Archive for Offseason

Aug
13

Do the Rangers need elite talent to win?

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Over the past few months, we’ve been wondering where the Rangers will get that elite talent that supposedly going to launch the club into Cup contender status. It’s an interesting question, primarily because it touches heavily on small sample sizes, which is inherent in playoff hockey. Sure, if everything were stretched out for say, 82 games, the better team would win. That’s not the point though – you need to be able to sit in the pressure cooker for a maximum of seven games and make it through to the other side victorious.

So all discussions of what makes a Cup-winning team that special blend are just going to be a bit inconclusive. We simply can’t know for sure, because even though we’ve been doing this for 100 years we haven’t – not with the salary cap, the current influx of talent from around the world, modern training and equipment, and so on.

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Another round in the books, as Henrik Lundqvist’s back-to-back shutouts in 2013 topped the Chris Kreider/Carey Price incident. That play joins Martin St. Louis on Mother’s Day and Marian Gaborik’s 3OT winner in the next round. Today it’s a bit of a lopsided matchup, as Brad Richards’ tying goal with 6.6 seconds left takes on the Rangers clinching the President’s Trophy in 2015. Neither of these need much of an introduction.

(3) Brad Richards’ tying goal with 6.6 seconds remaining

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With Marian Gaborik eeking out a win two days ago and MSL dominating yesterday, we move on to the 6/11 matchup. Henrik Lundqvist willed the Rangers to the second round of the playoffs in 2013, posting back-to-back shutouts against the Caps after the Rangers were down 3-2 in the series. It’s one of the iconic performances for the goaltender, who has one of the best performance records in elimination games we’ve seen.

As for the Chris Kreider/Carey Price incident, that set the tone in the 2014 Eastern Conference Final that sent the Rangers to their first Stanley Cup Final appearance in 20 years. It’s a play defined by Kreider’s speed and hard work, but also a trip and an unfortunate injury to one of the best goalies in the game.

(6) Hank’s back-to-back shutouts

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As of the writing of this post, yesterday’s 5-12 matchup was too close to call. So while the results are made final with the publishing of this post, we move on to the 4-13 matchup. Martin St. Louis on Mother’s Day vs. Ryan Callahan sending the Rangers to the playoffs in 2013. Both of these are self explanatory.

(4) Marty on Mother’s Day

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Aug
10

Coaching and Character

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mats zuccarello

The joy of hockey, an effective strategy beyond X’s and O’s.

One of the things that’s gotten some attention this summer, at least in the press, is new coach David Quinn’s approach to building relationships. He’s talked a lot about forming strong bonds with players in interviews, guys who he already has a rapport with, and even went so far as to visit guys like Hank over in Europe (but not Zucc, which was dumb). Some people bring this up as evidence that Quinn is more of a “players’ coach” than a tactician, and while that may be true (and also compensated for by his assistants, so it’s really moot), it’s worth pointing out that this isn’t such a bad approach to coaching, insofar as the term has been used in a lightly pejorative sense.

Alain Vigneault, by contrast to what’s been said about Quinn, was a good systems coach, in that he was able to instill his type of play in guys’ every movement on and off the puck. This was cool at first, with the 2014-15 Rangers in particular playing a run and gun style that was exciting and tough to match, but eventually became stale, with fast breaks becoming predictable, defense suffering, and long stretch passes getting picked off. Add to that the total lack of communication or even accountability and AV went sour pretty quickly towards the end there – it wasn’t just that he wasn’t working out anymore, it was that he was bad. Look at his last press conference – totally delusional, touchy and defensive, and broadly in denial. If he was that bad in public imagine how bad he must have been behind closed doors.

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The next matchup in our top play bracket has the chance to be the first upset. Marian Gaborik’s triple OT winner against Washington was the first real OT winner we remember from the 2011-2017 era. It’s only a #5 seed because it wasn’t done at MSG, and it just doesn’t have that goosebumps feel.

Henrik Lundqvist stopping Danny Briere’s penalty shot didn’t have any real value in the grand scheme of things, but it was the Winter Classic. It was the Flyers. It was when the Winter Classic and outdoor hockey wasn’t watered down. It solidified the first of many outdoor wins.

(5) Marian Gaborik 3OT winner vs. Washington

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As expected, Derek Stepan’s overtime winner beat out Ryan Callahan’s gutty shift in Winnipeg. This round won’t be so easy, with two critical goals in the 2014 and 2015 playoff runs. The first is Chris Kreider’s goal in Game 5 against Washington in 2015 that tied the game late and paved the way for a dramatic comeback. The second is Dom Moore’s Game 6 goal against Montreal in 2014 that wound up sending the Rangers to the Stanley Cup Final.

(8) Kreider’s Game 5 Goal

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vitali kravtsov

It’s no secret anymore. The Rangers are rebuilding. They sold off major assets at the deadline, acquired assets, and have had the luxury of five first round picks over the past two seasons. While the focus has been on the draft and the prospects, there are eyes on the current players and their contracts.

As of today, only Mika Zibanejad, Kevin Shattenkirk, Marc Staal, Brady Skjei, Brendan Smith, and Henrik Lundqvist are signed beyond the 2019-2020 season, two seasons from now. Only Skjei and Zibanejad (and likely Pavel Buchnevich) are signed beyond 2020-2021. While we will see some of that turnover after this season, it is after the 2019-2020 season we will see it all change. After that season, Chris Kreider, Ryan Spooner, Vlad Namestnikov, Jimmy Vesey, Matt Beleskey, and Jesper Fast all become UFAs.

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The first round is upon us in the Best Ranger Play Tournament. The first matchup is the perceived favorite: Derek Stepan’s OT winner against Washington, taking on Ryan Callahan’s monster shift against Winnipeg. For those who forgot, that was the shift where Cally, without a stick, blocked a pair of shots and laid two hits before changing. It’s one of those blue collar plays that we love to talk about.

(1) Derek Stepan OT Winner vs Washington

(16) Ryan Callahan shift vs Winnipeg

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Aug
07

A Different Kind of Fun

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chris kreider

I’ve mentioned this before when discussing this rebuild, but a lot of what people get hung up on are the memories and moments of yesteryear. Trading away the players who brought us those fond times feels like betrayal, and the uncertainty of memories we may never get down the line is scary.

Still though, unless you’re Oilers-level bad at rebuilding, you’re going to have some probables, and maybe even sure things on the horizon (it’s also worth noting that although Edmonton is terrible at this rebuilding thing, they do have Connor McDavid). I think, even from the most conservative, skeptical vantage point, Jeff Gorton has done a pretty decent job at navigating this transitional phase, and I personally think he’s done more than just decent, but that’s just me. So there’s going to be some good things coming.

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