Archive for Players
One of the major storylines this season is the apparent decline of Henrik Lundqvist. At 34 years old (35 in March), Lundqvist is at the age where goalies tend to decline, and it seems that goalies do this relatively quickly. It’s fair to expect some level of decline from Hank, but there is a section of vocal fans that think Lundqvist is done.
Let’s be clear: Lundqvist is not having a good season by his standards. His .907 SV% is well off his career average of .920, his medium danger SV% is in the toilet, and Steve Valliquette mentioned on a recent broadcast that he’s letting in unscreened shots through at a much higher rate (I think it was 1-in-23 this year, as opposed to 1-in-40). However there is a difference between “bad” and “not Lundqvist.”
Much of the discussion this season has been on the defensive issues, Henrik Lundqvist’s inconsistencies, and what the team needs to do to be a true contender in the Eastern Conference. Lost in all this, however, is the season being had by Chris Kreider. Kreider has been a beast this year, and appears to finally be having that breakout season we all expected over the past few years.
Kreider already has 17 goals and 31 points in 38 games this season, and would likely be slightly higher had he not missed a few games with back spasms. Increased production on the powerplay (4-4-8 already) has played a role in Kreider’s breakout season, but it’s the consistency that seems to be the major change this year. Through the first half of the season, Kreider hasn’t gone through one of his traditional long slumps without scoring.
Where do you start with the Rangers top six? If you’re grading the offense as a whole, it’s fair to say you would give the team a strong grade – probably A level.
The Rangers boast an elite (at least statistically) powerplay, they sit second in the league in goals per game (3.4/game) and have scored more goals than every team in the league (144 at time of writing). However, when you break it down, has every player played to his own individual ability?
If you were to pick a member of the Hartford Wolf Pack that would be an unsung hero for the Rangers this year, my guess is Marek Hrivik wouldn’t have been your first choice. Maybe it would have been Nicklas Jensen, or perhaps Boo Nieves. Hrivik may have been in the discussion, sure, but very few would have picked him first.
But that’s exactly what Hrivik has been thus far. He doesn’t have a good offensive stat line, which just two assists in 16 games. Hrivik has been a mainstay on the fourth line for the past 16 games, providing much needed stability. He’s one of the key reasons that the Rangers have been so successful while dealing with a number of major injuries.
With the hot start Brandon Pirri got off to as a Ranger it was hard to understand how he bounced around the league so much – he looked like a potential top six shooter, albeit one with defensive deficiencies. He certainly looked like a guy that should be potting 20 goals per year and not bouncing around a league desperate for goal scorers. The past month or so however, and it’s a lot easier to see why Pirri hasn’t stuck with any team for a prolonged period.
Pirri hasn’t just blown hot and cold, he’s just disappeared for stretches. He’s been a passenger far too many times despite having some significant tools at his disposal. Pirri has good offensive instincts and he has a great shot but too often recently he hasn’t brought anything to the table.
Pirri’s last goal was December 11th. He’s gone ten games without scoring. Before that he went twelve games without finding the net. He has just 60 shots (at time of writing) on net despite owning a shot that many players would sell their mothers for. When your best hope of sticking in the NHL is your release you better be releasing it more often.
Rick Nash may never again score 40 goals in a season, but his play this season should put any debate about his Rangers’ future to bed. So long as Dan Girardi is on the Rangers blue line, and Jeff Gorton doesn’t significantly address the Rangers defense, the Rangers cannot afford to get rid of a genuinely elite two-way player such as Nash.
Nash’s play without the puck and his defensive conscience are essential to the team, as in his absence we’ve seen inconsistent play from the forwards in their own zone. The Rangers are not a good team defensively and this relative ineptitude in their own zone has only enforced Nash’s importance to the cause.
Even before confirmation that he needs to be protected in the expansion draft, Nash’s own impressive play this season should have made him a player the Rangers would have protected anyway. There is simply no replacing Nash. Whether it’s his ability as a goal scorer, as a leader, or as a two-way example to the younger players on the roster. Cap hit and age be damned.
The Rangers need defensive help. Most of that is because of the rapid decline of Dan Girardi, who continues to play on the top pair due to lack of other options on the Rangers. No matter where you sit on the Girardi spectrum, it’s tough to argue against Girardi being a shell of what he was five years ago. Players like him deserve a leash, but that leash should have run out two years ago.
Beyond his declining play, his contract is an albatross to the Rangers. He is signed for another three years following the 2016-2017 season, with a $5.5 million cap hit. The Rangers were able to get some cap breathing space in the Derick Brassard/Mika Zibanejad swap, but not enough to make an adequate fix to the defense. Even if the Rangers had the space to make an upgrade, there’s no room for additions. Something has to give.
At the end of last spring, it was fairly apparent to anyone who had watched the team, whether it was all year long or just the short time the Rangers spent in the post season, that the defense was an issue. Putting aside GM Jeff Gorton’s attempts to address this issue or lack thereof, a popular narrative began floating around that the squad’s worst two defenders, Dan Girardi and Marc Staal, would bounce back come October.
Although at the time this notion may have seemed plausible to some and wishful thinking to others, we’re at a point in the season where we can begin to evaluate whether or not that either player has truly bounced back. The Rangers have played enough games to get us to a point where statistical sample sizes are meaningful, and the body of work that we’ve seen on the ice is more than just a momentary flash in the pan.
Ever since Cody Eakin laid a dirty hit on Henrik Lundqvist, one that got him suspended for four games, there has been talk that the Rangers are not tough enough. They need someone to retaliate in these situations. They need a deterrent to prevent hits like that. All this had led to discussion that Tanner Glass should be recalled and immediately inserted into the lineup. A certain beat write wrote about it, and I’m not about to link to that piece.
There is nothing wrong with thinking the Rangers need to add a little bit of fear to the lineup. I am one of the people who believed the Rangers should have tackled Eakin for that hit, and forfeited the powerplay. I have absolutely no problem with that line of thinking. However I draw the line at one-dimensional players that struggle in other aspects of the game. So no, Tanner Glass is not the solution to anything.
We here at BSB have been granted an exclusive story. We have it on good word from Russian Intelligence that Russian President Vladimir Putin has actually kidnapped Pavel Buchnevich. At the moment, the reason is unknown, but we have theorized that it has to do with Putin’s vision of recreating the dominant Soviet team from the 1970’s.
Buchnevich has not played a game for the New York Rangers since November, with the team placing the rookie on IR with “back spasms.” It looks like this was meant to be taken literally, as Buchnevich experienced a “spasm” so bad he’s “back” in Russia. Our source has stated he is chained to a radiator in his apartment, forced to eat beets, dill, and herring to stay healthy while being corralled to and from practice by an army of bodyguards.