Archive for State of the Rangers
Other than the infamous “Potvin Sucks” chant, there’s not much that’s more annoying at MSG than the cries for players to “SHOOT THE PUCK!” on the power play.
Sure, shooting the puck is usually a great idea – as Wayne Gretzky once said, “you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take” – but blasting a slapper from the point into the shin pads of an opposing forward when you’re the last line of defense is generally inadvisable.
When I was preparing to write this post, the original title was going to be “What is wrong with the Rangers powerplay?” Then as I got to watching this year’s games, and last year’s games, I got more and more frustrated. It’s not about the lack of goals. Ok, that’s a lie, it is about the lack of goals, but that’s just a by-product of a critical piece that is missing from this powerplay.
The Rangers do not have a right-handed shot on the off-wing that forces opponents to respect the shot from that side of the ice.
Derek Stepan is too methodical from that spot. He rarely one-times it and is looking to set people up. That’s fine, but when he’s on a powerplay unit with Keith Yandle, it creates two people looking to set up and no one looking to finish. This works against the Rangers, and it leads to too much passing and not enough shots. The puck movement is great, but there needs to be someone who will fire away.
Wherever you look, whatever league; this season Rangers’ goaltenders are putting up strong numbers. Led by Henrik Lundqvist’s strong start, the Rangers group of netminders are showing that, at the very least, the Rangers are among the best organisations in the entire NHL for goaltending depth. Let’s take a quick look at how Rangers goaltenders are getting on to begin the season;
Obviously, any conversation about goaltending begins and ends with Lundqvist. As he goes, so do the Rangers. Lundqvist is neck and neck with Carey Price for the best goaltender in the world tag and if the Rangers actually manage to play some consistent defense in front of their franchise goalie then this season could feature a second Vezina trophy for Lundqvist. Lundqvist may ‘only’ have a 3-2-1 record but his 2.16 GAA would be the third best mark of his career and his .931S% would represent a career high if he can maintain such a lofty figure all season.
Replacing Cam Talbot was never going to be easy for Antti Raanta but a shutout victory in your Rangers debut is one way of endearing yourself to the Rangers fanbase. His 19 game stretch (16-0-3) without losing a home game in regulation is borderline ridiculous. The Rangers managed to develop one backup (Talbot) into an NHL quality starter and there’s a legitimate chance they could do the same with Raanta. Success in the modern NHL often requires effective asset management and Raanta (26) could be the next example of the Rangers developing a young, cheap acquisition into something more significant.
In his column yesterday, the Post’s Larry Brooks wondered if New York’s choppy start is in part due to an inability to find the proper motivation for relatively meaningless early-season tilts, as well as general fatigue and wear and tear suffered by key players.
Whether or not that’s a viable excuse for the team’s uneven performance thus far – and no one within the organization would ever admit it if it was – one of the early trends of the 2015-2016 season seems to be a conscious decision by coach Alain Vigneault to put an increased emphasis on resting his squad, specifically, its biggest stars. Read More→
There are only two certain things in life: Death and screaming at the TV for the New York Rangers not having a good power play. It is still early in the season so this is bound to get better (hopefully), but the New York Rangers rank 25th in the league on the powerplay (ahead of the Penguins, Kings and the Ducks) and 13th in the league on the penalty kill. The penalty kill will probably be hovering around 10th or so in the league when all is said and done, as last year’s unit was ranked 6th.
The powerplay is a much larger concern. It seemed like the Rangers finally answered that problem last year when by trading for Yandle, but it is not the case at the moment. Don’t get me wrong, I liked the trade. Losing Anthony Duclair is painful. Losing a first round pick is painful. But it is not like they got a shoddy player in return. Yandle is still a top-30, maybe even top-2o defenseman in the league. He can keep the puck in the zone better than almost any player we’ve seen. He is only 29 years old and, with his play style, can probably be effective for another 7-8 years (Mark Streit and Lubomir Visnovsky come to mind here) should he stay healthy.
So why isn’t the power play working? That’s what was the point of this trade was, but could this come down to the coaching staff shooting themselves in the foot?
Last night in Montreal, Emerson Etem made his New York Rangers debut. It was rather unceremonious, as he played a grand total of 7:09 on fourth line duty, and was buried for 86% DZ starts. Not exactly the ideal deployment of a guy who is lauded for his offensive skillset.
Personally, I am not a huge fan of Etem’s game. I will be the first one to admit that he is a tremendously gifted offensive player. He has great hands, shot and skating agility. Decision-making, effort level and one-dimensional skillset are the critical concerns I have with Etem. The Rangers traded an extremely versatile player in Carl Hagelin for the young winger, and while I am not here to lament the merits of that trade, it does create something of a roster imbalance. Read More→
In case you missed it, and I’m pretty sure you haven’t, the Rangers have inserted Tanner Glass back to the fourth line. In the process, Jesper Fast has been scratched from the lineup. It’s October, so it’s not worth panicking yet (as I mentioned this morning), but this is a bit of an alarming move.
The Rangers need a solid fourth line to compete for a Stanley Cup this year. Scoring and skating depth throughout the lineup is critical, as is a fourth line that can eat up defensive zone starts. The Rangers had this in 2013-2014, and rode that roster construction all the way to the Stanley Cup Final.
The Rangers did not have that last year. The scoring suffered. The defense suffered. And while injuries certainly played a role in their seven game loss to the Lightning, the roster was not constructed to give the Rangers their best chance at winning.
When Kevin Klein was confirmed to be starting alongside Keith Yandle at the end of the preseason, I theorized that the two could be a solid duo. Klein has a heavy shot, looks to shoot often, and does a fairly good job of putting himself in a position to shoot. Yandle, on the other hand, is one of the best passers in the game, and makes many subtle plays to draw attention before dishing for a chance.
We started seeing this last night, as Klein scored the Rangers second of the game off a feed from Yandle, GIF’d above. From this play, we see Klein enter the zone at the high slot, then drift to the left circle. As Klein moves to the left circle –while the play is on the far side of the ice– Yandle moves from the left point across the blue line to support the play on the right point. From here, Yandle draws two Hawks to him with a fake shot as Klein angles himself towards Yandle to accept a pass. Yandle sees this, and feeds it right in his wheel house. Klein buried it.
In a Twitter conversation yesterday, the ability to limit shot attempts against while on the penalty kill came up. It’s been known that the Rangers have an elite penalty killing unit. They’ve always been in the top-ten in the league in killing penalties, but much of that was attributed to having Henrik Lundqvist in net. Lundqvist is certainly an All World goalie, but he’s not the only penalty killer out there.
To best evaluate individual success –independent of the goaltender– is to evaluate shot attempts against while the player is on the ice in these situations. It’s not perfect, but it is certainly a helper to evaluate. Looking at last year’s numbers (FA/60), the Rangers have had some elite talent on the penalty kill, especially at forward.