A strong, prolonged period of results was slightly tarnished with the sloppy, unnecessary loss to the Devils earlier this week. Sloppy goals, defensive lapses and a lack of finish had many reminding us of the early season edition of the Rangers. With games against the Canadiens and Kings on the weekend it’s a big couple of days for the Rangers. On to the musings
Generally speaking, the Rangers have played well in recent games and this has highlighted the contributions from the youth on the roster such as Chris Kreider. With the Wolf Packing doing pretty well too, it makes the Rangers prospect ranking of 27th on Hockey’s Future (if you buy into that kind of thing) pretty farcical.
Danny Kristo, JT Miller, Jesper Fast, Kreider (still not classed as ‘graduated’), Dylan McIlrath, Oscar Lindberg and ‘Boo’ Nieves highlight a pretty talented pool if you ask me. There’s a ton of NHL upside in the Rangers system and the best part is none of it needs to be rushed. The only area of real concern (in my humble opinion) is in goal.
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Per Steve Zipay, J.T. Miller will be back in the lineup tonight against the Penguins. Brandon Mashinter will sit to make room for Miller in the lineup. Mashinter played very little in the loss to Anaheim.
Per Larry Brooks, captain Ryan Callahan appears to be returning tonight against Anaheim. Cally suffered a broken thumb a few weeks ago in Washington, and was scheduled to be out for 3-4 weeks. A return tonight would put him right on the three week return date.
To make room for Cally in the lineup J.T. Miller will be a healthy scratch. Coach Alain Vigneault noted that Miller had a tough game in Carolina, which is the reason for his removal from the lineup. Taylor Pyatt still remains in the lineup.
Kreider is earning his ice time.
With all the additional ice time, Chris Kreider is getting better with every game. But he isn’t scoring. JT Miller is beginning to impact games in a multitude of ways. But he isn’t scoring. Generally, the Rangers aren’t scoring. However, despite this team being in a depressing state offensively, the coaching staff needs to stick with the younger players.
While sending Jesper Fast back to the WolfPack was the right thing to do, Miller and Kreider are getting good minutes and they are now showing clear progression. The Rangers won’t derail their season by playing these two promising youngsters – now they are showing some NHL readiness – but they may damage their own long term potential beyond this season if they revert to leaning on the veterans with limited upside.
Despite some indifferent starts, the Rangers can still be excited at the long term potential of their top nine forwards. With Carl Hagelin’s return and with Kreider, Miller, Derick Brassard, Ryan Callahan and Derek Stepan’s presence, the Rangers have an excellent young core to build around Rick Nash. It may not be the most overly skilled top nine but there is still a nice balance of skill, speed and work ethic. You live with the growing pains.
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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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