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Musings: Consistency, Consistency, Consistency

Talbot.

The one thing we’ve come to expect of our hockey clubs in New York is consistency. With the New York Rangers, that consistency, at least in the opening few months of the season, is defined as consistently inconsistent. It’s a bit of a running joke, but it’s alarmingly true. Last night’s game was a prime example of how this club can play when they don’t play down to their competition. They did just that when they lose to the Toronto Maple Leafs, Edmonton Oilers, and Colorado Avalanche, all pretty bad teams.

Sure, you can blame the injuries to the blue line, and no team has really suffered injuries to the extent the Rangers have, but all teams do deal with injuries. You can point to the Derek Stepan injury, which led to an even more massive hole at center than initially predicted –by us– at the beginning of the season. But the Rangers have an opportunity now to put that inconsistency behind them with a relatively easy schedule to close out the month. Of course, being consistently inconsistent, you never know.

On to the musings:

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Rangers defense shows up, Talbot blanks Flyers

Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

The New York Rangers defense played an excellent game last night, doing a good job of keeping the Philadelphia Flyers to the outside for 31 chances –all stopped by Cam Talbot– en route to a 2-0 blanking on national television. Talbot was also excellent, stopping 13 of those 31 in the third period to preserve the 2-0 lead. The effort last night was a complete 180 from Tuesday’s against the Tampa Bay Lightning, and if not for Steve Mason, this would have been a lot better than 2-0.

Kevin Klein continued his usual scoring ways, notching the eventual game winner in the first period after a blown coverage by Wayne Simmonds. Rick Nash gave the Rangers a cushion on the powerplay, putting home an easy goal after a pretty sweet passing play with Derek Stepan and Martin St. Louis. Dominic Moore, who won’t show up on the scoreboard, was sensational as well.

On to the goals:

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Game 19: Home whites for Philly

Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Perhaps the New York Rangers just need to get a game in against a rival to break their current slump. The Philadelphia Flyers are that kind of team, and perhaps the Rangers will show up for this one. Perhaps, since the Flyers are shorthanded –without Claude Giroux– the Rangers will dominate the game. It’s a lot of “perhaps” because we really don’t know which team will show up.

The Flyers play a 2-1-2 forecheck, and once they get a late lead, they switch to a more conservative 1-1-3 left wing lock. In their own zone, the Flyers play a mix of zone and man-on-man defense, depending on puck location.On special teams, the Flyers run a 1-3-1 and an umbrella power play and a diamond force penalty kill with the strong side forward looking to pressure the point.

Rangers lineup:

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Should the Rangers be worried about Dan Girardi and Marc Staal’s form?

Can the Rangers rely on Dan Girardi? Photo: McIsaac/Getty

Can the Rangers rely on Dan Girardi? Photo: McIsaac/Getty

With a few exceptions the Rangers have been abysmal in their own end for almost the entire season. Whether it’s been the disruptions to the line up caused by the myriad of injuries or ‘a lack of desperation’ (says Rick Nash) or execution on any particular game night, it doesn’t matter. The Rangers have not been good enough.

The Rangers play a bad Flyers team Wednesday night. However they play a team that is loaded with offensive talent and given the Rangers’ struggles in their own end it is a game the Rangers could easily lose – particularly in their current state.

Consider the Rangers most senior blueliners for a moment. Dan Girardi is being paid like an elite defenseman. Marc Staal is expecting to be paid like an elite defenseman. Ryan McDonagh and Dan Boyle are being paid handsomely and even Kevin Klein is being paid better than most. Yet the Rangers defense has been appalling.

It’s unfair to expect miracles from a Matt Hunwick or Mike Kostka. Even less can be reasonably expected of Conor Allen and Dylan McIlrath. However, a significant portion of the blame needs to lie at the feet of Girardi and Staal. Their play causes significant concern moving forward.

