Archive for Brandon Dubinsky
The Rangers paltry offense has been bailed out over the past 9 games (in which they scored a meagre 19 goals) by the stellar goaltending and the overachieving defense. With Marc Staal getting back to his usual game shape the recent dip in play by Stu Bickel (rookie, to be expected) can be compensated for. However, it goes without saying that this offense needs to do more.
With the offense needing a shakeup it has perhaps shown just how important Brandon Dubinsky is to this team, a point which only emphasises the need for Dubinsky to play like he can. Prior to his shoulder injury Dubinsky was finding his feet. He had 8 points in his last 8 games, but more importantly he was playing physically, showing more confidence on the puck and above all making smarter decisions. If he can also improve his finishing when he returns (tonight?) the Rangers offense will get a huge lift.
All this brings us to Dubinsky’s opportunity. The Alaskan’s contract, ability and even future with the franchise has been questioned during a subpar season (and to an extent rightly so) but when he returns he has the chance to show that he can be the difference. Every team can have their star players but it is often those around them that make the difference; Dubinsky can be the Rangers difference maker.
The Rangers don’t possess anyone else like Dubinsky. His all-round skill set is unique. He can play physical, he is willing to fight all the while he can lead the rush and stick handle to a high standard. Dubinsky can play in every scenario and adjust to it. What he has never been able to show is an ability to do it for long stretches. Dubinsky now has the opportunity to help carry this team to an Atlantic division title.
Dubinsky can be the X factor on a team that has plenty of depth but not necessarily depth in the pure skill department. His presence can help create space for the likes of Gaborik and Richards and create matchup problems for the opposition. Dubinsky has a chance to make people forget about his subpar start and start to justify Glen Sather’s faith and his generous contract. Here’s hoping we’re all calling Dubinsky’s contract value for money come April.
The Rangers still lead the NHL in points, had a hugely impressive win in Toronto on Saturday and yet, the past week has really began to emphasise the Rangers’ necessity for their key players to step up offensively. No team can win purely on their defense. Even Lundqvist needs help from time to time.
Marian Gaborik won’t get too much criticism around here just yet because he has still been the Rangers best offensive weapon and more often than not has been the catalyst – along with his line – for many victories this season. However Gaborik has been running on empty in the past few games much like how Brad Richards is in a hole, while Artem Anisimov has completely disappeared and even Ryan Callahan hasn’t been at his best.
This communal meander towards an offensive slump is terrible timing for the Rangers and only emphasises the absence of Brandon Dubinsky and places too much pressure on the young and overachieving defense. Coach Tortorella needs to find a solution to two offensive problems at the same time; the abysmal powerplay and the top six’s struggles. Given the talent at the coach’s disposal you would think one would answer the other.
One solution may be to remove Wolski from the line-up; he hasn’t added much and has detracted from the team first approach. However, whatever the coach tries in order to awaken his offensive weapons, it comes down to the players being responsible for their own play to change the worrying trend that’s beginning to emerge.
Brad Richards needs to be much better, both on the puck and going backwards. His line need to control the puck more efficiently and generate more scoring chances. However, whatever issue you think of it all comes back to the top six as two complete lines, as a unit, needing to be better. The Hagelin – Boyle led line cannot be the Rangers best line on a consistent basis.
The Rangers need more from the top six, plain and simple. They cannot expect to stay near the top of the conference without more from their offensive go-to-players. Looking at the teams atop the East, Boston is getting production from its key guys, Philadelphia is getting production from its key guys and with Alex Ovechkin finally waking up so too are the Capitals. If the Rangers want to keep pace someone needs to re-ignite this offense.
Brandon Dubinsky is still a game time decision with his shoulder injury. If Dubi can play, then Newbury likely won’t dress. If he can’t then expect to see Newbury slide into Fedotenko’s spot in the lineup.
Welcome to Thursday. That means it’s almost the end of the week, obviously. It’s a game day and the Rangers are entertaining a surprising and in form Senators tonight. It should be an interesting one. Before today’s focus switches to the pre game build up, let’s saunter through a Musings together.
