The Rangers’ biggest strength at the outset of the season was their depth at forward. Although their early scoring bonanza turned out to be unsustainable, it certainly showed us what four balanced scoring lines are capable of accomplishing – a complete style of play predicated on quick transitions and overwhelming offensive contributions.
Since then things have tapered off a bit, in large part due to the team’s unsustainable shooting percentage but also due to injuries. Missing Rick Nash, Pavel Buchnevich, and Mika Zibanejad has definitely altered the look of the Rangers lineup leading to a dependence on certain players to carry the team on any given night (think Derek Stepan against the Senators or Chris Kreider more recently against Colorado). Certainly when you consider that Matt Puempel is on the second powerplay unit (all due respect to Matt Puempel), it’s evident that the team’s forward depth has taken a hit.
So things are starting to look up as the Rangers’ three biggest injuries prepare to return to the ice, with Rick Nash all but ready and his latter two comrades skating in non-contact jerseys at practice of late.
The Rangers have recalled forward Nicklas Jensen from the Hartford Wolf Pack. This will be Jensen’s second stint with the Rangers. He played four games in early December, playing solid if not unspectacular hockey. He was held off the score sheet in a primarily fourth line role.
It’s assumed that someone on the club has the flu or is banged up, although it is not known who. The call up also means that Rick Nash, despite practicing in full today, is not ready for tomorrow’s matchup against the struggling Buffalo Sabres.
Despite missing time with his call up, Jensen is still the Pack’s leading scorer with 14 goals and 10 assists in 29 games.
As the focus of the Rangers season thus far has shifted from the goaltending to the defense, it seems that the one thing that seems to slip under the radar is the wild success of the forward group. It’s easy to have that slip through the cracks, as we like to think of ways to improve the club, potentially taking what we see in front of us for granted.
When fully healthy, the Rangers were a scoring machine. They still hold the top offense in the league with 135 goals with a full top line out to injury for an extended period of time. Rick Nash is arguably the Rangers best forward and has played just three games in the past three weeks. Mika Zibanejad is likely the most dangerous forward on the powerplay, and he’s been out for two months. Pavel Buchnevich is the top rookie, and it looks like Putin kidnapped him.
Happy New Year, folks! It’s finally 2017, which means that we will finally stop seeing an end to those ‘2016 is the worst ever’ memes, and if that’s not reason enough to smile, I don’t know what is.
Here at BSB, we believe in the power of the New Years resolution, a romantic concept that the best is yet to come. New Year, New Us. We’ll optimistically go over some things that we hope members of the Rangers and staff have made as a resolution.
Alain Vigneault: of many, many resolutions I hope for our fearless coach, let’s begin with holding true to your word. Many of us are waiting for your friend Dan Girardi to actually sit the second of a back to back, or even to just rest his 32-year-old warrior legs. Let the man take a break. Read More→
After the less than convincing win in Glendale, the Rangers travel to Denver to face the only team worse than the Coyotes in the Colorado Avalanche. This team is a train wreck right now, so naturally this is a trap game for the Rangers. Looking at the Avs’ lineup, they have a a solid top line, 2/3 of a solid second line, and then an average/below average bottom-six. I have no idea what to make of their defense.
The Avs are weird. They should be better, I think. There’s a good amount of skill, but they are clearly not a complete team. As for the Rangers, they matchup well against the Avs, and their forwards should have free reign in the offensive zone. However the Avs’ top line may give the Rangers defense fits if given too much space. It would be nice to close out the new year with a convincing win, but execution needs to be on the Rangers side.
Springfield Thunderbirds 3, Hartford Wolf Pack 2
Springfield, December 30, 2016 – The Hartford Wolf Pack battled back from a 2-0 deficit against the Springfield Thunderbirds Friday night at the MassMutual Center, but could not counter an early third-period goal by Jared McCann in a 3-2 loss.
The defeat was the Wolf Pack’s second straight after a season-high four-game winning streak. The Thunderbirds’ win snapped an 0-3-1-0 drought.
The New York Rangers have hit a prominent lull in the 2016-2017 season. It is pretty easy to expect fans to be getting antsy when your team has given up more touchdowns than the Cleveland Browns in one week, followed up by spotting Ottawa a two-spot early on. Members of the analytics community expected the team to slow down, and losing an entire first line tends to make the regression even more excruciating. Other bloggers in the Rangers community have mentioned that perhaps, a key thing the Rangers need to help turn this lull around is toughness.
One of the biggest proponents for adding toughness in the Rangers blogger universe is @NYR_Fulltilt and he laid out his points well in this post. I tend to disagree with a lot of what he says, but I have noticed that much of the backlash he is getting is disjointed yelling, making following and cheering for the team difficult at times. I am just going to flat out say my view, toughness is not an issue, nor is having four similar lines of skill, but I do think there is more to the discussion than what meets the eyes.
The Rangers have gone 8-3 in their last eleven games, which is obviously a good thing. However, there has been some really bad process along the way. I don’t think there is any question at this point that the Rangers are most definitely a playoff team, but the bigger concern lies in their ability to win a seven game series with the likes of the Penguins and Capitals.
At BSB, we analyze performance on a game-by-game basis, while trying to identify good and bad traits in what is happening on the ice. We also like to take macro view of overall production and trends, which can hopefully be predictive of future performance and adjustments that need to be made for sustained success. I suppose what makes analyzing this stretch of Rangers’ hockey frustrating is the injuries to several key forwards, namely Rick Nash, Mika Zibanejad and Pavel Buchnevich.
The Rangers went into Glendale last night looking to take advantage of a soft spot in their schedule. They came out with two points, but it certainly wasn’t easy. The Rangers got two powerplay tallies early, but let the Yotes hang around with sloppy overall play. It was also the powerplay that got the game winner, as Matt Puempel book-ended the powerplay scoring with the first goal and the game winner. He also added another one with ten seconds remaining to complete the hat trick.
Antti Raanta was brilliant in this game, making several difficult stops in the second and third periods as the Yotes pressed to tie the game. He could not keep them from tying it, but the Yotes’ speed was on display in the third as he was peppered with quality chances.
Don’t let the score fool you though, this was not the best of games by the Rangers. Arizona is not a good team, and the Rangers let them hang around all night. If not for a 4-for-7 night on the powerplay, this game could have been a lot different. However, it’s amazing what a good powerplay does for a team, right?
On to the goals:
The Rangers have finally hit a soft spot in the schedule, with a hard fought –albeit relatively sloppy– win against Ottawa the other night to kick things off. Now they are in Glendale to take on the pretty terrible Arizona Coyotes. And I do mean terrible, they have 27 points this season. The Colorado Avalanche, the Saturday night opponent, have 25 points.
Suffice it to say, this is the time when the Rangers need to start focusing on proper process again, as they’ve been slacking over the past few games. They can get away with it against the Senators, Avs, and Yotes, but playoff teams will run all over them. But proper process also needs to be met with consistency.
There is no reason why the Rangers shouldn’t beat the Yotes, especially when you look at the team they are dressing.