Archive for State of the Rangers

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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Mar
16

Appreciating the Rangers’ scoring depth

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mika zibanejad

As the Rangers gear up for a playoff run, a lot of the focus has been on potential opponents and/or pending lineup decisions. But I want to take a step back and appreciate the big picture for a second. In September, we all thought the Rangers had no chance of being this good. If you had told me that Henrik Lundqvist would struggle for the first half of the season, I would have guessed the Rangers missed the playoffs.

But here we are, 90 points later and a virtual lock for the playoffs. The goaltending came around. The defense is pretty bad, but there have been bright spots and unexpected scoring sources. However it’s been the forwards carrying the load by outscoring the inconsistent goaltending and porous defense. It’s time we appreciate that depth.

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Categories : Forwards
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Feb
22

The pressure is on Jeff Gorton

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Jeff Gorton has the unenviable task of fixing the defense this week

Jeff Gorton has done a masterful job remaking the Rangers’ forward corps and deserves full credit for that.

But as the trade deadline closes in without any apparent blueline solutions on the horizon that don’t cost an arm and a leg, it’s fair to ask – what was the plan on defense?

The decision to let Keith Yandle walk was puzzling, but with Yandle having a poor year and his not insignificant contract, we’ve largely given Gorton a pass on that.

And indeed, the acquisition of Nick Holden has worked out marvelously. Paying a mere fourth-round pick for arguably New York’s second-best D-man was a coup.

But here’s the key question: was that it?

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