The fact it’s the Senators tonight brings me to mini rant time. No disrespect to the Senators (it could be any team) but it’s made an absolute farce of the All Star game that they have so many starters in the game. Fan involvement should somehow be incorporated but an All Star game should be the best players, most deserving players and true stars of the game not the likes of Daniel Alfredsson who is there mainly on popularity. Erik Karlsson deserves to go to the game but really, he leads all vote getters? Not right. The format needs to be changed to make the game meaningful or at least eagerly anticipated.
I did chuckle when I read Dion Phaneuf was voted the most overrated player in the league. It says a lot about his (lack of) popularity and standing in the game because he’s a lot better than people are giving him credit for. He’s a good defender who has found his game again this year. Somewhere in Connecticut, Sean Avery is smiling.
So, Stefan Matteau is draft eligible this summer. The USNTDP stand out is going to the QMJHL next season. Naturally, masses of Rangers fans will demand he be drafted regardless of whether he’s the right pick, at the time. Just like Beukeboom’s son who has already been traded and is having a mediocre OHL career. It’s not all about the surname – as Marcel Hossa and Fedor Fedorov will attest.
Ilya Kovalchuk is in great form and the Devils are winning games again. I couldn’t be happier for them. Really. They’re well on their way to becoming the Rangers circa 1997-2003. Not good enough for lottery picks (for a true rebuild) but good enough to be, at best, first round fodder. The Devils are in desperate need for another Adam Larsson or two to put around Kovalchuk. Enjoy mediocrity Jersey.
Recently quite a few Rangers players have cooled offensively making Dubinsky’s health (and relative return to form) that much more important. The Rangers can win close games, low scoring games and can live with the higher scoring teams but it’d be nice to see Anisimov, Stepan, Richards and even Gaborik to an extent start up some streaks again. Oh, and some consistent secondary scoring (Boyle etc) would be nice too.
- Best mid season defensive addition: Bickel, Stralman or Woywitka?
What has happened to Brandon Prust this year? He’s simply not a factor consistently. His hit total is well down, shooting % well down on his career average and as a result he’s not getting the ice time. It’s a vicious circle but if he can get better (closer to last year) this team gets much deeper.
- Chris Kreider watch: 24 points in 21 games; goals in every kind of scenario – 3 game winners, 4 Power play tallies and a shorthanded goal.
- Chris Thomas watch: 37 points in 29 games; 18 goals and 19 assists and a minus 3 rating. In his defence he’s on an at-best-average Oshawa team that is clearly gearing to the future. Thomas could really do with a big end to his season and great camp next year in NY. There’s a lot of competition for spots right now.
I wonder if Steve Eminger has played his last game for the Rangers. Don’t forget he’s got another 6 weeks recovery and has to watch Bickel, Stralman and Woywitka fight it out for bottom pair jobs anyway. There’s a chance Sauer is back well before him too. He may get a conditioning assignment like Christensen and never see NY ice as a Ranger again. It’s a tough way to lose your job if it happens.
- Bigger disappointment: Brian Boyle or Brand Prust?
- If one had to be cut loose: Woywitka, Bickel or Eminger?
- Del Zotto season points total: Over or under 40?
- Race to 20 goals: Hagelin or Dubinsky?
We’ll end this edition of musings with a rare tip of the Broadway hat to Erik Christensen. He’s unlikely to ever play for the Rangers again but credit where it’s due for getting back on the ice with the Whale and looking to get sharp again. He’s an NHL quality player but simply put, can’t help this Rangers team. If he works his tail off in CT he may get a shot elsewhere. The Whale will hopefully benefit from a motivated, talented player.
P.S. Henrik For Vezina. That is all.
