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Category: Analysis

Eastern Conference Finals Preview: Rangers vs. Canadiens

(Eric Bolte/Reuters)

Rangers fans are certainly getting a taste of different hockey clubs this postseason. After playing the Capitals four out of the last five postseasons and the Devils three times in the past eight years, the Rangers squared off against Philly for the first time since 1997 and now get the Montreal Canadiens for the first time since 1996.

Unlike 1996, when both teams’ windows to win were closing, this time around both clubs square off with their respective windows wide open. This series will go deep and will be one for the books for sure.

Offense:

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Scouting the opposition: Carey Price

Serious Price

After dispatching the Penguins and Bruins, respectively, the Rangers and Montreal Canadiens will meet in the Eastern Conference Finals. Each team will be looking for their first Stanley Cup championship since the early 90’s, and will face one another for the first time since 1996. The two teams are actually relatively similar. They rely on speed, depth, balance and will lean heavily on their world-class goaltenders.

Montreal’s, as well as know, is Carey Price. Price has had quite the season thus far, leading a Canadiens squad with relatively low expectations to a 100 point season, a Conference Finals birth, and an Olympic Gold Medal in Sochi. He is going to be a formidable task for the Blueshirts if they plan to chase the ultimate prize. Let’s see how his game stacks up…

Format is the same as always; Stance, Crease Movement/Depth, Equipment, Puck Handling and Exploitable Weaknesses. Read more »

Second Round Playoff Preview: Rangers vs. Penguins

It covers Crosby, or else it gets the hose again.

Now that this nonsense with the Flyers is finally over, the Rangers head to the Steel City to take on the Metropolitan Division Champion Penguins. Pittsburgh was given a run for their money by an upstart New York Rangers Columbus Blue Jackets team, who came up just short in their wild six-game opening round series.

These teams last met in the 2008 playoffs, where the Blueshirts were dispatched in five games. That was pretty much an entirely different roster, so recent history doesn’t tell us much. Obviously, the key to this series will be to keep the Pens’ stars in check as much as possible, and try to take advantage of the suspect defense and goaltending of the Penguins.

Let’s take a look at how the Rangers stack up against their latest Pennsylvania opponent…

Offense

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The Rangers will be a dangerous team in the playoffs

Photo: LoHud

Photo: LoHud

The title and story sounds familiar. The Rangers will be a dangerous team in the playoffs. The usual reason is because Henrik Lundqvist can steal a series, something he’s done multiple times in the past. But the Washington Capitals are not in the playoffs this year, so there needs to be a different narrative. This year’s team  looks different. This team is one of the hottest in the league heading into the playoffs. This year, the #fancystats put them up there with the best.

Puck possession and PDO (SV%+SH%) are two stats we use regularly around here. It’s been proven many, many times that teams that drive puck possession are teams that are successful. Teams with a high PDO (over 100) generally were “more lucky” and have abnormally high SH% or SV% (or both). Teams that rode those to the playoffs generally fizzle out early, as the luck runs out and their SH%/SV% regress to the mean. This may seem complicated and a bit of an abstract concept, but Exhibit A is the 2011-2012 LA Kings. Exhibit B is the 2013-2014 Toronto Maple Leafs, who didn’t even make the playoffs.

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A different way of looking at special teams statistics

Derek Stepan tallied 18 power play points this season and added three shorthanded assists to lead the team

The Rangers went on a bizarre tear in March in which they scored on seven of 41 shorthanded situations, yet managed just five goals in 45 of their own power play opportunities. Obviously that was just a weird anomaly, but it made me realize that the traditional ways of measuring special teams – power play and penalty kill percentages – might not be the best way to assess their impact on winning and losing.

We all know what a huge impact special teams have on individual hockey games, but noting what rate a team’s power play has scored at and how often a penalty kill has surrendered goals over the course of a long season seems kind of silly. The percentage stats put way too much stock on what happened in October, which has no bearing on the present. Plus, those percentage stats don’t factor in shorthanded goals for and against, and we just saw how crucial those were to the Rangers’ success.