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Lineup notes: Fast/Duclair in; Stempniak day-to-day

Per Steve Zipay, Lee Stempniak is out tonight, and Alain Vigneault doesn’t think it is a long-term issue. That means both Anthony Duclair and Jesper Fast will play tonight, on the third and fourth lines, respectively. Per Zipay, the lines at practice yesterday:

Rick Nash-Derick Brassard-Mats Zuccarello
Chris Kreider-Derek Stepan-Martin St. Louis
Carl Hagelin-Kevin Hayes-Anthony Duclair
Tanner Glass-Dominic Moore-Jesper Fast

The Rangers haven’t been able to replace Brad Richards

Richards finished third on the team with 51 points last year

We’ve spent a lot of time bemoaning the loss of Anton Stralman, whose departure has coincided with a drastic drop in possession numbers. We’ve also talked about the impact losing Brian Boyle has had on the penalty kill and on faceoffs. Heck, we’ve even reminisced about Raphael Diaz.

But one key veteran has been quickly forgotten since his forced exit just days after the Stanley Cup Final.

The buyout of Brad Richards was a foregone and necessary conclusion for the Blueshirts, who were in desperate need of cap space and had one final chance to shed the remainder of his albatross contract without being penalized.

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BSB FanDuel: 11/18

Here is the info for today’s FanDuel league: Sign up here, the league link is here.

For those unfamiliar with Fanduel, you are given $55,000 to construct a team of 2 LW, 2 RW, 2 C, 2 D, and 1 G. The goal is to find some good bargains (my advice is to save money on defense and spend big on offense) and save money for some stars you know will put up points. High fantasy points per game (FPG) with low cost is a good way to go, but look for streaks as well (for example. Johnny Boychuck is not going to continue at his pace).

Rotowire has a lineup optimizer, as does DangleFactory. They are good resources if this intrigues you, but you’re new to daily fantasy sports.

As always, if the league fills up before you can get in, let me know in the comments. I leave the league size at 10 people for now to ensure it fills up. If there is more interest, I will expand the size as this continues.

NHL kills dry scrape, finally

The NHL has finally killed the dry scrape of the ice between the third period and overtime of tie games. The reasons for killing it were obvious: It took too long and the crowd died after it. The last dry scrape will be done on Saturday.

Also, the phrase “dry scrape” sounds horrible. It sounds like an invasive test at a doctor’s office where you walk funny afterwards.

Last year’s positive regression does not apply to this year’s Rangers

Did you know that Staal has brothers? (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

In case you’ve missed it, and if you’ve been watching lately, you haven’t, the New York Rangers are playing some pretty inconsistent hockey. Some point to last year’s start as a sign of hope, but this is an entirely different situation from last year. The Rangers had solid possession numbers last year at this time, but were experiencing a combination of bad luck (bad SV% and SH%) and learning a new defensive zone coverage system.

This year, the Rangers are one of the worst possession teams in the league (20th – 49.5% FF close), but their PDO (combination of SH%+SV%, which usually regresses to 1000) is at 1000, meaning they likely won’t get any better there. Even when Ryan McDonagh comes back to the lineup, he’s replacing Matt Hunwick, who’s actually been one of the better defenders from a possession standpoint.

Long story short: That impressive streak we saw from January through the end of the year last season may not come this year. In fact, it likely won’t come.

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Effort lacking as Rangers blown out by Callahan, Lightning

Ryan Callahan made his return known to the Rangers, potting two goals –including the eventual game winner– as the Tampa Bay Lightning blew out the New York Rangers 5-1. This game could have been a lot worse, as I can count at least two other opportunities where Henrik Lundqvist came up huge, including once in the second that kept the game at 2-1. I know that you guys are expecting a goal breakdown, but I was at the game, and didn’t get home until 10:30. I do have a full time job that I need to be awake for, and bullet points are significantly quicker than goal breakdowns. So here we go:

  • The Rangers really didn’t show much last night. They looked sluggish, were getting beat to every loose puck, getting outmuscled in the corners, shying away from contact and from body checks. No one covered the slot, bad turnovers, minimal forecheck, terrible defense. This team really hung Hank out to dry.
  • That said, Tampa Bay is really good. They shut down the zone entries. They forced turnovers. They neutralized the Rangers speed by cutting off passing lanes and forcing the play to the outside. They got in shooting lanes. This is a very balanced team playing without its best defenseman (Victor Hedman). There’s a reason why we all went “oh crap” when we saw the moves they made.
  • On the second Cally goal, the defense was nowhere to be found. Marc Staal and Dan Girardi were behind the net, despite only one Lightning player (Steven Stamkos) in that area.

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