Archive for Playoffs
The final preview piece for the first round is one that is sure to decide the series, and that is the blue line. The Rangers have had issues with their defensive units all year long, but added Brendan Smith at the deadline. The Habs, who did not have such issues, added Nikita Nesterov and Jordie Benn at the deadline, moves which improved their depth.
The Habs are projected to have the following pairs for the playoffs:
Shea Weber-Andrei Markov
Alexei Emelin-Jeff Petry
Jordie Benn-Nathan Beaulieu
The Rangers have had their first round opponent set in stone for a while now, so we have all had time to make peace with the fact that we will be watching the very best goaltender in the world try to dash the Blueshirts’ playoff dreams. The last time these two teams met in the postseason, Carey Price was knocked out of the series early by Chris Kreider, so the Rangers have never really had to deal with him in a full series. That is about to change.
Price is coming off a tremendous year for a very flawed Montreal club. As Dave mentioned in his systems preview, the Habs do have quite a bit of talent all over the ice, but relatively little depth. When (potentially) rolling four lines capable of scoring, Price’s job will be to mask (pun intended) that lack of depth. Read More→
All week, we will be previewing the Rangers and the Habs, and how they match up. This morning I went into a deep dive of the systems both Alain Vigneault and Claude Julien deploy. This post will focus more on special teams effectiveness.
Both coaches deploy similar special teams tactics, using hybrid 1-3-1/umbrella powerplays and hybrid zone/diamond force penalty kills. The difference for both teams is going to be effectiveness. Specifically, going beyond the raw PP% and PK% numbers, especially for Montreal. When looking at team-by-team comparisons, it’s important to look at both full season numbers and numbers after Julien was hired by Montreal on Feb. 14.
The Rangers and Habs have been destined to meet in the first round since before Claude Julien was hired by the Canadiens. But with the Julien hire, the Habs changed the way they play. They have been much more focused on team defense, which is something Julien is known for.
The Habs do not have a ton of depth, and rely on that team defense and Carey Price to carry them. Don’t misunderstand that though. The Habs have a good amount of skill in the top-half of their lineup and are capable of making you pay for your mistakes. Beating Claude Julien is no easy task.
With the playoffs around the corner, much of the focus for the Rangers is on Alain Vigneault’s lineup choices. Much of the lineup is set. We know 11 of the 12 forwards. We know all six defensemen. But it’s that 12th forward that is drawing a lot of attention, and it’s an emotional topic for a lot of people.
Tanner Glass is the old-school, gritty hockey player that “stands up for teammates and deters others.” While we’ve seen others on the roster (Kreider, Vesey, Smith) step up for others, the focus is always on Glass because he represents a dying breed of hockey players. What he represents is the “blue collar” player. The one who throws his body around and gets in on the forecheck.
The regular season is basically over at this point, at least for the Rangers. The last two games of the year are meaningless. The Blueshirts are likely going to rest their guys more over those two games, so aside from getting Henrik Lundqvist up to speed, there’s not much riding on those games.
What we do know is that the Rangers are headed to Montreal for the first round. They are going to be a tough test, since they have been playing well lately under Claude Julien. They also have Carey Price. The Blueshirts are going to need to be firing on all cylinders to beat them. But there are three keys to the Rangers’ success in the first round.
As of Tuesday night, the Rangers sit four points back of the third place Columbus Blue Jackets in the Metro Division. Columbus has a pair of games in hand as well. Per Sports Club Stats, their chances of getting that coveted top wild card spot is at 91%. There is still a chance the Rangers get into the top three in the division, but it’s a slim one.
What that means for the Rangers is a date with either Montreal, whom they have not beaten this season, or Ottawa. The Sens are two points back of the Habs with two games in hand, so that division is still wide open. Either opponent is easier than any of the three-headed monster in the Metro, though.
It was a disappointing end to the season to say the least, with the shock of Rangers’ blowout loss to Pittsburgh away matched only by their previous two efforts at home. The game was microcosmic of the season – flashes of pomising play at the beginning, with defensive breakdowns and endemic failure getting worse over time. This loss was the kind of game where you wished for a mercy rule, not only for our sake, but for Henrik Lundqvist’s, who despite being the best Ranger of the past decade is sure to receive some of the blame for the Rangers’ early playoff exit this year.
This playoff series against the Penguins was troubling but unsurprising for many fans who had seen underlying issues with the team papered over by stellar goaltending all season. It was the kind of series that makes you worry that the window is just about closed, and it makes this offseason that much more critical for Jeff Gorton.
Could this be the final game of the season for the Rangers? Logic and past performance in these situations says no, but recent performance in this series says yes. If this is the final game of the series, then let’s hope it is one we can be proud of, as the Rangers have stunk the past two games. At the very least, make it a nice send off for Dan Boyle.
But then there’s the part of me that remembers what they’ve done the past two years. This is the third straight year they’ve been down 3-1 in a series. The core from both those comebacks is still here. But do they have the mindset required to make another comeback? They can, we know it. Let’s hope they figure it out. No one wants this season to end in April.
By now, anyone reading this site is painfully aware that the Rangers were embarrassed at the Garden last night, 5-0 by the Penguins and now stand on the brink of elimination. Combing various recaps, Twitter, the comments section, etc., has given me a (somewhat frightening) glimpse into the current psyche of the Ranger fan community.
In seeking out a topic for this post, once the dust settled, I found myself coming up empty. I really enjoy writing “thoughts” posts, but I don’t think I could really organize my thoughts in a way that would make for worthwhile reading. I feel like it would just read like a laundry list of complaints.
Instead, I think I’m just going to write, and see what comes out of my brain that is Ranger-related and see how that goes. Work for everybody? Good.