Archive for Musings

May
29

You, again?

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Tonight, the Rangers will play Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals. Obviously, playing in the winner-take-all game in a playoff series is a familiar spot for New York. Their elimination game record the past few years is staggering, and have been battle-hardened to these moments. I’m sure if you went searching for pre-game content around the interwebs, you could find plenty of articles waxing poetic about the purity and excitement of Game 7. I have a confession to make: I’m not a fan.

Sure, those talented authors are correct in their whimsical accounts of pure sport, guys stepping up on the big stage and motivation of “it all comes down to this”. The problem is, Game 7’s are a crapshoot. They come down to bounces, mental mistakes, officiating and other such incidentals that take some of the quantification out. I’m not just talking about from a statistics standpoint, either. Of course, if one team controlled 65% of possession and had a heavy advantage of scoring chances, yet lost 2-1, you’re going to hear that narrative. What I’m talking about is the emotional component. Read More→

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May
28

Eve of Game 7 musings

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Who’s ready for another Game 7? I’m writing this as I watch the Blackhawks and Ducks duel, and it’s another reminder how much more enjoyable elimination games are when it’s not your team that’s playing. Tomorrow night is sure to be pure agony, at least until the final buzzer sounds. Then, hopefully, it will have been a ton of fun.

Since I can’t formulate coherent thoughts before this one, on to the musings:

– Though we can’t help but hope, there’s pretty much no chance Mats Zuccarello will play tomorrow. That said – if he were to practice today and was miraculously deemed game ready, where would he fit in the lineup? Zuccarello is not going to replace J.T. Miller in his old spot alongside Rick Nash and Derick Brassard after that trio produced 13 points in Game Six. Putting Zuccarello on the fourth line would obviously be a waste – but the same goes for Martin St. Louis, so slotting Zuc in on the third line and bumping MSL down doesn’t make sense either. The most likely hypothetical scenario would be to have Zuc replace Jesper Fast on the second line – but it’d be a real shame to banish Fast to fourth line Siberia with the way he’s played. Too bad it doesn’t matter.

– Speaking of Nash/Brassard/Miller, I did some quick addition after Tuesday’s game and noticed that the trio has accounted for 20 points in the series, just two fewer than the terrifying Triplets. Of course, 13 in one game skews that quite a bit, but hey, they did pretty much win that game singlehandedly (with help from Hank). You can show me all the statistics you want that say “clutch” isn’t real, but I refuse to believe it, and Brassard is a perfect counterexample.
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May
25

Eve of a Rangers elimination game

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Sports have been a part of society for as long as we’ve been keeping track. Ancient texts have the Olympic games starting as early as the year 175, with Greek mythology dating them far before then. Look at the Coliseum in Rome: a huge venue for fans to watch games being played — however questionable the morals of those games are.

Another fun thought: the word ‘fan’ is actually short for ‘fanatic,’ defined as a person with an obsessive interest in and enthusiasm for something, especially an activity. Obsessive enthusiasm makes for some pretty fun clients. So since sports are a (high revenue) business, and some very intelligent people exist to make money off of obsessive enthusiastic people, fantasy sports (among other things) came to life.

With fantasy sports comes armchair GMs. It seems anywhere you go, someone knows how to manage a team better than Glen Sather, or coach the Rangers better than Alain Vigneault. My personal favorite activity at the Garden is to appreciate all the coaches around me and feel extra blessed that I paid to hear all of their opinions.

Everyone has heard of fancy stats, which we’ve gone over ad nauseam here. Heck, there’s even a metrics tab to explain the basics. Most of the time, they’re a good indicator of play that the naked eye can’t see because, as humans, it’s difficult to stay objective all the time. Naturally our emotions will get involved in some of what we see, and aside from this, it’s easy to forget ten great plays if a player makes one bad play, or even a flukey play that leads to a goal.

