Alain Vigneault has made many, many puzzling decisions over the course of the first 49 games this season – from his insistence on giving top minutes to Dan Girardi and Marc Staal, to his refusal to give Keith Yandle the lion’s share of power play time, to repeatedly dressing Tanner Glass.
He’s not perfect – not by any stretch. And he’s not always right, but he’s earned a certain amount of latitude after bringing two clubs to the Stanley Cup Final in four seasons, winning a Jack Adams Award and leading his teams to eight straight playoff appearances including three President’s Trophies and five division crowns.
Say whatever you want about Vigneault – the man has had a great deal of success and is widely considered to be one of the top hockey coaches on the planet.
Anyone that watched the mini-debacle against the Ottawa Senators will know that there are a few serious flaws to be found on the Rangers roster. The win against the Sabres shouldn’t change the way people view the Rangers. This team doesn’t engage enough along the boards and they certainly don’t go to the net enough or make life difficult enough for the opposing goaltenders. The blank in Ottawa wasn’t an isolated case. This team needs to change its DNA up front (or at least mix it up) and needs a different type of top six forward.
In theory, the Rangers should have the players to get to the net with regularity. When Rick Nash wants to he can absolutely dominate most defenders and when he drives to the net he’s hard to stop. Same goes for Chris Kreider but too often both players play on the perimeter. At least, when you consider the physical tools at their disposal. Even if you consider their attempts to generate traffic appropriate, the rest of the roster doesn’t get to the high traffic areas nearly enough.
So I didn’t get home until the second period, and that’s the only period of the game I caught. Instead of a goal breakdown, let’s go through a bullet point list of what I noticed.
- The speed by Viktor Stalberg sure is something. That’s something the Rangers don’t do enough, which is build speed through the neutral zone and get defenders on their heels. It leads to great chances and penalties, like it did with Cody Franson. That’s why the Rangers don’t get many powerplay opportunities, it’s because they aren’t generating speed through the neutral zone.
- That powerplay needs to just pull the trigger. Too many times I saw them defer to the pass or to someone who makes more money. It’s a tad ridiculous. If you have a lane, shoot the puck. If you don’t have a lane, be patient and move. Which is another thing they don’t really do that much: Move. They skate in circles around where they are supposed to positioned, instead of creating space.
After yesterday’s stinker, the Rangers are back home for one last game before the All Star break against the Sabres. These aren’t the same Sabres from last year that Mackenzie Skapski blanked twice. The Sabres basically built their top line in three months, getting Evander Kane, Jack Eichel, and Ryan O’Reilly in separate moves from the trade deadline through the draft.
The good news is that while they are certainly capable of scoring, they haven’t. That’s likely due to lack of depth at forward and defensemen that can push the puck up the ice (sound familiar?). Their team has skill, but hasn’t put all the depth and have very poor possession numbers. This is not a strong team, but they are a talented team. The Rangers usually feast on teams that lack depth, so this should be a good opportunity for a rebound game.
Below you’ll find episode 3 of our weekly podcast, the Blue Seat Blogs-cast! This week we discussed the previous weeks games including Sunday’s afternoon loss to the Senators, the recent acquisition of Daniel Paille, and some brief thoughts on advanced statistics. We hope you enjoy, and as always you can find us on Soundcloud and iTunes, as well as right here on Blue Seat Blogs.
Winter storm Jonas affected the Rangers’ travel plans, meaning they didn’t skate for two days before the game yesterday, and it showed. The Rangers were just flat all game, getting outworked, outmuscled, and just overall outplayed by the Sens all game. The Blueshirts had no answer for the Sens forecheck, which pressured the Rangers into multiple turnovers and forced some great saves from Henrik Lundqvist.
While the defense was shaky for most of the game, it was the inability to generate sustained offense that killed the Rangers. They had very few legitimate scoring chances, and the only two I can really pinpoint hopped over sticks. One of them actually led to the second goal by the Sens. Just a rough game all around for the Rangers, who really needed to build on two strong games prior.
As always, you can view the full videos on our video page here.
All GIFs are on nyrgifs.com, filtered under the date of the game. I crossed out that sentence because this was the first game in the history of that site that I did not add a single gif to the site. I add the ones that people might like to search by, and there was not one worthwhile gif to keep at easy access.
On to the goals:
The Rangers are coming off two very strong wins against Vancouver and Carolina where they played the game the way we’ve come to expect. They dominated both games through and through, both on the ice and on the scoreboard (yes, there’s a difference).
The Sens are struggling mightily right now. They’ve given up 11 goals in the past two games to noted offensive juggernauts the Devils and the Islanders. They’ve also given up a whopping 28 goals in their past six games. Suffice it to say, the goaltending and the defense are slightly suspect, especially without Marc Methot. Kyle Turris is hurt as well.
This is another opportunity for the Rangers to really build on what they’ve put together the last two games. They’ve played relatively solid team defense, they’ve generated sustained offense, and they’ve capitalized on chances. A third win in a row, for the first time since their nine game win streak, would be nice.
Two questions for this week’s mailbag. As always, email us your questions using the form on the right.
Felix asks: Given all the (well deserved) criticism about AV’s stubbornness in sticking with declining aging players, why do think he hasn’t learned his lesson from his Vancouver days and is seemingly recreating his own demise, this time in New York?
This is tough to answer. Part of AV’s dismissal in Vancouver was due to reluctance to play younger guys. That appears to be true this year, especially with Dylan McIlrath. However Chris Kreider, J.T. Miller, and Kevin Hayes have all flourished under AV. The argument can be made that Kreider, Miller, and Hayes all had to play, as the Rangers had no other option and that when there is an option, AV leans on veterans at the detriment to the team.
J.T. Miller did it again for the Rangers. One game after his overtime winner, Miller notched a pair of goals in quick succession in the second period to seal it for the Rangers early. Miller regained a two-goal lead with a perfectly placed wrist shot over Eddie Lack, then stole the puck from Noah Hanifin before making a great deke on Lack for his second of the game and a three goal lead.
The Rangers controlled most of this game, as most of the action and better scoring chances were in Carolina’s zone. The third period was a little skewed due to score effects, and the fact that Rick Nash probably wishes he didn’t play that period, but that’s how the NHL is nowadays. If you have a lead in the third, you protect it. The Rangers did just that. It wasn’t ugly by any stretch, but it wasn’t the first two periods.
The Rangers played a very strong game at home against Vancouver the other day, coming out with a 3-2 win in overtime. It was a game where they dominated from start to finish, and eventually solved a hot goaltender for a come from behind victory. Those are usually the types of wins that a team can build on, and that is hopefully the end result against a weak Carolina team.
Although Carolina is weak, especially in net, they are holding their own due to strong possession play and great play from their blue line. They’ve been getting better shot quality as well, so the Rangers will need to play solid team defense and pepper Eddie Lack regularly.
Derick Brassard will return to the lineup after missing the last game with the flu. Jayson Megna was returned to Hartford and Daniel Paille is likely a healthy scratch, so the lines will resemble what we’ve seen over the past few games.