Photo: Getty Images
Around these parts, we spend a lot of time using #fancystats to supplement what we see on the ice from players. Generally speaking, we focus on puck possession metrics, using external factors like zone starts and quality of competition/teammates to pad the analysis. For all the merits that Corsi/Fenwick have, they don’t measure shot quality. Shot location isn’t something that is repeatable on offense(lots of analysis done to prove this), so there isn’t much space spent on examining further. It doesn’t correlate to wins.
However shot location can show us trends. We can use it at the team and individual levels to measure offensive styles –going to the net or keeping to the perimeter– and defensive effectiveness. On offense, you want to have more shots come from the better real estate (the slot, closer to the net). On defense, you want more shots from the perimeter. Hockey 101. War-on-ice, an indispensable resource, has given us a nice graph to show this as well.
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The Rangers have had a light schedule the past week and change or so. Now, they begin a stretch of six games in ten days leading up to Christmas. It starts with a west coast swing though Vancouver, Edmonton and Calgary before heading back east for a home and home with lowly Carolina and finally finishing up against the Caps at the Garden. This stretch is going to be incredibly important, both in the standings and beginning to start to figure out how good this team actually is.
It’s been talked to death, but the beginning of this season was marred by significant injuries to multiple key players. A combination of injury fill-ins and guys playing out of their ideal roles have masked the talent level in relation to performance. Now, with guys starting to get healthy, we need to get a look at the defending Eastern Conference Champions for the first time, 25 games into the season. Read more »
Looking for some form…Scott Levy/Getty Images
While the Rangers keep looking for some consistency and Rick Nash keeps the team in playoff contention almost single handidly, one of the most underwhelming players this season – so far – has been Mats Zuccarello. The little Norwegian winger has failed to live up to his new one year contract (and hefty pay rise) and certainly hasn’t played to a level where he can expect to a get rich, long term deal this coming summer.
With all that said, the Rangers really need Zuccarello to get going. Zuccarello is one of the Rangers more creative players and, Marty St Louis and Derek Stepan aside, arguably boasts the best on ice vision of any Ranger. An in form Zuccarello would surely make the Rangers powerplay much more efficient which would go a long way in helping the team string more wins together. Last season Zuccarello had 17 points with the extra man. This year, somehow, he has yet to record his first point on the powerplay. A huge fall from grace for the popular and hard working winger.
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“Defense? What’s that?…” (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
(This post was written before the doubts about Kreider’s availability for tonight were released. But… the point of the post remains.) The arguments for keeping Chris Kreider in the line-up and hopefully riding out his ‘growing pains’ are obvious. Size, speed, a wicked shot and that the team wide lack of size would be further exaggerated without him in the line-up. That all said, Kreider has obviously hit a brick wall this season. His production has dried up which means his defensive miscues and poor decision making are no longer being covered up.
In the long term Kreider remains a key part of the Rangers future, although legitimate concerns are starting to be raised about whether his iffy decision making ability and his defensive awareness will hold him back from becoming a top tier power forward. Even as recently as the start of this season, Kreider looked on his way to taking the next step but his production to start the year was clearly masking the errors that continue to punctuate his overall game.
In the short term, the Rangers could and perhaps should look elsewhere for an injection of offense and defensive accountability. Should Anthony Duclair be back in the line-up? Equally dangerous with his skating ability, Duclair is certainly no worse in his own end than Kreider and has looked dangerous in the offensive zone even without the goals to show for it. Duclair is however, just one option.
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Right now, John Moore hasn’t earned a new deal with the New York Rangers. However the young, underperforming yet talented blueliner’s future may be closely linked to that of Marc Staal. This season the Rangers are discovering what too much roster turnover in one offseason can cause. Part of the Rangers’ problems to begin the year has been a lack of chemistry up front as well as on the blueline. So would the Rangers be willing to let Staal and Moore go? As well as potentially having to fill the other spot on the third pairing?
Staal is looking for a minimum of 5.5m per year. He hasn’t earned that type of deal when focussing on his performances this season. Moore (according to the Post) is likely to receive 1.5m per year in arbitration. Given that number is almost double his current salary it’s hard to see the Rangers agreeing to that kind of deal. These kind of numbers only add to the uncertainty surrounding Moore. In short, both defensemen have huge question marks in front of their Ranger futures.