Last summer, I wrote an article about the Oilers hiring a fancy stats-loving coach in Dallas Eakins, and I compared front offices looking at these stats in the same light that MLB GMs viewed moneyball. The similarities have a lot to do with formulas and equations and math, statistics that can be measured in a spreadsheet and should follow a trend. This has worked for the Oakland A’s for a long time, and possession-driven statistics have worked for certain teams (though not the Oilers, and Eakins was let go) in the NHL as well.

As we look at the Rangers, now facing potential elimination tomorrow night in Tampa, there have been tons of articles posted about their possession numbers, along with posts about how fearsome their defense is, even people stating that Henrik Lundqvist has unrealistic stats that lend the Rangers’ advanced stats to be altered favorably and inaccurately. There is a simple explanation to all of this: the media need to post continually in order to drive readership, and they seek topics about anything. Great writers can argue a position from beginning to end no matter how bananas it may be.

On the day before another Rangers elimination game, in a postseason where they have come back from a 3-1 deficit, the only stat we have to remember is this: the team that scores more goals in 60 minutes wins. It isn’t a measure of whose possession is better after offensive zone starts, or whose defensemen have a higher scored-adjusted corsi for. It’s also not about your personal vendetta against Marc Staal and as such, noticing only that he took a penalty and not that he blocked a shot that Henrik wasn’t set up to save. It’s about the team that scores more.

The Rangers better be that team tomorrow night, or there will be tons of questions for management and players alike to answer, and a long offseason looming.

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May
24

Rangers round-up

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It’s easy to get lost in the playoffs when games come thick and fast but there’s been a few other things going on in Ranger-land aside from the absorbing Tampa – Rangers series. Shocking I know. Let’s have a quick catch up.

Sather acknowledged

Glen Sather was nominated for the GM of the year award this week. Deservedly so. The Rangers have played the most playoff games (73) in a four year stretch and this is the third year in that period they’ve gone to at least the Conference finals. Sather has his faults (a lot of them) but he’s done a great job in recent years, perhaps none more recently than this year that included the Presidents Trophy.

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May
22

Thoughts heading into Game 4

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Good morning, BSB community.  It’s game day.  That means the Rangers have a chance to stop the bleeding, get back to basics and level the series before returning to New York.  As a general rule, I am not a superstitious person.  However, every time I turned Game 3 on, something horrible happened to the Rangers.  So, I sucked it up and accepted my fate as a cursed fan and stayed away.  Then OT happened and they still lost.  Now I feel stupid and I didn’t even watch most of the game.  With that in mind, this will be a very conceptual thoughts post. Read More→

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May
12

Random musings on an off day

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The Rangers and Caps have an unusual two-day break between games six and seven, so today is an off day for both teams, their second in a row. The Rangers have come roaring back in this series, tying it at three games a piece after being down 3-1. While the Rangers never truly looked out of the series or dominated in any game, the Caps were on their way to being that dominated team on Sunday night. That was until a dominant third period, where they didn’t allow a shot attempt by the Rangers in the final 15 minutes.

With an extra day off, the news will be slow. So why not do a brain dump?

  • Ryan McDonagh was banged up by Alex Ovechkin, and Tim Gleason appeared to be hurt as well. This gives them both an extra day to heal. This helps the Rangers more than it does the Caps. Nate Schmidt was called up by the Caps just in case Gleason can’t go, but many want Schmidt to play over Gleason anyway.
  • The extra day favors the Rangers on the injury front, but not on the goaltender rest front. Braden Holtby looked a little tired in Game Six. Suit noted in the comments of the goal breakdown that he was dropping early, a sign of fatigue. The extra day helps him.

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May
06

Thoughts entering Game 4

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– I thought Monday was among Rick Nash’s best games of the year, and by far his best of the playoffs. Nash has been far better this postseason compared to last, but he’s still not finishing. That doesn’t make Nash a bad player, but it also means New York is going to have a tough time winning.

Braden Holtby has been dominant. And yeah, the Rangers didn’t get nearly enough traffic in front of him early in Game 3, but Holtby has been in hero mode for the whole postseason. While goaltending issues have arisen for several other supposed contenders, Holtby has climbed close to the top of the list when you think about the league’s best netminders.

