Archive for Musings
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.
– Since my post last week, Eastern Conference playoff teams have lost the following key players: Steven Stamkos, Marc-Andre Fleury, Vincent Trocheck and Travis Hamonic. Once again, having capable fill-ins is absolutely vital this time of year – and why Alain Vigneault needs to keep both Oscar Lindberg and Dylan McIlrath game-ready.
– Despite the massive warts on this Rangers squad and all the negative energy coming out of the weekend, there’s still reason to hope for this playoff run. The aforementioned injuries to rival teams’ star players have leveled the playing field somewhat and are a good reminder of how quickly things can change at this time of year. The Rangers still have the best goalie on their side of the bracket, oodles of postseason experience to lean on and they’ve demonstrated the ability to beat the league’s top teams consistently. And outside of the Capitals, I’m just not all that worried about any of the other teams in the Eastern Conference field. I’m not saying I’m predicting a Cup, but let’s all just remind ourselves that there are reasons for optimism and a chance for a pretty fun ride ahead.
– Eric Staal did a lot to save himself from this chart with two goals on Sunday, but his production compared to other players moved at the trade deadline doesn’t look great. For New York, it’s all about what Staal does in the playoffs, but what’s frustrating about this list is the success of some of the other guys the Rangers could have gotten for next to nothing that would have improved their chances even more.
Just one question for the mailbag this week, but it’s a doozy. Don’t forget that you can always submit questions for the mailbag by using the form on the right.
Hawkeye2124 asks: Is there any chance the Rangers move Staal/Girardi this summer? If Gorts somehow pulled this magic, would he be able to keep everyone including E.Staal? Does Dan Boyle, and Tanner Glass (who will be in the AHL next season hopefully) coming off the books help?
Happy Friday, BSB community. After what seems like weeks of hand wringing, the Rangers have finally strung together a few solid performances in a row following the disaster in San Jose. Only eight games remaining before the second season starts, so naturally, I have some thoughts…
Some well timed losses from the Penguins and Islanders have given the Rangers a little more breathing room in their quest for home ice in the first round. At this point, they at least control their own destiny. Something tells me they are going to have to earn it, because I don’t see either of those teams doing the Rangers any favors down the stretch. Read More→
– You can slam the front office for a number of decisions made over the last couple of years, but one the Rangers absolutely nailed was the signing of Viktor Stalberg. This is a guy that was near being out of the NHL and instead the Blueshirts gave him a one-year prove-it deal that couldn’t have worked out better. Stalberg has done yeoman’s work up and down the lineup and contributes consistently on both ends of the ice. It would be great to have him back, but the new deal he’s earned will probably make that impossible.
– Kevin Klein is such an interesting case because he’d never been much of an offensive contributor until last season, when he shot 11.8% (much higher before he got hurt). The thing is, he’s continued to produce this season and is converting at a 14.5% rate. Now according to most models, Klein’s scoring was and still is destined to come crashing back down to earth. But I think one of the things that gets overlooked when analyzing luck and shooting percentages is that you don’t need a high shooting percentage to be a good player, but you can definitely be a good player if you have a high shooting percentage. I don’t buy that all shooting is even, that all players must fall to the mean. Colorado’s Alex Tanguay has shot a whopping 18.6% over his 1078-game career, which has resulted in an extra 146 goals in comparison to a player with the same number of shots converting at the rough league average of 9%. In other words, Tanguay has doubled his goal total thanks to sharp-shooting, and that’s the difference between being just a guy and ranking 213th on the all-time scoring list. The perception of Tanguay is significantly enhanced because he’s produced at such a high rate and there are a number of players both active and all-time that maintained abnormally high shooting percentages and had much better careers as a result. I think Klein is just one of those guys that picks his spots wisely and is efficient when he does. And he has a little more skill than he gets credit for.
We’ll know a lot more about the Rangers by the end of this week. This week they are playing three of the hottest teams in the league and some of the best puck possession teams out there. You’d think that all wouldn’t bode well, but defensively against the Ducks it was a much improved performance.
The Rangers are a team of contradictions. They struggle on the puck possession side of things yet have a great recent record against the Western conference.
The win against the Ducks was another example of how you just cannot predict which Rangers team will turn up. The Rangers haven’t been this inconsistent for a generation.
A lot of fans immediately heard alarm bells when hearing Jeff Gorton speaking almost in past tense about Keith Yandle while championing Brady Skjei. The alarm bells were because he didn’t speak openly about Girardi and Staal. But remember this: the management can surely see the regression that Girardi and Staal are showing.
You don’t just throw big names, big tickets under the bus. It damages their trade value, it doesn’t help the team either. It wouldn’t at all surprise me if one of the two were shipped out in the summer. You just don’t publicly bash guys of that stature and expect to get any kind of positive return for them in the summer. It’s a process.
– Interesting idea by Alain Vigneault to create a “tower” line of Rick Nash, Eric Staal and Viktor Stalberg. I still think Staal makes more sense as a winger in this lineup (who takes a ton of faceoffs), but I admit the idea of this monster line harassing the enemy net in the playoffs is tantalizing.
– How much money has Chris Kreider earned with his late-season surge? He’d been in the midst of a brutal year and it seemed like his lack of production would result in a discounted contract, with the savings earmarked for J.T. Miller. But now Miller’s offense has dried up and Kreider is on a tear with five goals in his last nine games and 10 since January 16. Kreider’s usual strong playoff performance will also have a major impact, but he’s now in position for a hefty raise over his current $2.475 million cap hit.
Even though Kevin wrote a musings post on Wednesday, there is some stuff in my head that I wanted to get out. So, I’m writing a separate musings post. Bring it, Kevin!
Can the Rangers justify not keeping Eric Staal beyond this season? Does anything other than a Cup winning parade justify moving two second round picks and a legitimate prospect? In my opinion Staal is getting better with each game but how do you measure a move such as Staal’s?
… and if you do keep him, what number ($) makes sense? Is there even a number the Rangers can afford?
Brady Skjei has done reasonably well in his cup of coffee with the Rangers thus far and you have to be happy his solid (albeit not rapid) development. That said, while the young blueliner makes solid, steady progress it would be a disaster if he doesn’t make the Rangers out of camp next season. That’s partly because it will mean his progression has stalled but with Dan Boyle retiring, Keith Yandle’s uncertain future, not to mention the Girardi/Staal ‘situation’ and a sticky cap scenario… the Rangers simply need him to be ready.