Archive for Hockey Tactics

Jul
17

What a move to center means for JT Miller

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jt miller

Photo: NHL.com

As currently constructed, the Rangers have a decently sized hole at center. It’s the one major flaw of the roster right now that can’t be ignored. There are no names in free agency that make sense. There are some trade targets, but anyone worth while is going to cost an arm and a leg to acquire. The fix, as of now, appears to be internal, and one of the major names thrown out there is JT Miller, and shifting him back to center.

Miller was drafted as a center and played the position until he came to the Rangers. It was then that Alain Vigneault moved him to wing. On the surface, it made sense. Miller isn’t sound defensively, and AV requires a lot of defensive play from his centers. Even Martin St. Louis, one of the game’s greats, had trouble making the shift to center for a short period. There’s a good reason for that too.

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Categories : Hockey Tactics, Players
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Depending on which sites you read, Kevin Shattenkirk is either amazing at defense or a defensive liability. Fancy stat folks obviously love possession stats and have countered the beat writers’ narrative that Shattenkirk is all O and no D. The eternal fight continues…YAWN.

What’s important though is not what the pundits say about his d-zone coverage, but whether or not he wears summer threads (preferably hopsack over cotton) that are body conscious.

Apologies, I forgot this is Blue Seat Blogs, not Gentlemen’s Quarterly. Got my blogging journalistic responsibilities mixed up.

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Categories : Hockey Tactics, Players
Comments (51)
Apr
24

Rangers vs. Senators: Systems preview

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alain vigneault

The second round matchup is now set, as the Rangers will take on the Ottawa Senators in the Atlantic Division Final. The Sens closed out the Bruins in overtime last night, setting the stage for Game One in Ottawa this week. The Senators are going to pose a problem for the Rangers, as they have some pretty solid team speed and skill.

The last time these two teams faced off in the playoffs was in 2012, with the Rangers winning in seven games. Both teams are completely different now, so there isn’t much to go on from that series. While the Senators certainly do not have the forward depth to match the Blueshirts, they have a good amount of speed and skill throughout the lineup. Erik Karlsson looms large as well. They play very well and are a disciplined team under Guy Boucher.

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Categories : Hockey Tactics, Playoffs
Comments (40)
The image that keeps on giving

It’s white board time.

In life, sometimes it is the simplest of decisions that can put you in a position to succeed or fail. Hockey is no different. Being in the right position at the right time usually doesn’t happen by chance. It’s a decision or a chain of decisions that can set you up with a Goal For or a Goal Against.

Perhaps there isn’t a more critical time to get that decision making process right then when you are on the backcheck. For the Rangers, executing their backchecking system is crucial to their counter game, which you all know has been the bread and butter of AV’s system during his time in New York.

For today’s post, we’ll breakout the different ways teams execute backchecking systems and discuss whether or not the Rangers are excelling at this aspect of the game. Then maybe if we have some time later in the comments, we’ll discuss what kind of seasonal fabrics everyone should be buying for the holidays!

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Categories : Hockey Tactics
Comments (8)
Nov
29

Missing Mika Zibanejad on the powerplay

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mika zibanejad

When the Rangers lost Mika Zibanejad to a broken leg, the Rangers lost perhaps the one forward that would be the most difficult to replace. Zibanejad is a unique forward for the Rangers not in production, but the curveball he throws to the opposition when matching up. The majority of the Rangers are left-handed, pass-first players. Zibanejad is the exact opposite as a right-handed, shoot-first player.

This is the kind of player that the Rangers sorely needed for the longest time, as he was the pure shooter the Rangers needed not only at even strength, but even more so on the powerplay. It was the most evident the other night against Ottawa, when the Rangers could get nothing going on with the man advantage.

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Categories : Hockey Tactics
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alain vigneault

The Rangers have been a marvel to watch this season. After a significant upgrade at forward, the Rangers are steamrolling opponents to a top-three in the league 57% scoring-chances-for (SCF%) rating. The league leading 62 (as of this writing) goals scored are also pretty nice as well. But perhaps the biggest difference is the defensive zone play.

