Archive for Defense
I was listening to the radio yesterday, and I couldn’t believe my ears. Hockey was being discussed, and it wasn’t Boomer and Carton or Michael Kay and Don La Greca. Once I got over my initial shock of hearing hockey on the radio discussed by a voice in which I could not identify, I started listening to the topic at hand.
The topic intrigued me: When Kevin Klein comes back, who should sit?
It got me thinking. Marc Staal, Dan Girardi, Ryan McDonagh, and Keith Yandle are not coming out of the lineup. All have been pretty solid in this series as well. So it’s really between Matt Hunwick and Dan Boyle.
If you want to explain to someone what Keith Yandle is all about, ask them to watch the Carl Hagelin breakaway goal from game three of the Rangers Pens playoff series, on Monday. Yandle’s pass to set up the goal was pin-point, crisp and defense splitting. Yandle’s pass was perfectly placed allowing Hagelin to race through on to Marc Andre Fleury and open the scoring. That’s what Yandle does and that’s what he has been doing increasingly as a Ranger, ever since Glen Sather made the bold trade to acquire the highly talented offensive defenseman.
Yandle has fit in well with the Rangers even if there was an initial adjustment period. Yandle started relatively slowly when he arrived in New York but that was to be expected. Coming from the hockey outpost that is Arizona and playing in a much different (and less speed orientated) system even the most talented players take time to adjust but adjust Yandle has.
In a season where the Rangers, from top to bottom, have done almost everything right the decision to insert Matt Hunwick straight into the line-up is the sign of a missed opportunity. When Henrik Lundqvist went down with an injury the team turned to Cam Talbot. Slowly but surely Talbot has turned himself into a legitimate NHL starter – at worst a high end backup – and moving forward, has developed into an asset for the franchise.
When Lundqvist eventually returns the embarrassment of riches in goal will be a huge advantage for the Rangers. On top of that the team has identified a young netminder in Mackenzie Skapski who may also have a future with the big club. In injury, opportunities lie or so they say.
While Talbot’s form was critical to the Rangers pursuing a high seed and playoff position, there is less pressure (to an extent) on Klein’s replacement in the line-up. Barring a collapse of the most epic of proportions the Rangers have a playoff spot sown up and barring a slightly less but still epic collapse they have a high seed in the bag too. The timing of Kevin Klein’s injury should represent an opportunity to test one of the younger Hartford blueliner’s.
With the All-Star Game coming up this weekend, we’ve been handing out our annual midseason grades. Dave tackled the goaltending and coaches, Chris wrote about the top-six forwards, and today I’ll be reviewing the defense.
Boyle’s season got off to a slow start after the 38-year-old D-man missed the first five weeks of the year with a broken wrist. But in my eyes, he was brought here to do one thing – fix the power play – and that’s been a resounding success. Does Boyle deserve all the credit? Definitely not. But he has made a major impact moving the puck quickly and decisively on the man advantage, and he’s been better in his own end than I expected. Boyle has been deployed in the offensive zone whenever possible, but he’s made that positioning count by helping the team direct rubber at the opposing net at a terrific rate.
The decision to let Anton Stralman go in favor of Boyle may haunt the Rangers for years, but for the short term, I’m pretty comfortable with the tradeoff.
Grade: A- Read More→
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.
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.
For the first time all season, the Rangers will dress a fully healthy squad. Captain Ryan McDonagh, injured since early this month with a separated shoulder, is set to return tonight against the Philadelphia Flyers. His return helps balance out the lineup on special teams as well as at even strength, but it goes far beyond the decision of who sits.
Matt Hunwick will be the odd-man out eventually (although John Moore is out tonight), which shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. What should be a surprise is how effective Hunwick was while replacing insert injured Rangers defenseman name here. You certainly have your own way of finishing that last sentence, but Hunwick has been an unsung hero for the Rangers and their ability to tread water while dealing with injuries all year.
With Hunwick out, McDonagh will skate next to Dan Girardi, as per usual. His presence should probably help Girardi get his game back to a level that we’ve come to expect*. Marc Staal and Dan Boyle will remain the second pairing, and Kevin Klein will stay with John Moore. Those pairings sound familiar, don’t they? It’s like we haven’t seen them since June. Oh wait, we haven’t.
*-Leaving this open-ended for a reason.
With a few exceptions the Rangers have been abysmal in their own end for almost the entire season. Whether it’s been the disruptions to the line up caused by the myriad of injuries or ‘a lack of desperation’ (says Rick Nash) or execution on any particular game night, it doesn’t matter. The Rangers have not been good enough.
The Rangers play a bad Flyers team Wednesday night. However they play a team that is loaded with offensive talent and given the Rangers’ struggles in their own end it is a game the Rangers could easily lose – particularly in their current state.
Consider the Rangers most senior blueliners for a moment. Dan Girardi is being paid like an elite defenseman. Marc Staal is expecting to be paid like an elite defenseman. Ryan McDonagh and Dan Boyle are being paid handsomely and even Kevin Klein is being paid better than most. Yet the Rangers defense has been appalling.
It’s unfair to expect miracles from a Matt Hunwick or Mike Kostka. Even less can be reasonably expected of Conor Allen and Dylan McIlrath. However, a significant portion of the blame needs to lie at the feet of Girardi and Staal. Their play causes significant concern moving forward.
Update: Per Larry Brooks, the Rangers are not expected to make Kaberle an offer.
The Hartford Wolf Pack have terminated the PTO for defenseman Tomas Kaberle. Kaberle played two games for the Pack, putting up a pair of powerplay assists and a -3 rating in the two losses to Manchester (4-3 in overtime) and Bridgeport (6-1). With the PTO terminated, this means that the Rangers will either offer him a contract, or that the PTO has ended and the two sides will part ways. Andrew Gross thinks that the Rangers will offer him a contract.
Personally, I don’t believe Kaberle is the answer. He hasn’t been relevant in the NHL since the 2011-2012 season. This is a speed game now, and Kaberle won’t add anything to the blue line that Matt Hunwick or Mike Kostka can’t. With the Rangers at 49 contracts, signing Kaberle would put them at the maximum 50 contracts, and make trades that much more difficult.
It’s amazing the difference one dominant performance can make. Prior to the Pens game I was ready to criticise Marc Staal pretty heavily, and all of a sudden he turns out his best performance of the year. However, the point of this post remains. For now.
This year, on a consistent basis, the Rangers have been poor in their own end. Games where the Rangers have been acceptable defensively (such as the Pens game, where the team played well – for the most part – in front of Henrik Lundqvist) have been the exception rather than the rule. Some of this can certainly be attributed to the defensive unit being blown up by injury and suspension but there have been two constants in the line-up in Marc Staal and Girardi.
While Girardi has been inconsistent he has rebounded to some extent. Marc Staal however has been playing at an unacceptable level given his salary expectations and the standards we have come to expect. Make no mistake, Staal has had a few good games this season and really was more like his usual self against the Pens, and he remains a player with tremendous skill and size, but the Rangers need Staal to be much better consistently (key word).