When you’re a team sitting at the top of the NHL standings there’s usually not much to moan about. The Rangers have been blessed with production and top quality performances from all over the roster including the top six. A team cannot win consistently if it doesn’t get production from its key guys and the Rangers have been getting it. To the grades…
Marian Gaborik. In December we discussed the possibility of whether Gaborik was the league’s best right wing this season. That kind of says it all about the year he’s having. On pace to establish a new career high in goals, Gaborik is flirting with the magical 50 mark. Despite occasional stretches without production he’s been remarkably consistent and blew past his subpar 10/11 season goal total with less than half the season gone. Gaborik is the Rangers best offensive talent and he’s showing it. Fully healthy, he looks explosive; the sky’s the limit this season. A+
Ryan Callahan. The most underrated captain in the league? The best player in the league no one ever talks about? The Rangers captain does it all. He’s 4th in the league in hits, was on course for a 30 goal season and gives 100% every single shift. Seven power play goals, three game winners and a short-hander suggest Callahan produces in every scenario. If there was any kind of criticism of Callahan it may be that he’s taken a few too many penalties this season but that would be nitpicking in a brilliant season for the best Rangers captain in several seasons. A+
Brandon Dubinsky. This is a tough grade because it depends what your expectations are for the talented Alaskan. Dubinsky has had a pretty rough first half even though he’s clearly improved recently. The bottom line however is that for a player making around $4m annually, counted on to be an offensive contributor, a physical leader on a blue collar team then 5 goals and 21 points do not cut it. Nor does the 6% shooting percentage or the meagre 76 shots. Luckily for Dubinsky, the team has great depth and have coped without consistent production from him. Slowly turning his year around, it’s almost like a new addition making the Rangers potentially even more dangerous. C-
Derek Stepan. Please remember this kid is 21. He’s centering the top line on the NHL’s best team (points wise), is likely to comfortably surpass his rookie totals and doesn’t look out of place at all. Stepan was an eagerly anticipated prospect but I’m not sure many people thought he would be this good, this quickly. He still has some developing to do, like his shot selection, but when his contract expires he’ll likely be a lot better financially next time he signs on the dotted line. Stepan is scoring important goals (but not enough), playing a pivotal role in Gaborik’s bounce back year and is growing up right before our eyes. Rarely do you see Stepan make a bad decision and his passing ability is incredible, as we saw once again throughout the Coyotes win last night. A huge future lies ahead. B+
Artem Anisimov. The Russian is another player showing solid progression this year. Unfortunately he has cooled off lately; pointless in eight games. Anisimov has a tendency to be streaky, and he needs to score more goals but a lot of the work Anisimov has done this season has not shown up on the score board. He’s a nice fit on the top line with Gaborik and Stepan and has handled his move to the wing nicely. His play along the boards has improved immeasurably and don’t forget Anisimov is also still young at 23 and figures to have room to develop offensively. If his production ever catches up to his talent then he could be a monster. B-
Brad Richards. Like Dubinsky, critiquing Richards’ season so far depends on what your expectations were. If you judge Richards with the massive contract in mind or place much emphasis on the relatively small stretch where he wasn’t contributing offensively then it may not look that impressive. If you measure the impact his presence has had on the rest of the roster (depth), the clutch goal scoring or the way he has influenced players like Del Zotto then Richards has been a great addition and has had a fine beginning to his Rangers tenure. That said, one of the key reasons for his signing was to help fix the powerplay and he hasn’t managed to help turn it into a more effective unit.
Despite being on course for his first 30 goal season he’s also on course for his lowest points total since 08/09. Of course that total would have led the Rangers over the last few years but it’s a different measuring stick for an elite player. Richards’ faceoff results have been quite inconsistent this year too, much like his production. Richards has improved defensively as the year has developed which no doubt helps his game when not scoring. The best part of Richards’ year is that there should be more to come. Lined up with Callahan and Dubinsky, the Rangers now have two quality scoring lines. When was the last time they could say that? If Dubinsky really has turned his year around, expect more from Richards as a result too. B-
The Rangers are really trying their best to eliminate the word lose from their vocabulary. The Rangers played an at best mediocre game. They lacked energy for the most part, lack cohesion and didn’t manage to sustain an offensive game. That said, this team has the best goalie in the league and has depth. The team got key performances from individuals and worked hard to earn a lucky 3-1 victory. To the hits:
Overall Game Comments
The Rangers got dominated for three quarters of the first but had Lundqvist to thank again. On the back of Lundqvist the Rangers gained a foot hold toward the end of the period. Following strong play along the boards and a simple cross-ice toss by McDonagh – ably assisted by Dubinsky making a nuisance of himself in front -Richards banked home a rebound with Fleury out of position. Call the first period daylight robbery on the part of the Rangers and their Vezina goaltender.
