Game 37: Parise Returns

Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Zach Parise returns to the Garden tonight, but will be sporting Minnesota green instead of Jersey red. The Minnesota native, along with Mikko Koivu leads the Wild in scoring (27 points), and will be looking to rebound after a 5-2 loss in Pittsburgh last Thursday.

Under Mike Yeo, the Wild run a 1-2-2 forecheck which they use aggressively or conservatively depending on game situation. In the defensive zone they use a low zone collapse pretty much exclusively. The Wild prefer to attack the blueline with speed so the Rangers are going to have to be good defending the rush tonight and not leaving Talbot on an island. On special teams, the Wild run an umbrella power play and a diamond force penalty kill.

Tonight marks the second to last game of this 9 game homestand before playing 6 of their next 7 on the road. Time to finish strong.

Rangers Lineup (unconfirmed):

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Game 35: Penguins vs. Rangers

Wah

Wah

After an ugly win against Calgary, where the Rangers made some baby steps in the right direction, the Metropolitan Division leading Pittsburgh Penguins are in town. The Pens are beaten up, with half of their defense (Orpik, Martin, Scuderi) and two key scorers (Malkin, Neal) either injured or suspended. If you’re going to catch Pittsburgh at any point, now is the time to catch them.

Dan Bylsma has the Penguins running an aggressive 2-1-2 forecheck in the offensive zone and encourages puck pursuit in most situations.  In the DZ, Pittsburgh uses a low zone collapse, taking out shooting lanes and protecting the slot. The Pens are ranked 4th in the league in blocked shots and still average over 3 goals a game. On special teams, they run a 1-3-1/umbrella power play which is ranked first in the league, clicking at an incredible 26% rate. They employ a diamond force penalty kill, which they also execute real well as they are 2nd in the NHL just behind Vancouver.

Rangers Lineup (unconfirmed):

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Monday Mailbag: Trade Winds, AV, Signs of a Turnaround?

You got questions. The Suit has answers.

You got questions. The Suit has answers.

No goal breakdown today folks. Unfortunately Dave is traveling and I only caught the second half of the game. Apologies for that.

Anyway, I originally had an x’s and o’s post scheduled for this morning, but I decided to call an audible since the team really hasn’t been playing well of late. I feel like during such a critical part of the season everyone would rather talk about the team than strategy, so I thought a mailbag/twitter bag would be more appropriate.

Before we get started, a big stick tap to those who sent questions in. Much obliged.

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Game 34: Flames make a rare trip to MSG

On the block?

On the block?

Tonight the Calgary Flames (13-15-4) make a rare trip to MSG. The two teams haven’t played against each other since October 2011 and haven’t squared off at MSG in 3+ years.  There isn’t much history between these two teams, so tonight’s game could be a dud. Hopefully it won’t be, as both teams are sub .500 and searching for some sort of identity.

Bob Hartley has the Flames running a 1-2-2 forecheck that can be used aggressively or conservatively depending on the game situation (time left in period, score, puck location, etc.).  In the DZ, Calgary uses a low zone collapse, taking out shooting lanes and keeping things in tight. On special teams, they run a 1-3-1 and a diamond penalty kill.

On a separate note, I’m going to be doing a Q&A/mail bag post tomorrow. Drop me some questions in the comments section or shoot me an email.

Rangers Lineup (unconfirmed):

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Callahan out 4-6 weeks

As if the season couldn’t get worse, AV said in his post-game press conference that Ryan Callahan has a 2nd degree MCL injury. Cally will likely be out 4-6 weeks. We’ll keep you posted as we hear more news.

A Need for Grit

Jam.

Jam.

It’s no secret, hockey is a war of attrition. Come playoff time, games are usually settled in dirty areas of the ice by close scores. The Rangers style of play has certainly changed since they last made a run in 2012 where they pretty much embodied my last sentence. This season we’ve begun to learn what we don’t have and that’s grit.