Last year, the Rangers hemorrhaged shots from all over the defensive zone, putting up some of the worst Corsi (quantity) and Scoring-Chance (quality) numbers against we’ve seen in a while. It was a two-part problem. The first was personnel, which was going to be almost impossible to fix. The second part was system based, which required an adjustment by Alain Vigneault, something many thought to be impossible based on the comments across the blog and Twitter.

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Categories : Hockey Tactics
Comments (24)
Photo: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

Photo: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

The table is set for another round of the Penguins and the Rangers, who seem to meet in the playoffs as often as the Caps and the Rangers. This time around, it will be old friend Mike Sullivan, who was an assistant with the Rangers during the John Tortorella days, behind the bench in Pittsburgh. The change in coach means a change in system from the last time they met in the first round (last year).

The biggest change for the Penguins is that they are run a more aggressive style of play compared to Mike Johnston last year. They are more like Dan Bylsma’s Penguins in this regard, even without half their roster, as Pat pointed out. But even without key players, the Penguins enter the playoffs red hot and have really adopted this new style of play effectively.

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Categories : Hockey Tactics, Playoffs
Comments (51)

The Quick-Up breakout – AV’s bread and butter, not working this year.

Last season was an oddity for the Rangers. They didn’t maintain their solid possession game from the prior season, one which carried them to the Stanley Cup Final, but their scoring was up. It was tough to argue with the results, even if the process changed. The process change was subtle, it simply shifted the focus on using the tremendous team speed to generate chances off the rush.

It was something I broke down last season, as the Rangers appeared to have set plays for this. They had the stretch pass, the blue line to blue line pass, and the “Chris Kreider play.” They also forechecked in a manner designed to force a turnover at either blue line and turn the play the other way. It was magnificent to watch, as the team speed was put on full display.

Now, it seems the style of play has caught on to the rest of the league. Teams are anticipating the forecheck and breaking through, creating rush chances of their own. They are also anticipating the stretch passes that generate so many rushes.

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Categories : Hockey Tactics
Comments (33)

This is what happens when you don’t defense.

The Rangers are at a crossroads. Specifically Alain Vigneault, Ulf Samuelsson, and Scott Arniel are at a crossroads. They will not change deployment. They cannot change the roster. The only thing left for them to change is the system in which the Rangers play. Change it to something that is not only easy to learn, but easy for an aging team –specifically aging blue liners that can’t skate anymore– to adapt on limited notice.

There are three areas the Rangers’ coaching staff needs to make adjustments to get the most out of their team. They aren’t major tweaks. Just minor ones that are easy to implement and easier for skilled/veteran players to adapt to. These areas that need adjustments are the penalty kill, defensive zone coverage, and breakouts.

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Categories : Hockey Tactics
Comments (34)
Mar
01

Diagnosing NYR’s PK troubles

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The image that keeps on giving

It’s white board time.

For many years now on this site we’ve talked about the Rangers mediocre power play, what’s wrong with it, and what we’d do to fix it. Fortunately for the Rangers, recently history suggests that you can win a Stanley Cup without an elite power play. The LA Kings proved this twice (sad face), as have the Bruins and the Penguins.

The penalty kill is a different story. None of the clubs mentioned above had a PK rate under 83% in their Cup winning seasons; same goes for the Chicago Blackhawks and their runs.

This season the Rangers are only killing off 77% of their penalties, which is good for 26th in the NHL. That does not bode well for any team trying to compete for a Cup, let alone one currently in the top half of the League in minor penalties. And no, Eric Staal doesn’t help you there.

In order for the Rangers to have a fighting chance this postseason, the PK needs to get fix. Here’s three issues the Rangers need to address to fix the kill.

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Categories : Analysis, Hockey Tactics
Comments (33)