Power plays are constantly affected by the same factors that influence many other stats – hot streaks, injuries and dumb luck. Even the worst power play in the league can get red-hot for stretches, while a unit featuring five All-Stars can suffer a lengthy drought. The same goes for PK units. Read more »

First Round Playoff Preview: Rangers vs. Flyers

(AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

(AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

War is upon us. On the eve of War. The Rangers set to battle Philly. Pretty much every title for this post I could think of had the word ‘battle’ or ‘war’ in it. Nothing against Ottawa, DC, or other markets we have squared off with in recent first rounds, but Philadelphia brings a different connotation.

The history of this rivalry is too long and colorful to recap in one post and certainly no one needs a history lesson here. However, for the first time since 1997, these two teams will have a chance to send each other home packing. And unlike other potential playoff matchups, this one could get theatrical.

No matter who has the GM title, who’s behind the bench, or what players suit up in orange, black and white, the identity of the Flyers remains the same.  However, unlike I-95 wars of seasons past, the Rangers have to stay within their team concept and not stoop down to their level. They have to stick to their game plan.

Offense:

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Scouting the Opposition: Steve Mason

Mason

With the newly implemented playoff system, this year’s playoff matchups came into focus a bit quicker than they have in recent seasons. I remember the past few years writing multiple scouting posts depending on how the Rangers ultimately finished in the standings. This year, however, it’s only down to Philly and Columbus as potential opponents. I’m going to lead off with Steve Mason, and if Columbus jumps the Flyers in the standings, I’ll just hijack one of my colleague’s slots next week to scout Bobrovsky. Coin flip at this point.

The format remains the same, Stance, Crease Movement/Depth, Equipment, Puck-handling ability and Exploitable Weaknesses. Let’s get after it…

At this point, most of us know the book on Mason: Rookie of the Year winner, future superstar turned reclamation project for the Flyers. No one really knows that happened to him after that first season in Columbus that wrecked his confidence, but he has rebounded significantly in his first season in Orange and Black, and was rewarded with a slightly pre-mature, slightly ridiculous 3-year/$12.3 million contract.

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Determining market value for Anton Stralman

Stralman's will be a tough contract to determine.

Stralman’s will be a tough contract to determine.

When Anton Stralman rejected a three-year, $9 million offer from the Rangers over the weekend, a lot of fans were outraged. This would be the fourth Ranger this season to “reject a perfectly good offer.” Henrik Lundqvist’s negotiations took a while before he re-signed, as did Dan Girardi’s. Ryan Callahan’s never materialized, and he was shipped to Tampa Bay at the trade deadline.

Unrestricted free agency is a tricky beast. Market value is generally determined by comparable contracts, but the player has all the leverage. As we saw with Cally, teams will be willing to give him seven years and $6 million, which makes his value higher. It’s best to view this objectively, which is tough considering how much we all love the Rangers.

When it comes to Stralman, and in particular defensemen who are not relied upon to produce offensively, market value is a little more difficult to determine. Using point production isn’t the best indicator of value, so we have to be a little more creative.

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GSAA: a step in the right direction, but hardly essential

Phys.org

Phys.org

A little over a week ago, one of my go-to publications, InGoal Magazine, released an interesting article, entitled GSAA: An Essential Statistic for Evaluating Goaltenders, touting a new advanced metric for analyzing goaltending, called GSAA (Goals Saved Above Average).  The author, Greg Balloch, does a nice job of breaking down the specific methodology that goes into determining how many goals a goaltender saves above the league-average.  Here is Greg’s explanation of the mechanics from the article:

 You take the league’s average save percentage and apply it to the amount of shots a particular goalie has faced. You get a number of goals that the average goalie in that league would have surrendered if they faced the same number of shots as the goaltender in question. That number gets compared to the number of goals surrendered by that goaltender, and a plus/minus is created. If a goalie is in the positive, that is how many goals they have saved compared to a league-average goalie. If they are in the negative, then it is safe to assume that they are performing worse than how a league-average goaltender would perform in the same situation.

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Stats to chew on: Olympic break edition

Mats Zuccarello has been money against Metro Division rivals

– Only five players have more game-winning goals than Rick Nash (6).

– Only Alex Ovechkin is averaging more shots per game than Rick Nash (4.1).

– Only nine players have more points against their own division than Mats Zuccarello’s 21.

– Only eight players have more penalty minutes on home ice than Chris Kreider (53).  Only Dallas’s Antoine Roussel has actually committed more penalties on home ice than Kreider (20).

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