The Musings: A rivalry renewed

RMcD = MVP?  Photo Credit: LoHud

RMcD = MVP? Photo Credit: LoHud

Today is the day a rivalry gets renewed. The Rangers entertain the Flyers tonight in a much anticipated series. Let’s throw a few musings up.

The series against the Flyers represents a no-win situation for the Rangers. In all honesty, there is not a huge amount separating the two teams but yet everyone expects the Rangers to win. The Flyers have a ton of talent but are very flawed. That said, it wouldn’t be the greatest of shocks if they beat the Rangers but it would cause serious fall-out in New York.

Is there a single Ranger forward you wouldn’t swap for Claude Giroux?

Beyond the obvious (Hank, McD, Nash), who holds they key to the second round for the Rangers? Mats Zuccarello. He has been the Rangers best powerplay forward all year and you have to assume the Flyers will take more penalties than the Rangers. If the Rangers can stay out of the box and Zuccarello can work some PP magic that may be the decisive factor.

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The Rangers will be a dangerous team in the playoffs

Photo: LoHud

Photo: LoHud

The title and story sounds familiar. The Rangers will be a dangerous team in the playoffs. The usual reason is because Henrik Lundqvist can steal a series, something he’s done multiple times in the past. But the Washington Capitals are not in the playoffs this year, so there needs to be a different narrative. This year’s team  looks different. This team is one of the hottest in the league heading into the playoffs. This year, the #fancystats put them up there with the best.

Puck possession and PDO (SV%+SH%) are two stats we use regularly around here. It’s been proven many, many times that teams that drive puck possession are teams that are successful. Teams with a high PDO (over 100) generally were “more lucky” and have abnormally high SH% or SV% (or both). Teams that rode those to the playoffs generally fizzle out early, as the luck runs out and their SH%/SV% regress to the mean. This may seem complicated and a bit of an abstract concept, but Exhibit A is the 2011-2012 LA Kings. Exhibit B is the 2013-2014 Toronto Maple Leafs, who didn’t even make the playoffs.

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Playoff Predictions: Round One

2014 contenders for Lord Stanley

2014 contenders for Lord Stanley

Here at BSB, we’re always using “expertise” and “knowledge” and “total guesses” to bring you news and our views on goings on around the Rangers organization and all around the NHL. A few of us have broken down our individual predictions for each of the Round 1 playoff series. We’ll be doing this as each round advances. Enjoy.

Detroit vs Boston

Kevin’s Pick: Bruins in 7. I love the way the Red Wings are playing right now and probably would have taken them over any other team in the Eastern Conference, but this is a nightmare matchup for Detroit.

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Rangers sign Mat Bodie out of Union College

Apologies for the delay on this one. Yesterday was one of those rare days where all of us got dumped on at work, and none of us could post on this.

The Rangers signed undrafted free agent defenseman Mat Bodie out of Union College yesterday, just days after leading his team to a National Championship. As a senior at Union, Bodie put up a line of 8-31-39 in 40 games. In his college career, Bodie put together a line of 28-96-124 in 154 games, impressive numbers for a kid who entered college at 6’0 and 165 lbs.

His size is why he went undrafted, but Julie Robenhymer notes that he is at least 15 pounds heavier since he entered college. Chris Peters, one of the best US hockey bloggers out there, compared him to Torey Krug of the Bruins.

Bodie’s signing adds a true offensive defenseman to the prospect pool for the Rangers. With Bodie, Conor Allen, Brady Skjei, and Dylan McIlrath in the system, the Rangers have done quite the job of restocking their defensive prospects after seeing so many graduate to the NHL.

A different way of looking at special teams statistics

Derek Stepan tallied 18 power play points this season and added three shorthanded assists to lead the team

The Rangers went on a bizarre tear in March in which they scored on seven of 41 shorthanded situations, yet managed just five goals in 45 of their own power play opportunities. Obviously that was just a weird anomaly, but it made me realize that the traditional ways of measuring special teams – power play and penalty kill percentages – might not be the best way to assess their impact on winning and losing.