The Rangers were caught out of position for the Pens goal. Following Boyle being taken down deep in the Pens zone a three on three became four Pens as Ben Lovejoy was trailing the play and was completely free right in front and gave Lundqvist no chance. Fedotenko was trying to get back in to the play but was well behind Lovejoy when it mattered. A breakdown by the Rangers cost them dearly
Credit Tortorella for calling an early timeout. It may not have initially had an obvious impact but the Rangers All Star coach takes action when he deems necessary and doesn’t just watch idly like some coaches.
Biggest issue in the first period was the Rangers inability to stop the Pens putting pucks on net, getting bodies to the net and creating havoc around Lundqvist. In short, they seemed to do whatever they wanted around the net other than score more than once.
The Rangers routinely failed to track the free man in their own zone and were caught chasing the puck several times. Given how dangerous James Neal is, it was worrying to see him alone near Lundqvist as the teams battled for the puck near the corner early on.
Early on, it seemed the gap between the Rangers forwards and their defense was too big. The first period in general was the Rangers worst in a very long time. However the score after one showed why this team is where they are: they simply don’t give up and keep themselves in games. The very definition of ‘difficult to beat’.
The Rangers scored a great shorthanded goal following a breakout from their own zone. Callahan showed excellent patience with the puck, making a nice drag-back and slid a simple pass to Dubinsky who tapped in. It was an eerily similar goal to one the Rangers scored in the same game by the same two players last season.
Much like in the Winter Classic, following initial dominance by the opposition, the Rangers raised their compete level, found their legs and looked faster beginning to win more battles along the boards which led to a few chances on Fleury.
Rangers had a two on one about eight minutes into the second. Once again it was Dubinsky and Callahan breaking in and this time Dubinsky, the puck carrier, elected to shoot. This is the type of play that drives people nuts about Dubinsky. He simply has to get that shot on net.
It was noteworthy to see Lundqvist hold on to so many shots and freeze the puck. Why? The Rangers were better on face-offs in the game. As obvious as it sounds, being remotely competent in the faceoff circle reduces the time the team is forced to spend in their own zone.
The third goal. It all started from the way McDonagh patiently tracked Kunitz round the Rangers goal and forced him to play the puck backwards. Gaborik chased the puck down, Fleury mishandled and Stepan followed up a Gaborik post shot to bank the puck in an empty net. Poor play from Fleury but great pressure from the Rangers.
The back tracking from the Rangers forwards vastly improved following the first period. Their neutral zone play – and the aforementioned gap between forwards and defense – was much better as the game progressed.
- It’s almost pointless singling out Lundqvist for his play because he’s spectacular most nights and excellent every night. He made big stops, his positioning was excellent and his rebound control was solid. As noted on the MSG commentary his glove hand was especially brilliant tonight. James Neal (active throughout) found his master in the King.
- Ryan McDonagh had a slight mid-season dip in form but it’s behind him. He was a beast in this game. Involved offensively, solid as a rock defensively and equal to anything the Pens had. When he plays like this (which is often) you almost feel sorry for Montreal fans. Almost.
- Brandon Dubinsky played his best game of the season. He was physical (which he needs to be to be effective) and he was excellent offensively while he constantly went to the net. However there’s that shocking miss on the two on one.
- Marian Gaborik ended the night pointless but he was busy, dangerous and defensively responsible too. His work rate and defensive conscious are under-appreciated but he wouldn’t get so many offensive opportunities if he wasn’t working so hard.
- A final tip of the Broadway Hat goes to Dan Girardi. Like Lundqvist it’s almost boring to praise the Rangers rock on the blueline but he went +3, and played great defense. Whether it is a block, cleverly negating an icing or his great positional play Girardi almost never makes a bad play. Immensely consistent.
