Archive for Players
Back by popular demand, we’ve decided to kick-start our annual player, coaching, and management report cards. As a reminder, these grades aren’t just based on stats, but also the execution of each personnel or player’s respective role within the organization. Obviously there’s some subjectivity here, but that’s what makes these interesting and conversational.
As always, feel free to post your own grades in the comments section below.
There’s no way to spin it. Girardi did not have a good season. While his effort was undeniably at a maximum, unfortunately his output was still a career low. This year was his worst statistical (scoring chance differential) season on record. What made matters worse was this came after a subpar performance in the 2014 playoffs.
It’s fair to point out that he may have the team’s toughest task with shutting down opposing stars and getting buried with defensive zone starts (after a whistle). However, he’s paid to break up those dangerous plays in the slot and this year he didn’t do that with any regularity. In general, I thought he just looked a step slower.
Henrik Lundqvist is the New York Rangers. He’s their best player, their leader, and the heart and soul of the team. This team goes as far as Lundqvist goes in the postseason. An injury to him would derail any potential playoff run.
Or so we thought.
While most of the above is true, the Rangers dealt with adversity this season when Lundqvist took a puck to the throat, sidelining him with a vascular injury for six weeks. Enter Cam Talbot, the Rangers backup with just 32 NHL games under his belt prior to the injury. Those games were solid, but it was unclear if Talbot would be able to shoulder that load.
Throughout the playoffs, both this year and last, those of us with heads on our shoulders have had to deal with the constant complaining about Rick Nash. While I can accept complaining from passionate fans, who just want to see their team win and vent their frustrations on the highest paid player, I won’t accept this from lazy analysts and broadcasters. Their job is to provide unbiased opinions, and in that regard, they fail.
Nash is not without criticism. He hasn’t scored. The onus falls on him to score. Ryan Lambert at Puck Daddy wrote a very good piece on his scoring woes that you should read. To quickly summarize: Nash, like a lot of guys who aren’t bonafide stars, loads up season totals on bad teams, but struggles to score against playoff teams. That’s not a unique situation to Nash though.
Lambert re-evaluated Nash’s playoff performances based on his play against playoff teams in the regular season. The numbers were much more consistent with what we expect. This year alone, he’s seen a 32% (!!!) drop –not in the actual number, but his current SH% is 32% less than his average. For example, if his SH% is 10% for his career, he’s shooting 6.8%, which is a 32% drop– in his shooting percentage. That’s awful luck, and has negatively affected his G/60 (and raw goals, for those who don’t like per-60 numbers).
When Mats Zuccarello went down with a concussion –side bar: It is not a fractured skull.
That was a baseless rumor started by a faceless Twitter rumor account that just wanted attention. Rule of thumb, if the rumor comes from an account with no face, it’s not a rumor– we knew someone on the Rangers would have to step up. Zuccarello is an integral part of the offense, and not easily replaced.
Chris Kreider, who had a relatively quiet series against the Penguins, has stepped up to the plate. He has four goals this series, three of which have come in the last two games with the Rangers facing elimination. It’s not like he’s just getting garbage goals either. He’s scoring at key times that give the Rangers an extra boost.
His offensive outburst started in Game Two, when his early goal set the mood for a Rangers win to even the series.
Two games in and Rick Nash has been good against the Capitals. Whether good is enough to win a Cup is another debate but the best part about Nash so far is that he appears to be getting better as the series develops.
Nash’s lack of goals in the postseason is an issue, of course it is. When your 42 goal regular season scorer, highest paid skater and go-to forward isn’t filling the net it’s an issue. However while Nash plays well and continues to make game influencing plays like he did in game two it’s fine, the Rangers can cope with this issue better than most teams in the league. If Alex Ovechkin suddenly stopped scoring (that would be nice) the Caps would be in trouble as the Caps can’t match the Rangers in depth; there’s a major difference in how the teams are constructed.
Miller finally found a home when he was deployed alongside Hayes and Carl Hagelin on a third line that developed instant chemistry. And when the Blueshirts traded Lee Stempniak and Anthony Duclair, Miller’s position was virtually guaranteed for the rest of the season. That regular spot in the lineup seems to have been the confidence boost Miller needed to settle in as an NHL regular and take his game to the next level.
Since then, he’s gotten better and better. In March Miller trailed just Hayes, Mats Zuccarello and Chris Kreider in P/60 and ranked seventh on the team in SCF% (by War-on-Ice’s definition). Miller earned a promotion to the second line in the wake of Marty St. Louis’ injury and has fit right in.
Let’s kick it back two months, shall we? Rangers playing Carolina, some traffic in front of Henrik Lundqvist and suddenly the face of the franchise is laying on the ice with an injury. It stops a fan dead in their tracks. Suddenly, we all channel our inner Dr. Briere and learn the workings of whatever is ailing Lundqvist. Henrik came back for one game, but ultimately was sidelined for the better part of two months.
Since nobody is a guarantee for postseason hockey until late March – and that’s only if you’re very lucky – the often mentally unstable fan base was on their collective ledges sobbing for what could have been of the 2014-15 season. Enter Cam Talbot, a once-career AHL goalie whose first season as a backup with the Rangers last year proved him worthy of a one year extension, signed through 2016. Cameron, I hope you troll the interwebs for your name, cause this is an open letter to you, kind sir.
In case you missed it, Mackenzie Skapski was returned to the Hartford Wolf Pack yesterday. That means one and only one thing: Henrik Lundqvist is ready to go. After six long weeks without that glorious hair and perfect charisma, The King is ready to go.
If your memory serves you, Lundqvist is the best goalie in New York Rangers history. No offense to Mike Richter, Eddie Giacomin, and Mike Dunham, but The King is better than all of them. He was, after all, the guy behind the save that sent the Rangers to the Cup Finals last year:
It’s not difficult to fall in love with that man right there. That save is unbelievable. But the best part is when he takes his helmet off.
Last week I covered the four Atlantic Division teams the Rangers could face in the first round of the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs, so this week let’s take a look at the three Metro Division rivals that New York could meet in Round One.
New York – The upstart Islanders seized control of the Metro early in the season and paced the division for the majority of the year, but the club has struggled of late. The Isles are having their best season in ages, which will give the franchise huge momentum going into Brooklyn next year. Of course, winning a playoff round or two would only help. Though they added playoff veterans Johnny Boychuk, Nick Leddy and Jaroslav Halak before the season, the Islanders are still very short on postseason experience. However, they are incredibly deep, especially up front where they possess the NHL’s fourth-ranked offense. This is one of the few teams that can nearly match the Rangers’ depth and mitigate their speed. The Islanders have ranked near the top of the league in CF% and FF% all year, but they have been trending down over the last couple months (ranking just behind the Blueshirts). Winger Kyle Okposo returned to the lineup two weeks ago, and though he’s struggled to find his game, Okposo could be a huge difference maker down the stretch. And of course it’d be remiss not to mention potential Art Ross/Hart Trophy winner John Tavares, who has been simply magnificent. Read More→
When the New York Rangers replaced Anton Stralman with Dan Boyle (for all intents and purposes, this is what was done), the fan base was very divided. On one side of the coin, folks were pumped about his powerplay contributions. The other side of the coin was worried about the even strength downgrade from Stralman to Boyle. Neither side was wrong, but both sides were vocal about the positives and negatives.
Let’s get the obvious out of the way first: Boyle is not producing points as expected. When he was signed, even those that doubted his even strength contributions took note that he should help the powerplay. As noted in the linked post, he certainly opens up options and passing lanes, but he simply hasn’t produced with the man advantage. That said, he’s still producing at his normal rate at even strength.