The Rangers got whooped against the Canadiens Wednesday night. Happy thanksgiving everyone! All jokes aside, the Rangers were brutal, but the record is still full of good things so on that note, let’s have a short thanksgiving musings shall we? Have a great day today everyone. Happy holidays.
I’ve gotten a lot of heat recently for writing negative posts on the Rangers despite the sexy record and division lead. The thing is, the Rangers are not playing well in their own zone at all and are over complicating things in the offensive zone as well. We all love the record but if the Rangers ambitions are another trip to the Finals, the play has to begin to catch up to the record.
It’s fact that the list of Rangers players meeting expectations is a lot shorter than the list of players who could be playing much better.
The Rangers were horrid on Monday night, and somehow came away with a win. Tonight they face a Montreal Canadiens team that thoroughly dominated them last month, and are one of the favorites to come out of the Eastern Conference this year. Montreal has been superb. Carey Price is following up his Vezina/Hart campaign with another solid year. The Habs basically score at will, and their defense has been great thus far.
As for the Rangers, well they need to play better. For the first 21 games, they’ve been hemorrhaging shot attempts, and it’s taken herculean efforts from Henrik Lundqvist to ensure victory. That can’t continue, and Montreal is a team that will beat them into the ground if they continue to play that way. Play better with the puck, and the ice will finally tilt in the other team’s direction. No team, none, can continually win by sitting and waiting for counter attacks. Sooner or later, those opportunities won’t come. Puck possession, dirty shots, dirty goals. They are needed.
A shutout victory against a very good team can mask a lot of deficiencies but the Rangers won’t win the Stanley Cup the way they’re currently playing – I think all Rangers fans know this. The top line can dominate all they want but they can’t play sixty minutes every game and Henrik Lundqvist can win the Vezina by a landslide but even he needs support. There is no way Lundqvist can continue this stretch of excellence unless the team start to play better in front of him.
The Rangers are winning games but they aren’t playing consistently well at either end of the rink – a handful of players aside. If it wasn’t for a potentially career year from Mats Zuccarello and Lundqvist’s sustained brilliance, what would this team’s record be? A lot closer to .500 hockey for sure.
Of course, there are a lot of reasons for optimism. The vast majority of the roster can play better, the defense certainly has the ability and collective track record to suggest they can (and will?) offer Lundqvist more protection and if team-wide discipline improves (it must) then the Rangers would spend less time in the penalty box surely resulting in more offense by default.
Over the course of the last few months I have been attempting to develop a tool that would add another layer in a person’s ability to analyze a player. Today I am proud to launch the Player Salary Analysis Module, or PSAM for short, which compares production to salary for all NHL players. The tool is available on the menu above. Forwards can be viewed here. Defensemen can be viewed here.
We as hockey fans know of the different methods we use to evalute players. We have the traditional goals/assists/points in conjunction with scouting the player. We also have the new visuals that have been getting developed by members of the analytics community that help us as fans see how a player’s underlying stats classify his role or usefulness to a team, such as the famous HERO Charts.
There has been one thing that I feel hasn’t really been touched upon though. Along with the hard stats that we as hockey fans know and the underlying stats that have been developed, there is one more thing that helps us articulate the overall value of a player. Ever since the lockout of the 2004-2005 season, it may be one of the more important aspects of a player: His salary.
If you’ve been here for a while, then you are probably expecting some kind of goal breakdown. I apologize, but you’re not getting one this morning.
The Rangers cannot continue at this pace. It is unsustainable. They are not playing well, they are getting extremely lucky, and Henrik Lundqvist is bailing them out on a nightly basis. They will not continue to win games like this.
I’ve been saying the above for three weeks now. If you didn’t see it before, then last night’s game was an eye opener for you. It is certainly an extreme example of what I, along with others, have been seeing. It is not a good trend, and last night was the most egregious example thus far this season.
The Rangers won, I get that. And I am ecstatic that they won. They showed up in the third period and played significantly better. Henrik Lundqvist completely bailed them out in the first two periods, where it looked like the Rangers were just letting Nashville do whatever they wanted. It was atrocious. The Rangers did not deserve to win the game, period.
The Rangers are back home to open a tough stretch at the Garden that begins with Nashville. The Preds have one of the best blue lines in the league and Pekka Rinne in net. They have some solid talent up front that controls possession (53.8% CF). This is a playoff team in a tough division.
Meanwhile, the Rangers are not exactly playing their best hockey. They are winning, but the process doesn’t match the results on the ice. The goaltending is masking a large number of issues with the defense, and the forwards –although scoring– are playing dump and chase hockey a little too much, giving up the puck to the opposition on a regular basis. That needs to change. Teams like Nashville will exploit it.
Alain Vigneault tried out some new lines at practice today, and it is likely these are the lines for tonight’s game against Nashville.
Emerson Etem is the healthy forward scratch. The defense remained the same.
When I started writing this post, I had about 20 things going through my mind about this team, but nothing was solid enough to be a stand alone post. After about an hour of trying to figure out what to write about, it dawned on me. Since Thursday is Thanksgiving, a Monday Musings sounded like a solid idea. I feel like this should have come to me sooner than an hour later, but such is life.
- Let’s get this out of the way first: This start is easy to enjoy. Getting all these points now will make things a lot easier in March/April when other teams are fighting for their playoff lives. They haven’t clinched anything yet, but 32 points after one-quarter of the season is a nice bank of points to start with.
- That said, this team has not been playing as well as their record indicates. That’s not saying they aren’t as good as their record, it’s saying they have not been playing like an elite team. Their defense has been relatively atrocious, and they’ve been poor with puck management. They’ve excelled with what we’ve expected them to: goaltending and transition scoring. Based on the reaction from the poor showing in Florida, people are starting to catch on.
- There will be a significant PDO crash for this team. That means the hot shooting will likely level out, as will the unsustainable goaltending. This doesn’t mean the Rangers will become a bad team, it just means that we should expect some losses. No team can continue at this pace, it’s just not possible.
The World Cup of Hockey will be back next September in Toronto, prior to the beginning of the 2016-17 NHL season. Scouting for the national teams has already begun, with GMs and coaches announced and the expectations of rosters being set sometime in March. We’ve seen snubs and surprises in the 2014 Olympics, so let’s go over some expected changes in the rosters.
Over the next few months, before the rosters are announced, we’ll take a look at the possible additions and subtractions to the World Cup teams, and how certain countries may look different than what we expect.
The Rangers are in Sunrise tonight to take on the Florida Panthers. The Panthers have been riding great goaltending from Roberto Luongo and well balanced scoring from their top-six to a .500 record. They are struggling lately at 3-5-2 as shooting percentages from their top-six fall, but this is a young team on the rise with some solid veteran leadership.
New York had their win streak snapped the other day in Tampa Bay, and are going to look to rebound tonight. Last year’s team was very good at rebounding after losses, and with minimal roster turnover, we should hope that this year’s club shows the same resolve. The Rangers are going to need to battle the eventual PDO crash coming their way, so getting back on track against a mediocre club.