Photo: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports
Although they were likely in the lineup due to injuries to Ryan Callahan, Rick Nash, and Carl Hagelin, the three kids who have been inserted into the lineup have shown that they belong. Both Chris Kreider and J.T. Miller –since their recent call ups– have played significantly better away from the puck, and while there is always room for improvement, they haven’t been liabilities on the ice. Jesper Fast has proven to be a reliable defensive player in limited time as well.
Looking at their #fancystats (via ExtraSkater), all three are above 50% in raw CF%, so they are driving puck possession while they are on the ice. Fast is actually third on the team in CF% at a whopping 58%. Considering his splits in zone starts (OZ – 21.1%, NZ – 43.9%, DZ – 35.1%), this is very impressive. He’s not getting the offensive opportunities that Kreider (OZ – 43.3%) or Miller (OZ – 39.1%) are getting, but he is light years ahead of that duo in maintaining puck possession.
Fast’s +6.5% CF% rel (same concept as CF%, just using Relative Corsi, read up on the Metrics We Use page if you need a refresher) is also third on the team, and shows that comparatively to the rest of his teammates, Fast is a puck possession machine. While that is not the case for Miller and Kreider (yet), they are showing improvements so far.
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(Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
When the Rangers opened camp in September, the assumption was that Brad Richards would play either second or third line center and Chris Kreider would be playing first or second line left-wing. It’s amazing how quickly things change. Six games into the season, Richards has solidified himself as the top LW, while Kreider is working on his game in the AHL.
With Richards no longer playing center, the Rangers vaunted depth heading into the season is no more. Derek Stepan and Derick Brassard are still the top two guys down the middle, but Brian Boyle –who we believe is best suited as a 4C– is now lining up as the 3c, and Dominic Moore is lining up as the 4C. The best case scenario for the Rangers has Boyle and Moore on the same line, providing excellent defense while chipping in offensively here and there.
Naturally, this creates a hole at 3C. Boyle is a great asset to this club, but he is best served as a shutdown guy taking defensive zone draws.
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Now the Rangers called up Miller he needs to be used properly
While it is anything other than ideal that the Rangers are still without Rick Nash or any semblance of self-confidence, the promotion of J.T. Miller to the Rangers gives the club a chance to let the kid succeed.
Miller comes to the Rangers in great form (4 goals in 3 games with Hartford), and likely brimming with confidence. The Rangers welcome Miller, desperate for someone to step up at both ends of the rink, and –although currently slated for the 4th line– there is an opportunity for top six minutes for the taking. It is in the Rangers best interests that Miller develops well. Now is the time to give him that chance. If they are not going to leave him to develop with the Wolf Pack, then give him major minutes.
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In the worst kept secret of the 2013-2014 season so far, the Rangers have officially called up goalie Cam Talbot and forward J.T. Miller (per the AHL Transaction Log). This was originally revealed by Melissa of Black & Blueshirts, as she attended a Hartford Wolfpack meet and greet in which only Talbot and Miller were absent.
The moves were expected, although some may find it interesting that the Rangers only called up one forward.
It looks like they will roll 11 forwards and 7 defensemen for the time being. (I don’t know how to count).
A pair of roster spots opened when the Rangers waived Martin Biron and Arron Asham yesterday.
With the Rangers off to a 1-4 start, any attention not focused on the Blueshirts has been on the Hartford Wolfpack. Specifically, attention has been on Danny Kristo, J.T. Miller, and Chris Kreider. Some other attention has been on Oscar Lindberg and Brandon Mashinter as well.
The attention isn’t unwarranted. Kristo (2-3-5), Kreider (2-1-3), and Miller (4-0-4) are all making waves with fans with their offensive performances. Mashinter (0-3-3) and Lindberg (0-3-3) also have some pretty nice point totals through four games. But points only tell half of the story. Since #fancystats aren’t available for the AHL, we need to focus on stats that are available.
Focusing on Kristo/Kreider/Miller, let’s focus on shooting percentage and +/- (I know…). Both stats add a little more to the discussion about rushing kids based on point production.