Currently a healthy scratch, Moore hasn’t really done much to warrant an extension but the tantalising talent is still there and plenty of defenseman don’t peak until their mid twenties. Should the Rangers wait for Moore to find the next level? Their decision could depend on Marc Staal’s future.
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Zuccarello is one of several Rangers players that need to step up offensively
Henrik Lundqvist isn’t turning in consistent Vezina worthy performances this season, something that’s being well documented, however it’s reasonable to expect Lundqvist to rebound. When someone delivers the type of consistent excellence Lundqvist has done for the best part of a decade it’s fair to expect a return to form. A bigger concern for the Rangers right now is the lack of consistent, secondary scoring the team is receiving.
The Rangers are hovering around the playoff positions almost exclusively because of the contributions of Rick Nash, Marty St Louis and Derick Brassard. The trio have 34 of the Rangers 71 goals, accounting for over 47% of the Rangers total. After those three, production falls of a cliff. The return of Derek Stepan has given the Rangers an added dimension but the team is getting far too little out of players who they were counting on for big contributions and the Rangers season threatens to get worse if that lack of production continues.
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It was just over four weeks ago that Chris Mueller was the third-line center for the New York Rangers. Feels like a lot longer than that, right?
New York’s problems down the middle began when the team failed to bring in a replacement for Brad Richards and were exacerbated when Derek Stepan broke his fibula during training camp.
But since Stepan’s return to the lineup on November 8th, a bit of normalcy has returned to the Blueshirts. Their 5-5-2 record over that span looks a lot worse thanks to three recent losses to the impressive Tampa Bay Lightning, but Stepan has been a godsend since the moment he rejoined the team.
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Photo: Adam Hunger/USA Today
With their 6-3 loss last night, the New York Rangers dropped to 0-3 against the Lightning, and the mood switched from positive –following a home-and-home sweep of the Flyers– to negative pretty quickly. It’s amazing how that works. But the best teams in the league do two things consistently: Beat up on bad teams and stay around .500 against good teams.
So far, the Rangers have played 13 games against teams likely headed to the playoffs and 11 games against likely non-playoff teams. Keyword here is likely, based on current record, division, and #fancystats known to predict rise/fall of playoff contenders and pretenders (FF close, PDO). Part of the equation here is when the Rangers played certain teams as well, which –as full disclosure– I did not factor into this post. Nor did I factor in home/away splits, since the Rangers seem to play better on the road anyway.
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Frank Franklin II, AP Photo
Disclaimer: This was written before this morning’s announcement that Anthony Duclair will be the healthy scratch.
Chris Kreider will return to the lineup tonight after dealing with the death of his grandfather, and with his return comes another logjam at wing. Even without Tanner Glass, out with the mumps for an unknown period of time, the Rangers have nine very capable wingers who, at least after Saturday’s game, deserve another game together. But obviously you can’t sit Kreider, so who sits?
J.T. Miller is a candidate, but he clicked very nicely on LW with Dominic Moore and Jesper Fast (something I wanted a month ago). The fourth line was something I spent significant time on a week after that tweet as well. That line worked on Saturday against a bad Flyers team. Considering how badly the fourth line got torched in the previous two games against Tampa Bay, it makes sense to keep this one together and see how they do.
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Photo: Chris O’Meara/AP
This past week the Montreal Canadiens signed one of their talented homegrown core to a long-term contract and in doing so, helped the Rangers begin to identify market value for Carl Hagelin’s next contract. Habs’ winger Brendan Gallagher is a comparable for Carl Hagelin in a variety of ways. Both players were mid-round draft picks, neither are blessed with great size, but both have established themselves as solid NHL’ers. Both are known for their work ethic, speed and overall games and not just for their production.
Gallagher’s new contract (six years with a cap hit of $3.75 million per year) is good value for the Habs given his increasing importance to his team and given some of the idiotic deals found around the league. Gallagher had 41 points and 19 goals last year and chipped in with 11 points as the Canadiens got to the Eastern Conference Finals only to lose to the Rangers. With 82 points in 150 games, Gallagher is averaging similar regular season production over his career as Hagelin (104 in 207). Both wingers also have similar post-season production as well (Hagelin had a point more than Gallagher last year).
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