Tonight is just another game in the Rangers action-packed, though sometimes exhausting November, right? Sure, they’re up against the best offensive team in hockey, a team tied for second in points in the entire National Hockey League, so it’ll be a tough one, but otherwise, nothing crazy happening tonight at the Garden.
The talent here at BSB later today will post about what kind of special teams they throw and exactly who to watch for (spoiler alert: it’s still Steven Stamkos.. and Tyler Johnson, who you’ve probably never heard of), but this morning we need to focus on what MSG has been pushing for weeks, the big elephant in the room. Tonight marks the return of former captain Ryan Callahan, along with Anton Stralman and Brian Boyle, and much like ripping off a bandaid, I think we’ll all feel better once it’s done.
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Marc Staal needs to be better. Especially if he wants to cash in.
Marc Staal quite frankly has been awful, Henrik Lundqvist has been inconsistent, Martin St Louis has been on the periphery, and core players such as Mats Zuccarello have either been invisible or terrible, depending on how forgiving you are as a fan. Throughout the Rangers line-up too many players haven’t kicked into gear yet or shown nearly enough consistency.
Almost the entire roster has Rick Nash (and to a lesser extent Chris Kreider) to thank that the record isn’t a lot uglier than 4-4, eight games in. Fancy stats to one side, this team hasn’t passed the good old fashioned eye test. A lot has been made of the Rangers ‘big three’ on defense not playing well so far, and that is certainly true (McDonagh and Staal were both particularly poor in Montreal) but better contributions are required all over the line-up.
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I want to preface this article with the fact that I am not a mathematician or statistician. I’m a lawyer. In fact, they lied to us in law school and told us we wouldn’t have to do math once we were out practicing. So even if you love my ideas, I have no real skill set to design or implement them. This is purely for conceptual discussion purposes.
Ok, with that out of the way, I wanted to talk about #fancystats for a minute. It’s becoming clear that organizations around the league are starting to recognize the usefulness and momentum that these types of statistics have, evidenced by more and more front offices disclosing their emphasis on integrating them into their management processes.
However, I think we can all agree that the concepts and statistical methodologies are rudimentary at best at this point. It’s also completely understandable. Baseball has led the way in the revolution of statistical analyses, but it has a massive advantage on all other sports: each play happens in a vacuum, and at most there are 2-4 players involved in any given play. This level of isolation makes it incredibly convenient to look at individual performance within that play and assign value to it. The causal relationship between each player on the field is limited, and unlike hockey, plays happening minutes prior have very little bearing on what you are measuring.
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Photo: The Score
The NHL is becoming a laughing-stock of a league. No, this isn’t sour grapes over Derek Stepan, although the incident did spur this rant on. This is about the inconsistent officiating, the lack of accountability of the zebras and the lack of consistency in suspensions.
Dan Carcillo got ten games for mauling the linesman. That’s fine by me. It is in the rule book, and he deserved it. However, no punishment –that we know of– for the official who dragged an emotional player away from a non-staged scrum is laughable. This is hockey, let them work it out.
Brandon Prust got two games for “interference” on Stepan. I guess they are calling it interference because he didn’t receive a penalty in the game? Because Stepan played the rest of the game? But the hit was late, dirty, and broke Stepan’s jaw. Point of contact: The head. If you want to eliminate head shots, then you have to get this one right. Carl Hagelin got three games for a questionable hit on Daniel Alfredsson, one that didn’t break Alfie’s jaw. One that wasn’t late. Sure, that hit wasn’t exactly clean either. But if we are using the old “he has no rep” argument, then at least make the suspensions equal.
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Usually, I like you. Despite growing up loving Detroit (thanks to my brother), I always thought there was something about you that was a bit charming. Maybe it’s the awesome jersey, or the great crowds you always seem to draw, or maybe it’s Patrick Sharp’s face. I can’t be sure. I certainly appreciated you last year when you took out the team that steamrolled the New York area straight into baseball season. But this postseason…. not so much.
I guess it started off bad for you. I’d begun to like the Blues cause who can’t when there’s so much American Olympic representation, including the shootout king Oshie and a kid who grew up a Rangers fan in Shattenkirk. But still, there was a respect I felt for you and an excitement I felt in what would be a gritty, tough, skilled matchup. I would love to see some nice, clean hockey played between rivals.
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After Michael Del Zotto was traded last week, many folks in the Ranger Twittersphere turned again to the decision to draft Dylan McIlrath over Cam Fowler as a franchise-crippling blow. Many believe that the Rangers passed on drafting Fowler because they thought they already had a very similar player in Del Zotto and Fowler would have been redundant. Meanwhile, McIlrath was a very unusual commodity that could fill a long-standing hole, so the team happily selected him at No. 10. Of course, Del Zotto never met expectations in New York and Fowler is enjoying a breakout year in his fourth NHL season, so Rangers fans are filled with regret.
