In a Twitter conversation yesterday, the ability to limit shot attempts against while on the penalty kill came up. It’s been known that the Rangers have an elite penalty killing unit. They’ve always been in the top-ten in the league in killing penalties, but much of that was attributed to having Henrik Lundqvist in net. Lundqvist is certainly an All World goalie, but he’s not the only penalty killer out there.
To best evaluate individual success –independent of the goaltender– is to evaluate shot attempts against while the player is on the ice in these situations. It’s not perfect, but it is certainly a helper to evaluate. Looking at last year’s numbers (FA/60), the Rangers have had some elite talent on the penalty kill, especially at forward.
The New York Rangers caught the Chicago Blackhawks in a bit of a Stanley Cup ceremony lull in the first period, jumping out to a 3-1 lead on the backs of their middle-six forwards. The Rangers came out aggressive, fast, got pucks to the net, and capitalized on a number of chances. Chicago was clearly overmatched in the first period. The Hawks settled down in the second period, cutting the lead to 3-2 and exploiting a Rangers top-four that has had a bit of a slow start to the preseason and season. If not for the Kevin Klein/Keith Yandle pairing, I’d say the Rangers are in trouble. But they survived, even with gaffes from all four of their top four.
Back to those middle-six, wow did they have a game. The Kreider-Stepan-Hayes line clicked, as did the Stalberg-Lindberg-Miller line. That sextet can really take the pressure off the top line, which didn’t have the best game. When the top line gets clicking, the Rangers have three fast, skilled lines. That fourth line was very solid as well. All in all, a solid first win for the Rangers.
Oh how I missed hockey. The season always starts at the perfect time of the year. The weather is almost perfect. It isn’t quite that busy time of the year at work yet (for most people). Pumpkin everything. And of course a frozen, black, vulcanized piece of rubber hits the ice all across the continent. It’s truly amazing.
The Rangers open their season tonight in Chicago to take on the defending champion Chicago Blackhawks. It seems like the Rangers always open against a team with a banner raising, and we will need to sit through one before puck drop tonight as well.
What have they done lately?
The Rangers head to Chicago tonight for their season opener while having the ‘pleasure’ of the Blackhawks Stanley Cup banner raising ceremony. The Rangers and the ‘Hawks have both undergone significant roster change – perhaps highlighted by Antti Raanta who headed from Chicago to New York to replace Cam Talbot. With tonight’s game an immediate test of how ready the Rangers are for the new season, let’s take a look at three Rangers players who could play a critical role tonight.
Anytime the Rangers head to Chicago to play the ‘Hawks Kevin Hayes will be a focal point given how he was drafted by the Hawks then walked away from the team. Hayes will be one to watch tonight firstly to see how he acclimatises to his new top six right wing role, a position he rarely played last season. In two games last season Hayes went pointless against Chicago but he’ll be counted on from the get-go this season as the Rangers look for more secondary scoring.
The new Kreider – Stepan – Hayes line boasts a ton of size and playmaking ability but could see a lot of Patrick Kane tonight as Kane starts on the second line with former Ranger Artem Anisimov. How the Stepan line copes with Kane and co. will be a huge factor in the Rangers ability to leave Chicago with a season opening win.
Last year we started something pretty neat here. Every day during the season (when possible), I created a private league on Fanduel for those that wanted to test their fantasy skills against their fellow BSBers. Kevin and I participate regularly as well. It was a lot of fun, so it makes sense to continue the daily contests this year.
If you haven’t signed up for Fanduel before, you can use this link to sign up (full disclosure: It’s one of those support the blog links. If you’re going to sign up, it would be really appreciated if you could use that link). For those that have signed up and want to play, the league link is here.
The league limit is set to 7 right now, since that was about the number of people we had joining last year. Legally Fanduel has to set aside prize money immediately, so the league size can’t be adjusted to account for more people. If the league fills up, let me know in the comments, and I’ll increase the size tomorrow.
This is a guest post received from Pat Keogh, who reached out to me yesterday with this idea. It was something I touched on via Twitter, and Patrick does a great job summing it up. Be sure to follow him on Twitter here.
The Philadelphia Flyers placed defenseman Andrew MacDonald on waivers this week, sparking some discussion on Twitter due to the size of his contract and his reputation as a reliable, shot blocking, “stay at home” defenseman. Rangers fans in particular may have found amusement in a close rival making this kind of roster move, but also perhaps frustration, given the similarities between Andrew MacDonald and Rangers stalwart Dan Girardi. At the same time as Girardi detractors can seem overly critical, apologists for the defenseman often ephemeral qualities such as “grit” or “heart”. A closer look at the stats helps clarify the comparison, which may bear more similarities than some Rangers fans would like.
Below are graphs of Girardi and MacDonald’s respective WOWY (With Or Without You) CF% numbers, including CF% as well as zone start adjusted CF%. While many of MacDonald’s teammates demonstrate a larger share of the shot attempts taken on ice without MacDonald, the same could be said for a greater proportion of Girardi’s teammates. Here we see the comparison is actually less flattering for Dan Girardi than for Andrew MacDonald.
The Rangers are expected to use their same lines from practice in the season opener in Chicago tomorrow night.
I know the 2016 NHL season hasn’t even started yet, but I really do love watching, scouting, and analyzing prospects. It is fun to watch them grow and develop into quality NHLers because for some strange reason you feel a sense of pride when one of “your guys” make an impact in the NHL.
For the American readers, this 2016 draft will be teeming with American stars in what can possibly be the best draft for the USA in quite a while. In this post I will be highlighting some of the top prospects in the draft just to give you guys some background behind the names that you will start hearing more.
The strength of the farm system for the Rangers has been called into question numerous times in the past few years. In fact, I can’t remember the last time the Rangers were ranked –by a reputable source– in the top-half of the league. My guess is that it’s close to 2010, when the Rangers had Derek Stepan and Ryan McDonagh ready to make an NHL impact.
But yet here we are in 2015, and the Rangers have two more prospects ready to contribute at the NHL level. Oscar Lindberg is starting as the team’s third line center, while Dylan McIlrath will be starting as the extra defenseman. Both had impressive preseasons, and while McIlrath is going to open the season as a scratch, all signs point to him making an impact this year.
The Rangers are likely looking at a slow start this season and anything better than treading water will be a bonus for Alain Vigneault. Fans should not expect miracles to kick off the season for multiple reasons. While Dave has already discussed the Rangers looking at all their line-up options to begin the season, the fact is only one line offers stability. The trio of Rick Nash-Derick Brassard-Mats Zuccarello will start the year together and that should come as no surprise but beyond this, there will be significant tinkering with the line-up. It’s not just line-up decisions however that could cause a slow start.
Looking beyond the obvious roster decisions and the Rangers have a tough start when you factor in the early schedule. Starting in Chicago is tough enough but throw in a back to back with the talented (and presumably now healthy) Blue Jackets makes the Rangers opening three games a real baptism of fire for the 15/16 season. It doesn’t get much easier. With Eastern conference heavyweights Montreal on tap inside the first two weeks and the San Jose Sharks due two weeks today, the Rangers have a lot of talented opponents to begin the year. ‘Relief’ should come in the form of games against the Devils and the Coyotes but a .500 record after eight games would not be such a bad thing given the opponents up first to kick off October.