What else is there to say? This team keeps winning. It gets contributions from all over the roster and with Marc Staal getting better with each passing game this team has another top tier player on his way back to form. In recent years a win in Pittsburgh would require a great overall performance from the Rangers but this season they can beat elite teams without playing their best. Scary thought. I cannot wait to see how the Rangers measure up against Boston’s finest.
With the Rangers seemingly in cruise control heading as the season flipped to January, we have been taking the time to look at advanced metrics to determine who exactly is contributing and in what fashion. One of the overall metrics we use here, Points Versus Threshold (or PVT), has been unavailable because it is derived from Goals Versus Threshold (GVT), of which the numbers were not available until recently. Now that Hockey Prospectus has made the GVT numbers available, PVT is now available*. Just a note about the numbers: these do not include the Winter Classic or any January games.
*-Note to the HP and BTN guys: I can help you with getting these out regularly if you want. </shameless plug>
Looking at the defensive unit, which has been marred by injuries, there might be a bit of a surprise at who leads the way:
Key for the tables: GP=Games Played; OGVT=Offensive GVT; DGVT=Defensive GVT; SGVT=Shootout GVT; GVT=Overall GVT; PVT=Overall PVT
|1||Michael Del Zotto||36||3.6||4||0||7.6||2.5|
Yes folks, that is Michael Del Zotto ahead of both Ryan McDonagh and Dan Girardi for tops among the defensemen in PVT. Del Zotto has earned the Rangers 2.5 extra points in the standings. That is as much as both McDoangh and Girardi combined. That’s not to discount the top pairing, as they are critical to the success of the team by shutting down the opposition. It is more to play up how Del Zotto has done a complete 180 from last season.
Looking more into these numbers, don’t look too deep into Mike Sauer’s numbers. GVT and PVT are counting metrics, and since Sauer has only played 19 games, his number appears lower. When you average it out to the 36 games played, he has about a 1.1 PVT (3.3 GVT) and sits in the top three or four.
As for Steve Eminger, who sits in the bottom three with a 0.3 PVT, it shows how much he struggled early in the season. He played better as he received more minutes, but his PVT numbers suffer because of his horrendous start.
Looking at the PVT numbers, it’s easy to see why Jeff Woywitka was scratched for Marc Staal’s return, and not Stu Bickel. Bickel has the same PVT as Woywitka, but in almost 1/4 the games. That number says it all. Plus the youth and “jam” factor of course.
If you’ve ever followed a twitter feed during a Rangers telecast, then you’re probably aware of the attempts at “color analysis” that often take place. Now I’m not one to call out the preponderance of errors from the Joe Micheletti’s to be, but I do cringe at some of the faulty finger pointing.
To alleviate some of this we figured it’s about time we get back to basics and open up our hockey systems playbook. Today we will focus on executing 2-on-1s, since they often produce plenty of tweets that will read, “OMG! Dubi should have shot the puck!” or “Why the **** did Richards pass?”
In today’s NHL, an odd man situation is often a team’s best chance to score, thanks to an ever increasing sophistication to team defense & penalty killing. That’s why it is crucial these rushes be executed to perfection.
The most important aspect to getting a good quality shot on net in these situations is reading the defender. First you have to read the defender’s body position. Is he cheating toward you or his playing the pass? Defenders are taught to take away your “time and space.” This means if he’s cheating towards you, then his goal is to force you wide and eliminate your shooting angle. You also have to be cognizant of the defender’s handedness. Is his forehand facing you or is his backhand? His stick angle will tell you if he’s playing the shot or the pass.
For example, in this image below Cally and Dubi are on a 2-on-1 rush that ends with Cally putting a soft wrister right into the keeper’s belly. Looking at the photo and his options. Do you think he made the right decision?
Editor’s Note: This post was written prior to the Rangers/Flyers game last night. The numbers reflected in Dubinsky’s shot total and shooting percentage may be different when this post is published. However, they should not be that far off, barring a 5 goal night for the struggling center/winger.
