Archive for State of the Rangers

derek stepan

Photo by David Kirouac/Icon Sportswire

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.

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Categories : Playoffs, Special Teams
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Apr
03

Appreciating the overachieving Rangers

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Credit: AP / Elise Amendola

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.

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Mar
31

On chemistry

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New York Post

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→

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marc staal nick holden henrik lundqvist

Photo: Jim McIsaac/Newsday

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.

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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.

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Mar
24

Dan Girardi back in lineup, on top pair

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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.

Categories : Defense
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pavel buchnevich jimmy vesey

Photo Credit: AP / Jim Mone

Over the weekend, Alain Vigneault decided to put Pavel Buchnevich, Oscar Lindberg, and Jimmy Vesey together on the fourth line. The trio clicked immediately, despite some concerns they might be defensively deficient. It provides even more evidence to support the speed/skill fourth line over grit/toughness.

Now don’t get me wrong, every team needs snarl. We got a little bit of that last night with a good Old Time Hockey brawl. It wasn’t a staged fight. It was one of passion that involved Vesey dropping the gloves, teamed with Brendan Smith and Nick Holden against three Devils. That same Vesey has been involved in a few other tussles this season.

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Categories : Forwards
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Ryan McDonagh has regained his status as one of the league’s elite defensemen

In hindsight, the 7-6 circus loss to the Dallas Stars on January 17 might have been the low-water mark of the 2016-2017 season for the Rangers. That marked the third time in 11 games the club yielded as many as seven goals and the Blueshirts were mired in a stretch of atrocious defensive play that made playoff contention seem comical.

But since that night, New York has given up four goals or more only six times in 27 games, and just twice surrendered as many as five.

In fact, the Rangers have allowed just 64 goals over that timeframe – a stingy 2.37 goals-against per game, which would rank fourth in the league if it were the team’s season-long rate.

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Categories : Defense
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Mar
20

The benefits of scoring and skill depth

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pavel buchnevich

Bruce Bennet/Getty Images

It’s no secret that I am a big proponent of four skill lines that can put the puck in the net. If I haven’t come out and said it, it’s been implied in almost every post I’ve written about lineup decisions and forwards. The best teams in the league, the ones that are true Cup contenders, are ones that have four skill lines. And the reason is simple. Matchups.

The Rangers’ fourth line scored twice on Saturday against Minnesota –a game I did not watch, as I was at a wedding– while dressing three young skilled guys on that fourth line. It was the first game in a week where the most polarizing fourth line player in history (Tanner Glass) did not play. Jimmy Vesey and Oscar Lindberg scored. Lindberg and Pavel Buchnevich also had assists.

Adam Clendening, in for Steven Kampfer, also had an assist.

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Categories : Forwards
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dan girardi

Photo: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images North America

The Rangers haven’t had a fully healthy defensive unit for some time now. Kevin Klein has been out with a nagging back injury, and Dan Girardi has been out with an ankle injury. We haven’t heard any news about them skating in practice yet, so it’s safe to say the Rangers are taking their time and not rushing either veteran back into the lineup.

With the new luxury of being able to rest some players without really impacting playoff seeding, Alain Vigneault has a rare opportunity to evaluate the current six-some on defense and see if and where Girardi/Klein can slide in when healthy. Emphasis here is on if.

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Categories : Defense
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