Source: Mike Stobe/NHLI via Getty Images
Received a few good questions via email and Twitter over the past couple of days:
Q: You spend a lot of time talking about puck possession, mostly in a post saying the Rangers are heading in the right direction. How can you use puck possession to measure how they will perform?
This is a bit of a loaded question, so let’s address a few points. The reason why we use puck possession (Corsi, Fenwick) over SOG here is because SOG only counts saves and goals. But not all shots get through or hit the net. Posts don’t count as shots. The theory is that the more time you spend directing the puck at the net, the better your odds are of scoring, and the less your opponent has the puck. Puck possession means nothing if you can’t score, but shooting percentage is almost impossible to predict, aside from regression to the mean. If the Rangers are controlling play, they will get the puck in the net.
Q: Did Saturday night’s game show that Derek Stepan finally broke out?
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The Rangers faced a ton of adversity, a fierce rival with a new star acquisition and the pressure of facing up to back to back defeats and yet, they found a way to win. Do not underestimate how much the victory on the Island could mean to the season as a whole. Musings time!
It’s amazing how perceptions can change after one good win.
So many players’ games have improved over the past three games. All of a sudden a previously invisible Mats Zuccarello looks relevant, energetic and back to being difficult to play against. Benoit Pouliot looks like he can play too.
Speaking of Pouliot; against the Isles he showed why he was a promising pick up. The dude has serious skill and can finish. It’s a huge season for him as if he can get some traction and find consistency he may finally stick with a team. He has to be much more consistent though.
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Photo credit: Getty Images
Well, now that the Rangers roster looks more like an AHL club, tonight’s game is a sure fire win, no?
This is a quick Musings, and a pretty negative one generally. Buckle down folks. Here’s hoping better news arrives tonight!
Cam Talbot. How he deals with the expectancy and pressure tonight will be very telling to his potential. He doesn’t have the safety blanket of a guy like Lundqvist to lean on. He has to play well. There is no NHL experience in net tonight. That’s perhaps a huge slice of unnecessary pressure on his shoulders.
When was the last time an NHL club started a game with both netminders dressed having zero NHL experience?
Ryan Callahan aside, three of the four other presumptive top forwards for the Rangers – Nash, Stepan, Brassard – are all goal-less as we head toward November.
Seven games in to the season and only seven players have more than one point for the Rangers heading in to tonight. That my friends, is abysmal production.
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Photo: Alex Brandon, AP
If you had asked me only a few years ago whether or not I thought the NHL should eliminate fighting, I would have emphatically told you no. My defense at the time was that a) it is part of the culture of the game and has been for decades b) a good fight can cause a momentum shift c) it’s entertaining.
But as the years have gone by and the game has evolved, my point of view has evolved with it. Rather than look back at fighting’s importance in the past or even its acceptance — albeit curbed — in today’s game, the brightest minds in hockey should always be looking forward.
Make no mistake, whether you think fighting in hockey should be eliminated, watered down, or even championed, the league is chipping away at its importance. The instigator penalty, the determination to eliminate staged fights, and now the crackdown on helmet removals is evidence of the league’s evolved thinking.
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It’s always easier to write the Musings after a win. Last night was a huge relief to many Rangers fans so let’s talk about it.
John Moore: If Moore continues with performances like last night’s against the Capitals, then he could quickly go past Michael Del Zotto in the pecking order. A quick release, a good overall game and solid defensively, Moore still has a ton of upside to be explored. His skating is very good and his upside is exciting. You get the feeling he could prosper under Alain Vigneault.
Mats Zuccarello is a very good hockey player but he’s surely on shaky ground as a Ranger. Yes, the season is but six games old but he’s brought next to nothing to the table, and that’s despite being on a scoring line. He’s averaging close to 17 minutes a game which is plenty. He’s not even averaging a shot/game at this stage. If he’s not producing give a prospect those 17 minutes per game.
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MDZ: time to be a difference maker
One game does not a season make. That is why the Rangers enter tonight’s game with plenty of reason for optimism. On the flip side, your boys got some making up to do.
I want to see Michael Del Zotto start to impose himself on games more. He has the talent to be a top pair defenseman and is more talented than a guy like Dan Girardi but does he have the decision making and will to be more consistent? I’ve said it before but this is such a pivotal year for MDZ.
