Archive for State of the Rangers
It’s been well-documented at this point that the Rangers ousted the Canadiens in the first round by prioritizing skill throughout their lineup at forward. Montreal was a well-coached team with outstanding goaltending, but they were simply unable to match New York’s depth.
Though they employ a structured, defensive style of hockey, the Ottawa Senators pose a very different challenge for the Rangers to deal with in the second round of the playoffs. Head coach Guy Boucher is well-known for not just his neutral zone trap, but also juggling his lines.
It’s playoff time, and that means over-analyzing absolutely everything there is to analyze about hockey. Whether it’s a particular goal, a bad call, or the decision to play Nick Holden and Marc Staal in the twilight of a close game, it all deserves our intense scrutiny because well, we’re talking about a chance at a Stanley Cup here. One thing that’s especially crucial in the playoffs, and thus warranting our obsessive analysis, is chemistry.
A couple of weeks back the excellent Ryan Stimson put up a piece on just that. For those of you who don’t know, Stimson runs the Passing Project, which is an effort to track passes that take place during hockey games in order to better understand the little things that make a big difference over the course of a season. While the Passing Project doesn’t quite have every game tracked, they do have a substantial amount of work done already (almost 900 games) and Ryan’s work is worth your attention. The piece can be found over on hockey-graphs.com, and I highly recommend you read it. Read More→
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.
If in September, you told me that the Rangers would have another 100 point season under their belt, be locked into a favorable playoff matchup by February, and one of the top-ten teams in the league by the end of the year, I would have told you that I have a bridge to sell you. Very few people were convinced this was a good hockey team in September.
Sure, the forwards were revamped and incredibly deep. But that was it. The defense was still a black hole, and the only way the Rangers were going to win consistently is if Henrik Lundqvist and/or Antti Raanta had career years. Not many thought the team would be able to outscore their porous defense.
Since the analytics movement began a few years ago, there has been a pretty consistent back and forth amongst the old and new school about the proper way to go about assembling a hockey team. The old adage is that you can’t build a team on a spreadsheet. More goes into it than that. On the other side of the coin, you take what you can quantify and use the most important data as the backbone for the team’s construction. At the end of the day, it all kind of boils down to “how do you quantify chemistry, character and heart?” It is even possible? Read More→
With their overtime loss to San Jose last night, the Rangers clinched a playoff berth. It was a mere formality, as the Blueshirts have been locked into the WC1 spot for quite some time. The lay of the land was that clear as early as January. But despite the 97 points and little check mark, there are concerns with the Rangers.
For all intents and purposes –I hate the loser point– the Rangers are 6-8 this month in 14 games. They have one game remaining against the Penguins. No matter what, the Rangers are going to stumble through March with a losing record. With just five games remaining in the season, that’s not a good look for a team looking to make a run.
Alain Vigneault and co. would never publicly admit their glee about how their team’s playoff picture is unfolding, but things are progressing quite nicely for the Blueshirts.
Start with the obvious – the rejiggered playoff format will allow New York to open against the Atlantic Division winner (likely either Montreal or Ottawa), then square off with a second Atlantic foe should they advance, while the juggernaut Penguins, Capitals and Blue Jackets beat the heck out of each other. Those Atlantic foes shouldn’t be taken lightly, but advancing through that half of the bracket looks infinitely easier than the Metro murderer’s row.
In their slot as the Eastern Conference’s first wild card, the Blueshirts will be the road team for the duration of their playoff run. Normally that’s cause for concern, but not so much for a club that’s threatening the single-season road wins record and also possesses perhaps the best Game 7 goalie in league history.
Per Larry Brooks, Dan Girardi is back in the lineup. He is practicing on the top pair with Ryan McDonagh. Marc Staal and Nick Holden are back together. Brady Skjei and Brendan Smith are the third pair. Adam Clendening and Steve Kampfer are the scratches.
This is what we expected from Alain Vigneault, as disappointing as it is. At this point it’s beyond the players, it’s on the coach. These are not the optimal pairs for a team that wants to succeed in the playoffs.
Who knows? Maybe this is just a one game thing before AV tinkers more. But I’m not optimistic. You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.