Archive for Musings
Merry Christmas, y’all! It’s a lovely day, whether you celebrate or not, because chances are, you’re not at work! If you do celebrate, you’re also feverishly unwrapping gifts and relieved that shopping madness is over. Bonus: it’s super warm in the Northeast, so if you’re not quite in the mood to watch Hour 14 of the Yule Log, you can go play outside and burn off some of that ham.
Tomorrow starts 10 day haul that is the IIHF World Junior Championships over in Finland, so our hockey withdrawal will slowly subside. Prelims on Saturday include Canada-USA at 1pm. We also get the return of NHL hockey tomorrow, so before then, let’s take a look at what the BSB crew is low-key hoping to get this morning from Santa.
The Rangers completed a trip through western Canada over the weekend, going a miserable 0-2-1 against Vancouver, Edmonton, and Calgary. They played well in Vancouver, but lost due to some questionable officiating. But the two games in Alberta were train wrecks, with the Rangers giving up 12 goals total in those games. Time for some additional thoughts.
1. Those that paid attention to the underlying stats saw this coming. The Rangers were playing above their heads, relying too much on goaltending and unsustainable shooting, and not playing a puck possession game. All of the team’s issues were masked by the goaltending and shooting, and now we are seeing this come crashing down to Earth. The stats are more of a predictive model of which teams are following right process but not necessarily getting results, as well as identifying teams that are getting results without process. It’s like The Weather Channel. They aren’t always right, but most of the time, they are. This is one of those times where they were right, and the Rangers’ poor play is catching up to them.
After a tough loss against Vancouver, the Rangers continue their west coast trip tonight in Edmonton. Between late games and a somewhat erratic, feast or famine schedule, I have some scattered thoughts…
1) Can you believe we are past the 1/3 mark of the season already? I am of the mind set that the first third is for evaluating your systems and personnel, the second third is for making adjustments and the final third is for making that push toward the playoffs. Injuries to Kevin Klein and Derek Stepan have thrown something of a wrench into that plan.
2) Speaking of those injuries, they have really wrecked havoc on AV’s deployment and line management. I understanding you are without one of your top-six centers and top-4 defensemen. That would be a serious issue for any contending team. The concern I have is that it seems like AV is putting a greater focus on trying to find lightning in a bottle with his line combo’s than he is trying to find a reliable balance.
The Rangers got whooped against the Canadiens Wednesday night. Happy thanksgiving everyone! All jokes aside, the Rangers were brutal, but the record is still full of good things so on that note, let’s have a short thanksgiving musings shall we? Have a great day today everyone. Happy holidays.
I’ve gotten a lot of heat recently for writing negative posts on the Rangers despite the sexy record and division lead. The thing is, the Rangers are not playing well in their own zone at all and are over complicating things in the offensive zone as well. We all love the record but if the Rangers ambitions are another trip to the Finals, the play has to begin to catch up to the record.
It’s fact that the list of Rangers players meeting expectations is a lot shorter than the list of players who could be playing much better.
When I started writing this post, I had about 20 things going through my mind about this team, but nothing was solid enough to be a stand alone post. After about an hour of trying to figure out what to write about, it dawned on me. Since Thursday is Thanksgiving, a Monday Musings sounded like a solid idea. I feel like this should have come to me sooner than an hour later, but such is life.
- Let’s get this out of the way first: This start is easy to enjoy. Getting all these points now will make things a lot easier in March/April when other teams are fighting for their playoff lives. They haven’t clinched anything yet, but 32 points after one-quarter of the season is a nice bank of points to start with.
- That said, this team has not been playing as well as their record indicates. That’s not saying they aren’t as good as their record, it’s saying they have not been playing like an elite team. Their defense has been relatively atrocious, and they’ve been poor with puck management. They’ve excelled with what we’ve expected them to: goaltending and transition scoring. Based on the reaction from the poor showing in Florida, people are starting to catch on.
- There will be a significant PDO crash for this team. That means the hot shooting will likely level out, as will the unsustainable goaltending. This doesn’t mean the Rangers will become a bad team, it just means that we should expect some losses. No team can continue at this pace, it’s just not possible.