The 2010 draft has become one of the biggest gripes among Ranger fans in recent years, but it’s time to let it go. Whether you believe McIlrath will turn into a second-pairing D-man or not, it’s hard to argue at this point that the Blueshirts’ brass didn’t make a mistake. So did many other teams that year, so do many teams every other year.
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Imagine you’re sitting in a sports lounge on a chilly evening in November 2008, kicking back a few and watching your beloved Rangers play on several big screens. The crowd is good and the bar food is shamefully delicious. Early in the game, fan favorite Brandon Dubinsky fights with seasoned enforcer Dan Carcillo, and to you notice a 20-something girl in business casual screaming at the TV for Dubinsky to show his displeasure with Carcillo – except a bit more explicitly. What’s the first thing that comes to mind?
If you’re anything like the lovely middle aged gentleman sitting to the table next to me on that night, it’s a mixture of terror and intrigue. The typical response to a female hockey (or any sport, really) fan is an assumption that you know nothing of the sport, you’re only watching to be cute for your boyfriend, you’re only watching to attract a boyfriend, you think player X is cute, or you really are a fan and that’s weird cause you should be out shopping for cute outfits. You know, for your boyfriend. Or to attract a boyfriend. Or player X. So what the heck is this girl doing screaming at the TV, right? She must have a thing for Dubi, she couldn’t possibly be a passionate fan…
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If Heath Ledger’s iconic turn as The Joker in Christopher Nolan’s epic 2008 crime drama “The Dark Knight” has taught us anything, its that as long as everything goes according to plan, everything is fine. Even if the plan is horrifying. When the Flames lose 50+ games this season, nobody panics. When franchise players are flipped for unknown prospects and picks, everything is fine. But when one little ol’ contender struggles, especially in New York, well, then everyone loses their minds.
This year’s New York Rangers club has fallen well short of expectations thus far. This team was supposed to be the cream that rose to the top of the less-than-stellar Metropolitan Division and carry Stanley Cup aspirations into the late spring months. Alain Vigneault was supposed to be the final piece of this puzzle, taking a team more offensive talented than the 2012 team that grinded their way to the Eastern Conference finals to the next level.
Clearly, the transition has been sandpaper smooth to this point. The team in general (but, especially the defense) have had a difficult time going from John Tortorella’s straight forward 2-1-2/low zone collapse to AV’s more complex, matchup oriented overload system. Henrik Lundqvist has been mortal to this point, and our beloved Blueshirts are clinging to playoff contention more as a result of the weak Eastern Conference and weaker Metropolitan Division than of the quality of their play. Read more »
The Rangers need their coach to coach, not to moan about talent. Photo: AP
As the Rangers struggle to mount any kind of offense or physicality, the team is being increasingly exposed for the obvious flaws that they have. We’ve discussed ad nauseam how the Rangers should turn to some of the prospects to help the ailing offense (Kristo) or the putrid levels of physicality (McIlrath). One player that hasn’t had much airtime is Marek Hrivik, at one stage a dark horse for a spot in the line-up to start the year. Hrivik could help both of the Rangers critical areas of concern.
While it may have gotten to the stage where veteran help (aka a trade) is what’s needed to mix it up, Hrivik has shown that he can control the puck, work the boards and use his body to good effect. He’s also a player with legitimate offensive upside. At 6’1 and 200 lbs Hrivik may not seem physically imposing on paper but in limited exposure he has shown he uses his entire skill set effectively. We can’t say that about the Pouliot’s and Pyatt’s of the NHL roster.
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It seems sacrilegious to call him out, but even Ryan Callahan must elevate his game
As is always the case when the Rangers are struggling, fans, players and the media alike are all searching for answers to the team’s woes. And though everything from bad puck luck to injuries has been a factor, coach Alain Vigneault hit the nail on the head yesterday when he put much of the blame for the team’s poor start on its underperforming core members.
“If we are going to get some traction and get past that .500 level, we need our top players to consistently play like top players,” Vigneault told Andrew Gross. “Not a period in, a period out. Not a game in, a game out. We need that core group, the leaders of this group, to perform accordingly. And we have not done that on a consistent basis and on a game to game basis. Just look at our lineup, look at our core group and look at our key guys and there’s the answer.”
Vigneault couldn’t be more right in his assessment of the team 28 games into the year. Because as much as fans like to argue about what Michael Del Zotto might fetch in a trade or which youngster should play a handful of minutes a game in place of Taylor Pyatt and Benoit Pouliot, it’s highly unlikely that any such substitution would have a major impact on the team. Maybe J.T. Miller, Dylan McIlrath and Danny Kristo will re-join the Rangers this year and maybe not, but the Blueshirts certainly can’t count on any of the unproven prospects within the organization to arrive and turn the season around. The team has already gotten a surprise shot in the arm from Chris Kreider, and even that hasn’t been enough. Read more »