There have been enough games played in the NHL season where we can start looking at shooting percentage and how it relates to performance. Using shooting percentage, we can see who is playing a bit over their heads, and who could be due for a big second half. Hockey can be a streaky game, and those with career highs in shooting percentage are likely to drop off a bit, while those with career lows can expect to see the puck bounce their way a bit more.
When looking at the latter, it’s tough to ignore Brandon Dubinsky, who is converting at a measly 3.9% of all shots taken (2 goals on 51 shots). There are two things that jump out here. First is the shooting percentage, which is a full six points below his career average (9.5%), but eight points below his percentage from last year (11.9%) and nine points below his numbers from 2009-2010 (12.1%). Basically, Dubinsky is getting unlucky. There could be a number of reasons for this, all of which are speculative at best. What we do know is that his shooting percentage is far below what he normally produces.
The second, and likely the most alarming, is the number of shots. Dubinsky is a shot taker, having never dropped below 150 shots taken. Last season he took 202 shots, and in 2009-2010 he took 165 shots in just 69 games (196 shot pace). To put things in perspective, that’s about 2.3 shots per game in those two seasons. This year, Dubi is averaging just 1.5 shots per game.
Generally when looking at stats like these, we talk about regression to the mean; ie: playing slightly above career averages and suspecting that there will be a cold streak to balance out the average numbers. However in Dubinsky’s case, this appears to be the exact opposite. Dubinsky is a prime candidate for progression to the mean, which means more shots as he gains more confidence, and hopefully more goals as his shot percentage climbs.
Taking this a step further, we can look at his ice time. In the Thursday game against the Islanders, when he was moved back up to the second line, Dubinsky played 13:56 at even strength with Brian Boyle and John Mitchell as his linemates. That’s a far cry from the Ryan Callahan/Artem Anisimov combo he played with last season. Dubi also received just 49 seconds of powerplay time, and none of that being with the top unit.
Ice time is earned, not given. Dubinsky has not earned more ice time yet. However, as his numbers (hopefully) return to the mean, he will get that ice time, and in turn be more productive. To get more ice time, Dubi simply needs to put more pucks on net. He’s averaging a full shot less per game than last year, and for whatever reason seems to be afraid to pull the trigger. A shooting Dubi is a productive Dubi. If we see shots, we could see a monster second half from him.
The month of December has not been kind to the New York Rangers. Already without Marc Staal, the Rangers lost two –and possibly three– more defensemen to injury during this literally painful month. Mike Sauer went down with a concussion after a thunderous Dion Phaneuf hit on December 5. Then just this past weekend, the Rangers lost Steve Eminger to a separated shoulder, and may have lost Jeff Woywitka for a short period of time with a bruised ankle. When Eminger and Woywitka are considered significant injuries, then something is wrong on Broadway.
With those three (four including Woywitka) out, the Rangers are turning to rookies Tim Erixon and Stu Bickel to play decent minutes to at least keep the Rangers in the game. Along with Anton Stralman and Michael Del Zotto, that makes four defensemen who were –for all intents and purposes– not on the club last year. So much for consistency.
In the past three games, the Rangers have mustered just four goals, a trend that cannot continue. When one part of the team falters, another must step up to pick up the slack. The Rangers, as currently constructed due to injuries, cannot win defensive battles. They simply do not have the appropriate tools to shut down multiple lines of offense.
The Rangers are going to have to outscore their opponents in the short term. That means players like Brad Richards, Marian Gaborik, Artem Anisimov, Derek Stepan, and Ryan Callahan will need to continue to shoulder the load. It also means that Brandon Dubinsky must start playing like the player he was last year. If the team needs someone, it’s him.
Dubinsky is a good all around player, but is only considered to be good when he is scoring. His assist numbers are still there (he has 12), but Dubinsky has just one goal, which is unacceptable for someone making $4.25 million a year. If Dubi wants to turn the season around, this is his opportunity. The Rangers leaned on him last year when there multiple injuries to forwards, and he needs to show that they can lean on him again.
This is Dubinsky’s chance to step on the gas and show why the Rangers gave him that contract this summer, as the offense will need to bear the responsibility of carrying this team while the Rangers dress the CT Whale defense.