We all know what a huge impact special teams have on individual hockey games, but noting what rate a team’s power play has scored at and how often a penalty kill has surrendered goals over the course of a long season seems kind of silly. The percentage stats put way too much stock on what happened in October, which has no bearing on the present. Plus, those percentage stats don’t factor in shorthanded goals for and against, and we just saw how crucial those were to the Rangers’ success.

Power plays are constantly affected by the same factors that influence many other stats – hot streaks, injuries and dumb luck. Even the worst power play in the league can get red-hot for stretches, while a unit featuring five All-Stars can suffer a lengthy drought. The same goes for PK units. Read more »

Why the Rangers need to address the center position this summer

Derek Stepan is awful at face-offs. It needs addressing.

Derek Stepan is awful at face-offs. It needs addressing.

Not a single team currently ranked lower than the Rangers in face-off percentage this year will be in the playoffs. The last four Stanley Cup Champions (Chicago (twice), LA and Boston) rank 5th, 3rd and 8th respectively in face-off success. All three of the Rangers centers relied on for their offense – Derick Brassard, Derek Stepan and Brad Richards (so, not Dom Moore and Brian Boyle) – have less than a 50% success rate, with Stepan winning a paltry 45.2% of his face offs. Can you see the point we’re trying to make?

When Brad Richards leaves the Rangers this summer, the team must ensure his replacement(s) count face-off ability among their skill sets. Face-off weakness is also one why reason why Derick Brassard being retained isn’t a guarantee. Aside from resolving Marc Staal’s contract situation this summer, perhaps the biggest focus for the Rangers needs to be acquiring proven face-off centermen.

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Rangers recall J.T. Miller

The Rangers have recalled forward J.T. Miller from the AHL’s Hartford Wolf Pack. Since the Pack did not make the playoffs, their season is over, and Miller can benefit from watching the games as a healthy scratch. Miller will sit with fellow “rookie” Ryan Haggerty and the other healthy scratches as part of the taxi squad for this year’s playoffs. Don’t expect Miller to get any ice time, unless the Rangers are overcome with injuries to their forwards.

Zipay: Kreider may be ready for second round

Per Steve Zipay, injured winger Chris Kreider will likely miss the first round of the playoffs, but should be ready for the second round should the Rangers advance:

Chris Kreider (surgery on left hand March 28) is progressing and the 17-goal scorer should be ready if the Rangers advance to the second round.

This means that the Rangers will need to dress Jesper Fast (or Dan Carcillo) for the entirety of the first round.

Fast or Carcillo: Lineup decision plays key role

Fast has played well so far. (Photo: Drew Hallowell/Getty Images)

Fast has played well so far. (Photo: Drew Hallowell/Getty Images)

When Chris Kreider went down with his hand injury, the Rangers were left with a problem in their top-six forwards. There were few options to fill in for Kreider, and none that could provide the scoring threat that Kreider provides on a nightly basis. Dan Carcillo has been a pleasant surprise, and Jesper Fast has held his own in his call up this week. Since J.T. Miller is not ready to take on this role, it comes down to Fast or Carcillo.

Acquired for a 7th round pick, Carcillo has been one of those pickups that went under the radar but reaped many rewards for the Rangers. Originally thought to be redundant with Arron Asham in Hartford, Carcillo has fit in nicely with the fourth line. The fourth line continued chugging along with Carcillo in for the then-injured Derek Dorsett. Once Dorsett returned, Carcillo bounced around the lineup, most recently filling in for Kreider on both the top line and second line.

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First round schedule

The NHL has announced the schedule for the first round, which begins Thursday at MSG:

  • Game 1: Thursday 4/17 – 7PM  | MSG
  • Game 2: Sunday 4/20 – 12PM  | NBCSN
  • Game 3: Tuesday 4/22 – 8PM  | MSG
  • Game 4: Friday 4/25 – 7PM  |MSG
  • Game 5: Sunday 4/27 – 12PM | NBCSN
  • Game 6: Tuesday 4/29 – TBD  | MSG
  • Game 7: Wednesday 4/30 – TBD  | MSG