Just two questions this week in the mailbag. You can submit questions for mailbags via the form on the right.
Michael: A couple days ago someone asked what was the link between zone start percentage and Corsi. So i got all the data from War on ice for each individual player for this season plotted relative zone start percentage vs Corsi for and fit a line on the data. Nothing mind blowing but thought it would be interesting to share with you guys. As one might expect better o zone starts leads to better possession numbers.
It feels like the Rangers are on an NFL schedule lately. One game per week, nothing really doing in between the games. It’s a bit boring, and it honestly makes for a difficult week, since there’s not much to write about. The same old topics are the same old topics, so here are just some of my random thoughts before this game tonight.
- The goaltending duo of Henrik Lundqvist and Antti Raanta has been outstanding to start the season, but they won’t continue with a .960 SV% at even strength. Naturally this means more goals, but if the defense starts waking up a bit and limiting shots, then we might not see an overall difference in goals against. That’s a big if though.
- Speaking of the defense, a lot of folks are killing Alain Vigneault for putting Dan Girardi back with Ryan McDonagh against Alex Ovechkin. Over the past three seasons, Girardi’s done a solid job shutting him down, so it’s not crazy. Ovechkin’s style is to cut back to the middle and use his defenseman as a screen for a shot. He’s not someone who will burn you to the outside, which is what Girardi struggles with. On paper, it makes sense to at least try, even with Girardi’s regression this season.
- That said, Girardi is getting older and his effectiveness in the past may not translate to future success against Ovechkin. Won’t know until tonight, though.
Lazy narratives are everywhere. They exist prominently in all sports, but the ones in hockey are almost unbearable. Carolyn Wilke went on a great rant about lazy hockey narratives (beginning with this tweet, you should read it). The focus of the rant is around the statement, “He is tough to play against.” What exactly makes the player tough to play against? Board battles? Tough to get off the puck? A little more detail in that statement please. It’s lazy and doesn’t add value.
But there’s one thing that is generally ignored, and something I’m seeing a lot of lately. That is lazy narratives among “stats people.” These exist too. Hockey is a very situational and matchup dependent game. Some guys excel in one system that plays to their strengths while failing in another. Some guys play well against some slower opponents but not some faster players. This is one aspect of the stats analysis that is missing, and it’s because we may not have the tools to do so.
The Rangers have now past the ten game mark of the new season, and will be taking on the cellar-dwelling Toronto Maple Leafs tonight at Madison Square Garden in search of a 7-2-2 start. There has been much to analyze in the early going, so naturally I have some thoughts…
1. Mainstream media analysis, especially in the early goings of a season, is especially broad. Good starts, slow starts and unexpected performers litter the narrative landscape. Reading publications like The Hockey News or ESPN, the assumption is that the Canadiens are invincible and the Ducks and Blue Jackets are toast. You dig a little deeper into the individual teams and you find that each club has it own sources of consternation and optimism.
Chris usually gets to have all the fun with these musings posts, but my thoughts are all over the place with so many interesting developments in the first four games of the season. So here are some of my early impressions:
- It seems like entering each year now, there’s buzz about how the upcoming season will be the Rangers’ last real chance at the Cup and the window is rapidly closing. But that’s really a bunch of baloney. The end of this run could come, and it could come suddenly – but if it does, it will only because Henrik Lundqvist has finally fallen from his perch atop the mountain of NHL goalies. Four games into this season, that doesn’t look like it’s going to happen anytime soon. Lundqvist has responded to coach Alain Vigneault’s challenge to start the year better with a sparkling stretch of unbelievable saves. Lundqvist’s reflexes look faster than ever, and if he’s actually able to continue this hot streak for the first few weeks and months when Lundqvist usually struggles, then you might as well hand him the Vezina Trophy now.
- One of my biggest problems with trading Carl Hagelin was that I thought his speed was essential to the team’s identity. Bu this year’s version of the Blueshirts plays as frenetic as ever. There’s still speed to burn up and down the lineup and it has to be a nightmare to defend.