Archive for Hockey Tactics
It’s no secret, the biggest problem the Rangers have had the last several seasons is the lack of a respectable power play. Not since the 2009-10 season have the Blueshirts finished in the top half of the league in PP conversions, and not since the 1998-99 season have the Rangers had a top 5 power play. Although it’s still a bit early to call our current power play elite, or even a team strength, you have to like what assistant coach Scott Arniel has done with the man advantage in the early goings.
To date, the Rangers have converted on 20% of their power plays, good for 13th in the league. The boys are doing all the right things on the advantage like player movement, puck movement, setting screens, and getting pucks on net from all areas of the ice. If they can keep it up, I can see this power play being really good for the first time in a very long time.
This is definitely going to be an interesting season covering NYR’s x’s and o’s, as coaching changes always bring about new looks and different styles of play. And while I was indeed a pro-Torts guy, I’m looking forward to seeing what AV and his staff have up their sleeves.
Today we’re just going to cover even strength play, since I know these tactic posts can get a little lengthy and I always prefer brevity over anything robust. Next week I’ll focus on the power play and the kill.
With that said, make no mistake. Although AV isn’t completely overhauling the way they play, there are some key differences. It’s going to take a while for everything to come together, so…hold fast.
Offensive Zone Strategy
By now, most of our regular readers are aware I was a big supporter of John Tortorella and the team concept he constructed for the New York Rangers. To say the least, I was very disappointed with Glen Sather’s decision to fire him.
Although I had an up close perspective of John that most did not, I still disagreed with some of his decisions/strategies. And while AV isn’t the type of coach I really identify with, there are few tactics AV could implement to win me over.
Below are three things AV should change about the Torts-era Rangers.
Give McDonagh a more offensive role
With the exception of a few depth signings, it appears Glen Sather will keep the Rangers roster mostly intact for the 2013-14 season. Rather than take a shot at Jarome Iginla, Derek Roy, or Daniel Alfredsson (all of whom signed one year deals), the organization has instead decided to keep Brad Richards around for at least one more season. Barring a trade, it looks as though AV will have to work with what he’s got.
Getting the Rangers back to being one of the best 5-on-5 hockey teams shouldn’t be an issue for this staff. Even if there hadn’t been a coaching change, the underlying numbers suggest even-strength goals scored should theoretically rebound. The Rangers after all were one of the better puck possession teams in the league last season. However, as we’ve learned since the ’05 lockout, solid 5-on-5 hockey can only get you so far.
Since Tortorella’s firing last week, there’s been a lot of different coaches with different systems/philosophies linked to the Rangers head coaching position. As I said last week in my Tortorella obituary post, Sather left it open as far as what he’s looking for in his next coach. Since Glen gave fans the mushroom treatment again, I figured I would at least tell you all what I’m looking for in the next Rangers coach.
To be clear, this post is not about forecasting. I’m not reading into any beat writer rumors or any of the supposed “scoop” that apparently every Canadian insider has on the position. Sather only reveals nuggets to the press when he wants to. In this instance, he isn’t revealing squat. So please spare me the sourced articles. Glen’s table is smaller than Dolan’s moles would like to believe.
During Tuesday night’s game, I noticed the Bruins were finding an easy way to exploit the Rangers aggressive 2-1-2 forecheck early in the first period. The Rangers just seemed a step behind making contact with the puck carrier. While I always prefer a 2-1-2 forecheck and I am glad it is the system Torts has installed, I couldn’t help but think an adjustment needed to be made. Generally speaking, when guys are a step behind, the 2-1-2 becomes very, very risky.
Anyway, so the Bruins were putting on a clinic, creating three quality scoring chances before the game hit the 10 minute mark. I started to think to myself, “Come on Torts, make the adjustment. Drop the third guy back.”
And what does Tortorella do? He makes the adjustment.
The Rangers and the Bruins are set to do battle in the Eastern Conference Semis, and this series is expected to be as difficult a series as the Washington series. The Rangers haven’t faced the Bruins since the very beginning of the season, so their 2-0-1 record against the Bruins this season does not reflect the deadline deals that both teams made. Coming into the playoffs, the Rangers were one of the hottest teams in the NHL, and the Bruins were playing .500 hockey. Now they both have great momentum, with the Rangers taking the final two games against the Caps and the Bruins coming back from down 4-1 in the third to dispatch the Leafs in seven.
The Bruins and Rangers are very similar teams in makeup, but they play two very different styles of hockey. The Rangers are a very aggressive team, and the Bruins are the exact opposite. Boston plays a trapping style and a passive, physical game to wear down their opponents. The only similarity between the Rangers and the Bruins is that they are both stellar defensive teams.
So several people on Twitterd and in the comments section here at Blue Seat Blogs asked me a question the other day about why defensemen slide on the ice to break up plays in the defensive zone. Unfortunately, I’ve been working some late hours this week and I missed those questions. Anyway, so Dave brought this issue to my attention, and I figured it would be better to write up the reasoning in a short and sweet post rather than respond to comments that are several days old.
Moving right along.
When it comes to defending two-on-one rushes in the defensive zone there’s basically two different approaches coaches teach their players.
As the playoffs hit full throttle, the decisions players make (or don’t make for that matter) get further put under the microscope. While we tend not to overreact to one particular play, shift, or even one game on this site, player scrutiny for better or worse always gets turned up a few notches this time of year.
Perhaps no area of the ice fuels more debate around the blogosphere and Twitterd than what happens in the defensive zone. More often than not a goal will be scored, a chance will be created, or a unit will get pinned and out come the pitch forks. While we can’t stop the finger pointing, we figured we might as well at least try to teach people where to point those fingers.
For these reasons, today’s post will focus on basic coverage within the zone defense system.
As Suit said this morning, the Rangers and the Caps are meeting in the playoffs for the fourth time in five years. Last year, the Caps took the top seeded Rangers to a seventh game under Dale Hunter, who is now departed. Replacing him was Adam Oates, who took a unique style of coaching with him to Washington, and after a slow start, the Caps picked it up and ran with it.
This is not the same Caps team that the Rangers went 2-0-1 against. These Caps are 11-1-1 in April, and 15-2-2 over their last 19 games. They have been clicking on all cylinders, and really adapting to Oates’ hybrid systems. While there is generally an adjustment period to a new coach and a new system, the Caps full adjustment has made them the hottest team in the NHL heading into the post season, and teams are having trouble defending their hybrid schemes.