Archive for Musings
Last night’s appearance by James Reimer in San Jose made it official: all eight goalies, starters and backups, have had playing time in each conference final series. Though not surprising — Martin Jones had given up four goals at the time of Reimer’s entrance, and Jake Allen got the nod in an attempt to wake up the sleeping Blues — it raises a question. Just how important are goalies in the playoffs?
It’s clear that goaltending can make or break a team; we’ve seen teams with loads of talent disintegrate in the playoffs, as with the Dallas Stars. Neither Kari Lehtonen nor Antti Niemi as primary goalies will lead to a Cup in Texas. However, the differential between elite goaltending and above average goaltending doesn’t make a great difference for teams to go far in the quest for the Cup. Read More→
It’s never fun enduring a long offseason while fans of other clubs get to enjoy a playoff run. This may sound a little spoiled to fans of teams like Edmonton and Calgary, but over the last decade, Rangers fans have been treated to a consistent expectation of contention. Since the Rangers have been eliminated, I have read a lot of great analysis about the importance of this offseason and potential directions for the club to go.
It’s going to be very difficult to handicap the exact moves from an analysis standpoint and hey, that’s up to you guys and gals anyway (shameless plug for the Off-season Plan Contest). I have kind of a conceptual thought-dump I wanted to share about this coming offseason and to see how you are felt about some of these things…
– A major reason for the Rangers’ struggles defensively that was astutely pointed out by Rick Carpiniello was the disinterest in playing on that side of the puck by so many of the team’s top forwards. Whereas in the past the Blueshirts have had Ryan Callahan, Carl Hagelin, Brian Boyle, Brandon Dubinsky, etc. playing key roles and devoting just as much attention to their own end, this season a host of forwards including Derick Brassard, Mats Zuccarello, Chris Kreider, Kevin Hayes, and at times JT Miller were no-shows in their own zone. They didn’t do Dan Girardi, Marc Staal and co. any favors by botching their assignments so regularly.
– Oscar Lindberg’s surgery was a real curveball. Lindberg’s dirt cheap $650k cap hit is a hugely important piece of the puzzle heading forward given the Blueshirts’ cap woes and expected push towards youth, but now they’ll have to plan around his absence for the first month of the season. Given Nicklas Jensen’s outstanding showing at the World Championships and similar cap hit, Lindberg’s injury may have granted Jensen a regular spot to lose at camp.
The offseason is in full swing for the Rangers. There is a lot of work to do with this team, and you can bet your life savings that the team will be hard at work to fill holes and make the team better heading into next season. While we can all debate what we believe “making the team better” means, which have countless times, it’s that time of the year where we see these plans coming to action.
Since it’s a rainy, lazy Sunday. Let’s go through some predictions for this offseason.
- Pavel Buchnevich is now officially free from his KHL contract. I think he signs with the Rangers soon, as in this week. It’s a no-brainer that he signs, since he is the most highly touted prospect this organization has seen in recent memory.
The interesting thing about having a set day to write is that sometimes you are forced to sit on the sidelines while other writers are able to react to certain situations, immediately. In this case, the Rangers were eliminated by the Penguins on Saturday, and I wasn’t scheduled to publish until the following Friday. Lots of digestion time. Since then, there has been breakup day, a myriad of reactions from all over the interwebs and some fine analysis done by the talented staff here. As you can probably surmise, I have thoughts…
1. Not that the result was surprising, but it was still disappointing. The Rangers were never going to make a serious run considering all the issues the team had. Still, the fan in me was hoping to see something amazing that the analyst in me knew was never going to happen.
Not like this. Not like this.
That’s the way many felt when the Rangers collapsed in Game Four, losing 5-0 and draining all remaining hope that was left in this fan base. The team was too slow. Too rigid. Too stuck in old fashioned hockey truisms that simply are not true anymore. A glimmer of hope after Rick Nash scored in Game Five, then crushing defeat.
This loss wasn’t as bad as 2014, when a bounce here or there in the Stanley Cup Final means more hardware in New York. That was the worst. The loss in 2015 stung, but deep down, we knew Tampa Bay was better and healthier. But at least those series were competitive.
The Rangers stunk up the joint in their demolition, possibly the last hoorah for some beloved fan favorites. These same fan favorites who, like their coach and their president –but perhaps not the GM, we don’t know yet– are relics of these truisms that have been disproven by a game that now features speed and creativity.
By now, anyone reading this site is painfully aware that the Rangers were embarrassed at the Garden last night, 5-0 by the Penguins and now stand on the brink of elimination. Combing various recaps, Twitter, the comments section, etc., has given me a (somewhat frightening) glimpse into the current psyche of the Ranger fan community.
In seeking out a topic for this post, once the dust settled, I found myself coming up empty. I really enjoy writing “thoughts” posts, but I don’t think I could really organize my thoughts in a way that would make for worthwhile reading. I feel like it would just read like a laundry list of complaints.
Instead, I think I’m just going to write, and see what comes out of my brain that is Ranger-related and see how that goes. Work for everybody? Good.
– That was a tough, tough loss. When Chris Kreider’s goal was called back, it seemed like a lot of wind was taken out of the team’s sails and the Rangers couldn’t recover. The Blueshirts battled tooth and nail all night, but they had a very difficult time gaining the offensive zone and creating any sustained pressure.
– That said, I’m far from panicking. Despite what many believed heading into the series, there’s not much separating these teams. I expect New York to come out flying in Game Four and send the teams back to Pittsburgh tied 2-2.
– Can the Rangers give Brady Skjei a real number? The kid might already be the team’s fourth-best defenseman after Ryan McDonagh, Keith Yandle and Kevin Klein. He’s been a savior on the blueline and has demonstrated remarkable poise with the puck and compete level. Between him and Pavel Buchnevich, I have a hard time listening to the annual panic about the window closing. Will the team be different next year? Sure. But if the organization makes smart personnel decisions, there’s no reason the Rangers can’t extend this run.
The Rangers dropped the first game of their opening round matchup with the Penguins on Wednesday night, 5-2. Patrick Hornqvist lead the way for the Penguins, with a hat trick, and the Rangers lost Henrik Lundqvist to a scary eye injury. Marc Staal and Dan Girardi were basically traffic cones all evening and the Rangers were shut down by a third string goaltender. As you can imagine, I have some thoughts…
1. Where else to start but with Hank? Forget the fact that the Rangers realistic chances of winning this series were all but hinged on Hank playing at a Conn Smythe level. Let’s talk about the injury itself. I have had the misfortune of experiencing something fairly similar, so I feel I can lend some perspective. My experience involved the opposite end of the stick, but it still belonged to my defenseman and still slipped through the bars on the cat’s-eye. My defender backed into me and it seemed like slow motion that the butt-end of his stick just continued coming until I could feel it make contact with my eye.
– Obviously Sidney Crosby draws most of the attention whenever anyone talks about the Penguins, but I believe the most important player in this series is Kris Letang. He’s the straw that stirs the Penguins’ drink, so to speak, and has posted 48 points in 43 games since January 1 (13 goals, 35 assists) while being Pittsburgh’s best player in its own zone by a country mile. Letang is the guy that spurs the Penguins’ speed game, be it an outlet pass to Crosby or hitting Carl Hagelin in stride or with an alley-oop to gain possession in the attack zone. The Rangers have benefitted from some fortuitous timing in the past with Letang missing several key games with a slew of injuries, but he’s at the top of his game right now.
– Speaking of Hagelin, I’m absolutely terrified about the hockey karma of the guy that knocked out the Penguins last spring being on the other side of the ice this time around. You know he’s going to score a big goal in this series.