– I still think The Ghost of Marty St. Louis has one signature moment left, but he’s really fighting it. He’s a far cry from Mats Zuccarello on the top line, but luckily young bucks like Jesper Fast have been picking up some of the slack.

– Zuccarello’s absence has been evident from the opening puck drop of the series. The Blueshirts are an extremely deep team and could withstand most injuries, but Zuccarello is about as irreplaceable as it gets.

Alex Ovechkin is terrifying. He didn’t even register a point on Monday night and his fingerprints were all over the game. The saying “you have to know where he is on every shift” is cliche and overused, but it absolutely applies to The Great 8 right now. This might be the best he’s ever played.

– One of the big knocks on the Capitals has been their lack of solid depth players behind Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom, but it’s hard to understand when you see the contributions guys like Joel Ward, Jason Chimera and Jay Beagle make. Adding Evgeny Kuznetsov to the mix has been absolutely huge for Washington, too.

– Let’s not forget about Eric Fehr, who is still expected to return in this series. Fehr isn’t nearly as important to Washington as Zuccarello is to the Rangers, but he’s a solid secondary scorer that will only extend the Capitals’ lineup.

– I wrote about it last week, but the way the Caps play now is so reminiscent of John Tortorella’s Rangers. They keep you to the outside, block shots, play physical, outhustle you and have the star goaltender to hold it all together. The 2-1 deficit here isn’t because the Blueshirts are doing much wrong, it’s because Washington is a very, very good team.

– I thought this would go seven, and I still do.

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Apr
24

Thoughts heading into Game 5

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Here we are. It’s Friday and the Rangers are heading home one win away from dispensing with the Pittsburgh Penguins in the opening round. Naturally, I have thoughts…

  • I didn’t get home Wednesday night until the first intermission. Although I had it on the DVR, Twitter was kind enough to let me know I hadn’t missed anything.
  • Marc-Andre Fleury has been surprisingly good so far in this series. I know The Suit is not a fan, but you have to give credit where credit is due. His angles have been sharp, his movements have been controlled (for the most part) and he really hasn’t given away anything to New York.
  • In that same vein, Henrik Lundqvist has been even better. With the Pens being forced to come 200 feet all series, since, you know, none of their defenseman can move the puck, Hank hasn’t had to do a ton. When he has been called upon, though, he has shown no rust from his nearly two month layoff. Hopefully the rest helps him as the playoffs march on.

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It’s that horrible day, the one between games but the Rangers are heading into Friday with a 3-1 series lead. Life can’t get much sweeter as a Rangers fan right now. Let’s throw up a few random thoughts on Rangers goings on.

It appears Rick Nash will always divide opinion. Has Nash been dominant? No he hasn’t but he’s been damn good. Not just putting points up but always involved in the offense, Nash also continues to be one of the most defensively responsible ‘superstars’ in the game. Give me that kind of team first goal scorer any day. Star players on successful teams buy into a team first approach. The Red Wings of recent years always had superstars who could play a good two way game. That’s why they are always a contender. That’s what the Rangers have in Nash.

Understatement of the week: Derick Brassard’s new contract continues to look like a bargain. He has 21 points in 21 games against the Penguins. He has three goals in 4 playoff games. Brassard’s maturation into a quality, consistent center is complete. His enthusiasm for goals is infectious. Kudos to Glen Sather for taking a calculated risk by committing to Brassard for the long term.

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Well I’m back. I was in Charleston, taking my lovely girlfriend for a long weekend for her 30th birthday. She will probably write about it on www.honkytonkfit.com soon, so if you are curious, keep checking that out.

Anyway I couldn’t watch most of the first three games of the series. I caught the third period of Game One from a local bar, which was the only part of this series I saw. I missed all of Game Two, despite being back in time to watch, because the hotel we stayed at had NBCSN, but not NBC (or any of the other flagship stations). I thought that was weird. For last night’s game, I was in the airport or on a delayed flight. Such is life.

I was able to read Twitter timelines, and I put together some general conclusions from the games:

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