Archive for State of the Rangers
Somehow every year this game tricks us into forgetting that each season consists of 82 games and will without fail feature peaks and valleys in both performance and results.
The 2016-2017 campaign has been no different for the Blueshirts, who came out of the gate like gangbusters – scoring at an unprecedented rate and looking very capable of making another run despite pessimistic preseason predictions by most pundits.
Then, the offense dried up, the luck ran out, injuries struck and the usual all-world goaltending became suddenly average.
As the season has progressed for the Rangers, there has been growing concern that this year is a lot like last year. And it’s tough to really fault those that are worried. There are some alarming similarities. Last year, the Rangers got off to a hot start with unsustainable goaltending and shooting. Their possession stats weren’t good, and when the regression came, the Rangers crashed down to Earth.
This year is a little similar. There was a hot start with unsustainable shooting. The possession stats have been tanking until very recently. But there are some differences at even strength, most notably the scoring chance rates (great) and the goaltending (mediocre).
But perhaps the biggest difference from this year to last is special teams.
The Rangers are in a weird spot right now. Still riding their hot start, they remain tied for the second highest point total in the NHL, with a comfortable playoff position and league best goal differential. On the other hand, they are only 5-4-1 in their last ten games, they are missing four (!) top nine forwards and have seen their shot differentials trending in the way wrong direction.
So, how are we currently supposed to be feeling as Ranger fans? We know the defense has not been up to snuff. Henrik Lundqvist has not been his usual self so far this season (sidebar: I plan to do an analysis shortly about why exactly that is) and the Rangers ability to create offensive chances can be stifled with conservative neutral zone tactics. Yet, despite all this, they are having (overall) success. Now, the old analytics argument is starting to rear its ugly head again on regression versus fan enjoyment, but there are a lot of moving parts here. Let’s break it down a little. Read More→
The Rangers have had an interesting start to the season, one that feels similar to last year. The Rangers are getting ridiculously hot shooting and relying on getting at least three goals per game to get their wins. They haven’t won a single game where they scored fewer than three times, and the goaltending is unable to mask the defensive deficiencies any longer.
However the major change from last year, and perhaps the source of many of their wins over the past few weeks, is their special teams play. Last year, the power play was mediocre and the penalty kill flat out stunk. This year is a complete 180, with the Rangers in the top-ten in both categories.
The Rangers are slipping. It’s no secret to anyone who’s watched the team these past couple of weeks. Poor defensive play and a lack of execution on the rush –and some teams figuring out how to stymie the Rangers’ game plan– mean that the team has either barely squeaked by when they’ve won games (Philly) or gotten totally hammered (Buffalo). Situations like this are always multifaceted in that there’s never one main issue with the team that, if fixed, would suddenly make them Stanley Cup contenders, but one issue that needs to be discussed at this point is the coaching.
Let me be clear: I am not advocating for the firing of Alain Vigneault. What I am suggesting however is that it’s time to be frank about his time as the New York Rangers head coach and take the good with the bad. Yes, he has gotten the team within a few games of a Stanley Cup, but coaches can’t only be evaluated on their achievements, they also need to be evaluated on their shortcomings.
Boy, the Rangers play two mediocre games and all of a sudden the world is ending. The focus, as always, has been on the defense. But let’s be clear here. We all knew the defense was in need of an upgrade before the season started. The major problem lies on the right side, where Dan Girardi plays top pairing minutes and Kevin Klein has been bouncing between second and third pair. Brady Skjei has moved to that side to try to stabilize everything.
Dylan McIlrath wasn’t the answer. Adam Clendening may or may not be a viable bottom-pairing guy, and we won’t know until he’s in the lineup more consistently. Alain Vigneault is going to lean on his guys until major roster decisions are made down the road. So let’s try to get into AV’s head and understand why he’s making the decisions he’s making, instead of just bashing him or the players blindly.
The Rangers return to a more civilized time zone tonight, after a massively successful western Canadian swing. After an embarrassing loss to the Canucks the week before, the Rangers bore down for the victory to close out the trip, despite some of their depth being tested. Tonight, they will be back east to see our old buddy Torts and the predictably mediocre Blue Jackets.
This begins another difficult stretch for the Rangers, with seven games in twelve days to close out the month, including a home and home against the defending Stanley Cup champion Penguins. The Blueshirts deal with a significant amount of schedule congestion this month and for December, with January seeing only eleven games in thirty-one days. This is the toughest stretch of the season. Read More→
The Rangers are off to a magnificent start this year, and the feel is different from last season. At the risk of beating this drum again, the Rangers were heavily reliant on goaltending during their run last year. This season they are steamrolling opponents through sheer domination of scoring chances. It’s a full four lines that are able to press on the opposition.
In terms of scoring, the Rangers are getting contributions up and down the lineup. As of the writing of this post (before the Vancouver game last night), the Rangers have ten skaters (Miller, Hayes, Grabner, Nash, Stepan, Zibanejad, Kreider, Vesey, McDonagh, Zuccarello) with at least ten points, another two (Skjei, Pirri) with nine points, and another two (Buchnevich, Fast) with eight points.
You know it’s time to dust off your laptop and write a post for Blue Seat Blogs when there are jokes on the Internet about your location, your health, or doubts as to if you ever existed at all. Truth be told, I am not an alter ego for Dave Shapiro.
For new readers of Blue Seat Blogs, allow me to re-introduce myself, my name is HOV, H to the O V, The Suit. I like bourbon, matters related to bespoke tailoring, and hockey. I use a pseudonym for various reasons. I (sort of) invented blogging about Hockey Systems. Now Steve Valiquette has far surpassed me and did so with an air of Greenwich snobbery that even I can’t replicate (jk love you Vally).
Anyway, it’s been a while since I created internet, so I have decided to share a few views on things related specifically to our defense, because defense wins championships or something.
One of the many questions heading into the season was how Alain Vigneault would deploy his players. There were a bunch of new players, and even with four skill lines, AV still has a tendency to have his one “shutdown” line. Couple that with an aging and relatively poor defense group, and you have a lot of questions.
But in the early going, few players seem to be struggling. Sure you can name a few, but not many. In addition, there are the guys you assume will be used in defensive roles, like Dan Girardi, and the guys you assume will be deployed in an offensive role, like Adam Clendening.