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(Source: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images North America)
Yesterday we looked into why the organization decided to keep Jesper Fast over J.T. Miller, focusing on zone starts and puck possession in the first game of the year. Naturally the conversation shifted to why Taylor Pyatt and Brian Boyle were kept, since these are the two whipping boys among the forwards this year. So, let’s address that.
First and foremost, before we even get into #fancystats, hockey is a game played in all three zones. A well-built team has depth players that can play in the defensive zone and shutdown the opposition’s offense. That is why this club needs a guy like Boyle. He will be AV’s Manny Malholtra, getting the majority of his zone starts in the defensive zone. That was evident on Thursday, as Boyle didn’t start a single shift in the offensive zone.
As for Pyatt, many are quick to write him off as a failure because of last year’s struggles. There is some credence to this argument, since Pyatt was slow and unable to really make a difference in an aggressive John Tortorella system. However as Suit pointed out this morning, AV is more of an overload/passing coach, relying less on the blue-collar skating and more on creativity. Pyatt was effective in Vancouver (under AV) and in Phoenix (under Dave Tippett, who has a similar coaching style to AV).
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Photo credit: Mike Stobe
The Ranger world was a tad shocked yesterday when the Rangers announced they were sending J.T. Miller to the AHL’s Hartford Wolfpack. Many, myself included, thought that Jesper Fast would be returned to Hartford. One of the main reasons why Miller was sent to Hartford was to get him some solid ice time. Miller needs powerplay and penalty kill minutes, and he will not be able to get that in New York. He will get top-six minutes and prime special teams. However based on the first game’s stats, there are other reasons to support this move.
Based on the stats from Extra Skater, which is a great resource if you haven’t used them yet, Fast was actually the vastly superior player in the game against Phoenix on Thursday. It is something that should be taken with a grain of salt because we are victims of small sample size, but Fast had much better puck possession stats and zone starts. Fast started the majority of his shifts in the defensive zone, with zero offensive zone starts, and still managed to out-Corsi Miller.
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As expected, the Rangers made a roster move to make room in the lineup for the returning Ryan Callahan. However, it was not Jesper Fast being returned to Hartford. It was 2011 first round pick J.T. Miller who was sent down. People are pointing to the cap as the reason why Miller was sent down, but the difference is marginal (about $100k, not including performance bonuses, which would affect next year’s cap).
My guess is that the Rangers wanted to keep someone who is more defensively responsible, and that would be Fast. That isn’t to say Miller is a slouch in his own end, it’s just that Fast is much more seasoned in defensive zone play. After all, the SHL is a very defensive and two-way league.
How will Zuccarello fare this season?
Today it all begins. The Rangers open their season today as the season, tone setting, nine game road trip gets under way tonight in Phoenix. Let’s jump straight into the first Musings of the new season.
It will be interesting to see how Derek Stepan starts tonight. Will he be a step behind? Will the lack of reps, preseason games, training camp, and a new system implementation hurt him? He’s going to be under the microscope and has a lot of responsibility to shoulder.
A player that could thrive under Alain Vigneault’s (apparently) more open system could be Michael Del Zotto. Like so many Rangers, this is a big year for him. Is he finally going to put it all together and be a consistent offensive threat from the blueline? Or does he become expendable after this season? A good year from MDZ likely means an improved Rangers PP.
Most unpredictable player heading into tonight? Mats Zuccarello.
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Could Hrivik be well placed to become a Ranger despite being in the AHL?
With the Rangers facing the reality of opening the year without Ryan Callahan for at least a game and Carl Hagelin for much longer – without even considering the lack of practice time for Derek Stepan – would the Rangers be best prepared leaning on the veterans to begin the year?
With Jesper Fast and JT Miller tentatively penciled in for the Coyotes game, the Rangers intend to employ two important pieces of their future, now. Neither player figures to be in the top six based on practices and the varied reports from the beat writers.
As we saw with Chris Kreider, if a prospect doesn’t deserve to be with the big club, he won’t be. Sometimes even when a prospect deserves to be (as could be argued with all of Oscar Lindberg, Marek Hrivik, Danny Kristo, or Connor Allen) it’s in no ones interest to see those players marginalised for the sake of numbers.
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