Archive for State of the Rangers
On Tuesday night, the Rangers scratched Dominic Moore so that Emerson Etem could get into the lineup again. There was a certain level of surprise at the move, as Moore has been one of the Rangers best and most consistent forwards for the past few years. It wasn’t a question about getting Etem into the lineup, it was about scratching Moore.
But the fourth line played a strong game, generating scoring chances and giving Rangers extra punch in the lineup. Etem was a machine, going to corners, driving to the net. It was capped by his very subtle tip pass off the boards to Jesper Fast for the first goal of the game. Etem made some mistakes as his hockey IQ isn’t optimal yet, but overall it was hard to not be impressed.
There are many different ways to develop prospects but are the Rangers – and coach Alain Vigneault – mishandling Emerson Etem and Dylan McIlrath? Sometimes a team needs to let a player grab a regular spot even before he’s earned his role. Maybe the Rangers need to lengthen the leash for Etem and McIlrath while the season is still early.
The Rangers have two unique prospects on their hands in Etem and McIlrath. A team not known for their physicality, the Rangers could surely benefit from Etem and/or McIlrath establishing themselves in the rotation. Etem has one of the biggest bodies up front for the Rangers and has speed the team would love to see more of. McIlrath of course, is a massive presence on the blueline who is comfortably the biggest, most physical defenseman the Rangers have on the backend. The problem is, neither player has been able to display their physical talents nearly enough. Part of that reason is opportunity.
Over the weekend, Alain Vigneault spoke with Dan Boyle, and said that he would be getting more time off as a healthy scratch throughout the season. The reasoning is that the Rangers have a fairly condensed schedule, with 17 back-to-backs and about ten (I think) three-in-fours. While Boyle is better defensively than he receives credit, he is also 39 years old coming off a long season.
There’s also the factor of getting Dylan McIlrath playing time, which in the long-run is equally important. McIlrath has made tremendous strides in his game over the past year, and has gone from “bust” territory to serviceable defenseman. The Rangers invested a lot of time and effort into his development, and it appears to finally be paying dividends.
*-No goal breakdown from last night or tonight. I’m at a wedding in Maryland. Sorry.
The Rangers won again last night, this time beating the Colorado Avalanche by a score of 2-1. This makes the Rangers 6-0-2 in their last eight games, and 9-2-2 to start the season. They sit atop the Metro Division, and this marks the first time in recent memory that an Alain Vigneault team didn’t start the season with a .500 record.
With any hot start, there are a lot of things to like about the Rangers. But with any hot start, there are some pretty big flaws that are being masked at the moment.
What to Like
With Viktor Stalberg set to return after this weekend, the Rangers are again left with a glut of forwards, all deserving of ice time. Emerson Etem played a solid game on Sunday, and certainly deserves to stay in the lineup. His play has given the Rangers flexibility to give Viktor Stalberg some extra time to recover from the blindside hit by Radko Gudas.
The coaching staff has a tough decision to make regarding who to sit once Stalberg is ready to return, but this is one of those good problems to have. It gives the Rangers an opportunity to match up against opponents, give veterans a rest here and there, or sit a youngster who might be struggling. Flexibility and depth win in this league.
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?