years, we’ve talked a lot about hockey system basics like forecheckingdefensive zone systems, and power plays, as well as different philosophies like ice-time distribution, line juggling, and the countless ways to tactically differentiate Alain Vigneault and John Tortorella. Believe it or not, there’s still a lot more to cover.

We haven’t even begun to scratch the surface on things such as entries (o-zone and d-zone), breakouts, regroups, counters, backchecking systems, face-off plays, etc. In other words, I hope you all still have a healthy appetite for this stuff.

Thanks to a request from loyal Blue Seat Blogs follower Tommy Tabasco (@ttabasco13), today we’re going to focus on breakouts. This was a good pick from Tommy since breakouts are such a crucial first step to generating offense. 

When it comes to even-strength breakouts, there are essentially two different types: control breakouts and pressure breakouts.

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An interesting trade partner emerges in Colorado

A match made in Denver?

A match made in Denver?

For the past month or so, there have been many reports that the Rangers have been scouting the Colorado Avalanche. We don’t play them for another month, so I think it’s safe to assume the Rangers aren’t pre-scouting and may be exploring trade opportunities.

If the latter is true and the Rangers are taking a hard look at Colorado’s roster, then it certainly begs the question — is there a fit? Looking over Colorado’s roster and contract situations, they’re flush at center, short on wings, and somewhere in the middle on defense.

We’re pretty set at wing. Neither Step, Richie, nor Brass are true #1 centers. A right-handed defender remains our biggest need overall. So there are a few trade possibilities worth exploring. 

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Trade bait

Package deal?

Package deal?

It’s no secret Glen Sather has been shopping Michael Del Zotto for weeks. Unfortunately, the names attached to the trade rumors (e.g, Gardiner, Franson, Wiercioch, etc.) aren’t really anything to get excited about.

It seems MDZ’s trade value has plummeted this season and all we could apparently get in return are bottom-pairing d-men who are also in and out of their respective lineups. I mean you know things are bad when GM’s are hanging up on you over names like Marc Methot and Raphael Diaz.

With the Olympic roster freeze just over a month away and the trade deadline about a month thereafter, Sather still has time. However, the likelihood of MDZ turning his game around to the point where his value could fetch an elite player or prospect remains a pipe dream. If Sather really wants to upgrade this team significantly, players are likely going to have to be packaged together, which brings us to the point of today’s post.

Who on this team is good enough to have value on the trade market, but isn’t considered an untouchable or a critical piece to our championship aspirations?

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Rangers mid-season grades: Glen Sather

The good ol' days

The good ol’ days

For those of you who missed it, we kicked off our annual mid-season grades this week with a review of Alain Vigneault, and have since followed that up with player grades for our defense, bottom six forwards, etc. Today, we’re going to grade the man who oversees it all — Glen Sather.

For the purpose of this post, we’ll need to look back at 2013 in its entirety because we’re experiencing the ripple effects of Sather’s earlier decisions now. And of course, there’s nothing to grade him on from October through December, or what we’d normally evaluate for ‘mid-season’ grades.

If you look back at 2013, there’s essentially four major decisions that standout which have had a cause and effect on our current place in the standings.

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Rangers mid-season grades: Coaching

Needs improvement

Needs improvement

Quick note: Last night’s goal breakdown will be posted this afternoon.

Back by popular demand, we’ve decided to resurrect our hotly contested player, coaching, and management report cards. For those of you new to the blog, the staff and I hand out ‘performance grades’ around the mid-way point of the regular season and just after the commencement of the playoffs. As always, these grades aren’t just based on stats, but also the execution of each personnel or player’s respective role within the organization.

Before I get started with AV’s grade, I just wanted to reiterate that we try to be thorough with these posts. Although most of us have played hockey at some level, we know we’re not experts. If we were, we’d be working in hockey ops. With that said, we feel we know the game better than others who cover it, so we hope you enjoy this series.

So that’s my preamble, let’s move along.

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