The Rangers are off to their best start in history, but yet there is that sneaking suspicion that all is not well in Rangerland. Both Henrik Lundqvist and Antti Raanta have been forced to make highlight reel saves on a regular basis. Defensemen are getting burned to the outside, are getting caught out of position, and are hemorrhaging shots against at an alarming rate. When the SV% comes back down to Earth, and it will, the Rangers may find themselves losing games they should win.
Don’t get me wrong, this is a playoff team with elite goaltending and forward depth that is envied across the league. They are one of the top four teams in the Eastern Conference right now, up there with Montreal, Tampa Bay, and Washington. Any of those four can come out of the East. Wild cards like Pittsburgh and the Islanders also make things interesting.
Since the East is going to be a dog fight, the Rangers need to do everything possible to improve their performance on the ice and give themselves the best chance at winning that elusive Stanley Cup. That includes improving upon their bottom-third score-adjusted possession rate.
Just two questions this week in the mailbag. You can submit questions for mailbags via the form on the right.
Michael: A couple days ago someone asked what was the link between zone start percentage and Corsi. So i got all the data from War on ice for each individual player for this season plotted relative zone start percentage vs Corsi for and fit a line on the data. Nothing mind blowing but thought it would be interesting to share with you guys. As one might expect better o zone starts leads to better possession numbers.
The Rangers have placed defenseman Peter Zamorsky on unconditional waivers to terminate his contract. Zamorsky was signed as an undrafted free agent out of the Czech league in June of 2014. Zamorsky never made the cut for the Rangers, and was getting passed on the depth chart by guys like Brady Skjei and Ryan Graves. Zamorsky will return to the Czech Republic, and he will be removed from the reserve list.
The Rangers also placed goalie Cedrick Desjardins on regular waivers, and he will be sent to the AHL. Desjardins was injured, so he couldn’t be waived prior to today.
Richard Nejezchleb was sent down to the ECHL as well.
Last week, the Detroit Red Wings signed winger Justin Abdelkader to a whopping seven year extension that comes with a cap hit of $4.25 million per season. Abdelkader was set to be an unrestricted free agent after this season, the final year of his four-year deal. His cap hit was $1.8 million, but this season he made $2.25 million. The 28-year-old winger has just one 20-goal season under his belt and sports a career line of 66-74-140 in 415 games. This contract puts him in Mats Zuccarello territory.
This leads us to Chris Kreider, who is going to be a restricted free agent after this season. While not direct comparables, the Abdelkader contract can be used as a reference point for Kreider’s agent in negotiations*. Kreider is four years younger, already has a 20-goal season under his belt, and has been a consistent presence in the top-six for the past two seasons.
*-The Abdelkader contract cannot be used as a comparable in arbitration, but can be used by his agent in negotiations outside of arbitration.
For the past year, I’ve been theorizing that the Rangers may have a higher shooting percentage because most of their offense is based off turnovers and creating rushes. In theory it makes sense. The Rangers pressure teams in the neutral zone and high risk area between the defensive blue line and the top of the circle, force turnovers, and then transition to offense.
This type of game requires a specific skill set up and down the lineup. It requires positional awareness, speed, quick passing, and elite finishing. It also requires faith in goaltending, as any mistakes lead to scoring chances against. In theory, a team that executes this properly should have a higher shooting percentage, since rush chances are generally perceived as higher quality chances.
Mats Zuccarello has owned the Toronto Maple Leafs this year. He has six points in the two games against Toronto this year, and has scored four goals in those games. Tonight he buried one in the final minute to give the Rangers a 4-3 win in a snoozer at MSG. Antti Raanta was great, as expected, and Jonathan Bernier was pretty atrocious, allowing two horrendous goals. The win is the Rangers ninth in a row, and they are now 11-0-2 in their last 13 games. Unbelievable.
During the second intermission, Derek Stepan commented about his goal from the red line, stating he plays for “Knicks bounces.” That has to be frustrating for players. This ice was choppy, and there was no flow in the game because of it. Pucks were hopping over sticks on routine plays. There’s a lot of discussion about more goals making games exciting, but this game was dreadful. Give me action and flow over flukey goals any day.
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins 7, Hartford Wolf Pack 6 (OT)
By Phil Oxnard
Hartford, CT, November 15, 2015 – The Hartford Wolf Pack broke out to a 5-1 first period lead over the AHL-leading Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins Sunday at the XL Center, only to give up five goals in the second period in what would turn out to be a 7-6 overtime loss.
Scott Wilson’s second goal of the game won it for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton 34 seconds into overtime, after former Penguin Jayson Megna had scored with 1:09 remaining in regulation to tie the contest at six. The Wolf Pack are now 0-6-1-0 in their last seven games, but snapped a franchise-record streak of six straight regulation defeats.
Ryan Bourque had two goals for the Wolf Pack, and Chad Nehring added a goal and two assists. Kevin Porter also scored twice for the Penguins, who also got four assists from Conor Sheary.
This is one amazing run, isn’t it? The Rangers have won eight in a row and have points in a whopping twelve straight games (10-0-2). The schedule has been relatively weak, but they also have wins against very good Washington and St. Louis teams. The Blueshirts are getting it done with elite –and unsustainable– goaltending and opportunistic shooting.
Tonight it’s the Maple Leafs, who are pretty bad. This will be a lottery team. They can’t score (2.2 GF/P) and can’t defend (2.94 GA/G). James Reimer has been good in net (.925 SV%), but the Rangers are drawing Jonathan Bernier tonight, who has been having a rough start to the year. The Leafs are also a sub-50% possession team. None of these things should surprise anyone, as the Leafs are rebuilding under new coach Mike Babcock.
Ahh November, the second full month of hockey when everyone’s beginning to shake the dust off and come into their true 2015-16 form. It’s when teams are beginning to either warm up or fizzle out, when the teams you expect to be in first are and those that have started hot can really prove themselves. it’s when your Saturday fantasy teams are so packed that you definitely have to bench a guy who’s playing tonight — and flip out when they score some goals.
Apparently, it’s also the time that the rumor mill gets started and hot takes heat up. Last week, trade rumors came about for two forwards from the West, one of whom made Rangers twitter a complete nut house and pretty unbearable in general. Yes, more unbearable than usual. Read More→
The New York Rangers made it eight wins in a row, beating the Ottawa Senators in a shootout. The game itself was rather uneventful, excluding overtime. The Rangers put 34 shots on Craig Anderson, including a decent amount from the slot area. Henrik Lundqvist made some pretty spectacular saves, which is becoming par for the course. But this game just didn’t have that level of excitement that others had.
Overtime, on the other hand, was crazy. Chances galore for both teams. I actually gave up trying to gif everything because there was so much I couldn’t keep up. That was by far the best overtime I’ve ever seen.
Before the goals, I wanted to touch on the Zack Smith headshot and ensuing fight with Chris Kreider (gifs here). That’s a clear headshot that the refs missed. Fine, it happens. But giving Kreider 17 minutes and Smith only 7 minutes is laughable.