Speaking of Dan Girardi – not many Rangers (your King included) have yet to distinguish themselves this season but Girardi has had a particularly sloppy start. Several turnovers and he’s been caught out of position often. The Rangers need more from Girardi.
Keeping on the defensive theme – when you concede 14 goals in your first three games there are multiple issues to solve but Marc Staal is arguably the only defenseman so far that has been solid at either end of the rink. On paper the Rangers have good depth. On the ice, it hasn’t translated as it should. Is that all down to the new system being implemented?
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How will Zuccarello fare this season?
Today it all begins. The Rangers open their season today as the season, tone setting, nine game road trip gets under way tonight in Phoenix. Let’s jump straight into the first Musings of the new season.
It will be interesting to see how Derek Stepan starts tonight. Will he be a step behind? Will the lack of reps, preseason games, training camp, and a new system implementation hurt him? He’s going to be under the microscope and has a lot of responsibility to shoulder.
A player that could thrive under Alain Vigneault’s (apparently) more open system could be Michael Del Zotto. Like so many Rangers, this is a big year for him. Is he finally going to put it all together and be a consistent offensive threat from the blueline? Or does he become expendable after this season? A good year from MDZ likely means an improved Rangers PP.
Most unpredictable player heading into tonight? Mats Zuccarello.
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Vigneault will be looking long term, not just trying to cope in October
While the vast majority of NHL teams have trimmed their rosters down in preparation for the season, the Rangers are still carrying a large, oversized squad as they continue to work out what they need to cope with a harsh start to their regular season. The results haven’t been positive (yet) but when has the Stanley Cup ever been awarded in September?
The short of it is that Alain Vigneault is taking a long hard look at numerous players before cutting the roster down and it’s the right approach. With injuries to key players and with an extended road trip featuring multiple presumptive cup contenders it’s imperative the new coach knows what he has at his disposal not only now but in case of all eventualities moving forward. What it also allows however is long term planning for the Rangers.
The Rangers stand to benefit from having greater insight into the likes of Conor Allen, Jesper Fast and into the less heralded prospects such as Tommy Hughes. Knowing the timetable for Oscar Lindberg’s readiness (which appears to be now by the way) or Marek Hrivik’s NHL ability should allow the club to plan beyond this season. Alain Vigneault is having to acclimatise himself with a new franchise, a new conference and is doing so to a deeper level than many may feel necessary in the short term.
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Will Kreider finally shine under AV? (Scott Levy/NHLI via Getty Images)
So hockey has actually begun. The preseason games are underway and we’ve seen the preseason roster already begin to dwindle. So, what’s next? The Musings is of course.
When hearing Alain Vigneault discuss the potential of Chris Kreider being used in front of the net it gave a small but significant insight into his different mindset compared to John Tortorella. Vigneault looks at Kreider as an opportunity, not necessarily as a rookie who has to earn his stripes. There was merit to Tortorella’s approach (he was after all successful as Rangers HC) but trying to use players in a variety of scenarios will surely help maximise a players potential and the teams overall success.
Martin Biron: surely the only choice as the back up to the Rangers. Whether he’s more expensive than Hedberg or not, he’s arguably the best back up in the league and over a full season he’ll surely get opportunity to prove himself again.
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Training camp is here, the hockey world is back full time and the Rangers have what appears to be a significant amount of questions as they enter first camp under Alain Vigneault. Let’s hit the musings to open the season.
Derek Stepan: Over his first three years in the league he outscored highly rated youngsters such as Jeff Skinner and Evander Kane. He deserves a significant pay rise; it’s a lot harder to produce in a market such as New York than outposts such as Carolina or Winnipeg. That said, I’m in Sather’s corner; you do not give up your strong negotiating position. However, there has to be a comprise. Stepan is a smart kid; he should not risk his immediate future by missing camp.
Johan Hedberg – he should be cheap, knows the division but indirectly he is a huge acknowledgement by the organisation that – as is the case with Biron’s current situation – if the organisation loses Lundqvist or Biron then there is a huge vacuum of talent at the goaltending position. No one internally is anywhere near the NHL level.
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