To date we have seen mostly inconsistent play where either we’re putting away 4-5 goals or we’re giving up 4-5 goals. This isn’t a good sign for long-term success. And while I certainly appreciate some of the skilled plays we are seeing, we all know how hard it is to maintain that style consistently over the course of a long season, or a 7 game series. The Rangers need to address this before the deadline because hockey isn’t just a war of attrition, but also a game of matchups.

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Lundqvist signs 7 year extension

Hank is here to stay.

Hank is here to stay.

According to Larry Brooks of the New York Post, Henrik Lundqvist has signed a 7 year extension worth $8.5M per year. This should put any doubts about who the number 1 goalie is to rest, as Hank now becomes the highest paid goalie in the NHL. The raise is a modest $1.75 million from his current contract, so the cap hit, while large, is manageable.

Lundqvist, who turns 32 in March, has a contract that will pay him $1.5 million more than the previously highest paid goalies Pekka Rinne and Tuukka Rask. This is also the largest contract ever given to a goalie, and will likely remain the largest contract ever given to a goalie. Hank had the rare scenario of All-World talent, a team that desperately needs him, and a team with the means necessary to keep him. Plus, no goalie will be topping $8.5 million any time soon.

This season, Lundqvist has posted a 2.51 GAA and a .917 SV%, a far cry from his career numbers of 2.26 GAA and .920 SV%. But those numbers are misleading thanks to two games in California. Hank’s November stats: 2.27 GAA and .924 SV%. Much more in line with his career numbers.

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One size does not fit all when it comes to player development

Courtesy of Blueshirts United

Courtesy of Blueshirts United

There’s an old cliche that lingers around front offices and rinks throughout North America that ‘if you’re good enough, you’ll make it no matter what’. It’s a cliche that lives on because so to do the skeptics and excuses that often attach to certain players who don’t live up to expectations.

All too often fans and media members are quick to point fingers at a coach or a GM when a young player’s output doesn’t immediately reflect their scouting report. However, player development can take time and not everyone goes through the same process to reach their potential.

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Game 27: Torts returns to MSG

John Tortorella

The Canucks come to town for the first of two regular season meetings with the Rangers (the next game is on April Fools’ Day in Van). What is sure to be a media circus today with a lot of distracting questions and baiting for jabs, hopefully the Rangers can see past the odd narrative and just go about their business to get two points.

They play 11 of their next 12 games at MSG so it will be crucial for our boys to use this month to get back to the top of the Eastern Conference, which is where they were expected to be. The Canucks play an aggressive 2-1-2 forecheck and aim to keep the opposition pinned in their own end zone. They haven’t had much puck luck of late, but from a possession standpoint, they’ve been absolutely dominating.

They are currently ranked #1 in the league in Fenwick For (shots and missed shots on goal) and 6th in FF%. NYR is ranked 10th and 13th respectively. This will be another good test for the Blueshirts. In the defensive zone, the Canucks play a low zone collapse and try to defend you in layers depending on puck location. On special teams, they play an umbrella/1-3-1 power play and rotate between a box and diamond penalty kill.

From a formation standpoint, Torts is employing similar schemes with the Canucks that he used with the Rangers. However, the biggest difference between Torts’ Nucks and Torts’ Rangers is what players do when they have the puck. In NY, Torts focused a lot on ‘manufacturing’ offense, with funnel plays, triangles, stretching the zone hi-low, and getting in front of point shots for tips and deflections. In Vancouver, there’s much more creativity and plays aren’t limited to North/South hockey. There’s a better balance of East/West and smash mouth.

Rangers Lineup:

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Goal Breakdown: Rangers survive Florida’s blitz, win 5-2

The Rangers got away with another one last night after getting dominated in their own end for most of the game, yet they were able to come away with a big win on the road. The Panthers came hard, just as we expected they would, and put 51 shot attempts towards Hank’s direction, while the Rangers countered with 32.

The Rangers faced a similar blitz several nights ago in Dallas and were able to get a win, a positive sign. Yet they also managed to win the ‘puck possession’ battle against LA, Boston, and Tampa, but those games counted for losses. Strange how this thing of ours works out sometimes.

On to the goals:

Rangers 1, Panthers 0

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