Archive for Jesper Fast
The Blueshirts had pushed their chips to the middle of the table and with Henrik Lundqvist now 33 and reaching an age when he could logically be expected to decline, sacrificing draft picks and prized prospects at the expense of the team’s future was no longer of much concern.
The looming salary cap crunch meant a difficult decision lay ahead this summer between key free agents Derek Stepan, Carl Hagelin and Martin St. Louis, followed by another class of increasingly expensive FAs in 2016 including Yandle, Chris Kreider and Kevin Hayes.
But the late stages of the season and the start of the playoff run have changed things. Specifically, Lightning legends St. Louis and Boyle have quickly drifted from critical veteran cogs to afterthoughts, while the figurative torch has been passed to young emerging Blueshirts.
It was once assumed that Hagelin would be the odd man out this summer, but now it’s almost impossible to imagine the organization choosing to retain St. Louis over the Swedish speedster (although St. Louis could still re-sign for a bonus-laden veteran deal). Boyle likely plans to conclude his career when his deal expires following next season anyway, but the hole he’ll leave has already been patched with a much younger power play ace in Yandle.
The Blueshirts will still be up against the cap even subtracting these two players, but their young players are already exceeding the price tags of their rookie deals and have fortified the club’s core.
Jesper Fast and J.T. Miller were both terrific in the season’s final weeks and have continued that strong play into the postseason, while Kevin Hayes has only scratched the surface of his potential. Other young pieces like Kreider and Derek Stepan will bloom on Broadway for years to come. And there are still a couple more blue-chip prospects to come, with Pavel Buchnevich and Brady Skjei potentially joining the fray as soon as next season. Heck, if it were possible, plugging in Buchnevich and Skjei for St. Louis and Boyle might make the Blueshirts better right now.
Playoff hockey begins (for real) today. Forget about Wednesday, we’re all waiting for today and the Pens vs. Rangers series opener. Let’s have a muse to kick the playoffs off shall we?
Is it me or have an unusually high amount of teams got serious injury headaches this spring? The Rangers can consider themselves relatively lucky that they will enter the Pens series ‘only’ missing Kevin Klein. You look at an offensively shallow Montreal Canadiens squad missing their top scorer (Pacioretty) or the Penguins who are practically missing an entire D. The Rangers enter the playoffs healthy and that’s a huge bonus.
Player I’m rooting for: Martin St Louis. Has had a lot of criticism this year (some of it deservedly). He could be a huge difference maker for the Rangers.
To go on a playoff run, a team needs solid goaltending first and foremost. It needs to stay healthy, and a good bit of luck. And it needs contributions from up and down the lineup.When the game inevitably tightens up in crunch time, the snipers and playmaking artists are often mitigated in favor of greasy goals with traffic in front of the net. They tend to come from unlikely sources – cement-handed Brian Boyle was among New York’s most dependable postseason scorers in recent years.
So who are the candidates to become overnight heroes this spring? Ignoring the top offensive guys – and that now most certainly includes J.T. Miller and Kevin Hayes – here are the cases for the grinders:
James Sheppard – GM Glen Sather made a point of noting Sheppard’s performance in last year’s playoffs when he scored six points in seven games against the eventual champion Kings. Sheppard has a nose for the net, which works to his advantage this time of year. The biggest thing working against Becky’s latest crush is his spot on the depth chart – there’s no guarantee he’ll even dress for many games.
Rick Nash – just kidding (kind of).
Three cap saving moves made by the New York Rangers. Three moves that, at the start (or middle, depending on when the player came into the lineup) of the season, were met with more questions than answers. But here we are in March, and all three have prominent roles with the Rangers. All three are solidifying the forward depth. All three have one thing in common: Speed.
Under Alain Vigneault, the Rangers have moved from a game anchored around defense and north-south skating to an east-west, counter attack style of play. Vigneault has molded the Rangers using their best asset, their skating ability. It has been the club’s philosophy –for the most part– when drafting and targeting free agents. It is their biggest strength, and as we’ve seen all year, it’s giving opponents fits.
In case you missed it, Jesper Fast is currently skating in a non-contact jersey at practice. While there is no timetable for his return, it is always promising to see someone with a knee injury skating again. Eventually he will return to the lineup, and at that point, the Rangers will have a bunch of lineup questions that will need to be answered.
Do you break up Hagelin-Hayes-Miller?
Prior to his injury, Fast was skating with Carl Hagelin and Kevin Hayes. The line was solid, albeit unspectacular. When Fast went down on February 8, J.T. Miller took his spot on that line, playing the off-wing, and the results have been fantastic. In those seven games, Hayes has a line of 4-2-6. Hagelin has a line of 3-3-6, and now has his first career 20-goal season in his sights. Miller has a line of 0-3-3, but has been willing to go to the corners, be in hard on the forecheck, and has been averaging close to 60% SAT%/CF%.
For the first time all season, the Rangers have a third line that is a legitimate scoring threat. This line took over the secondary scoring role when the Chris Kreider-Derek Stepan-Martin-St. Louis line was slumping. Now the line provides tertiary scoring, with Hayes and Miller playing on PP2.
An update on the Jesper Fast injury has come in, courtesy of Andrew Gross, and it is not that good. Fast will be out 2-3 weeks with a first degree knee sprain. The rookie winger was hitting his stride with the Rangers, rotating between third and fourth line RW duties and playing a critical role on the penalty kill. Fast left the game against Nashville with the injury in the third period.
New York Rangers trade rumor season is upon us. This morning, Kevin looked at possible trade scenarios with the Arizona
Cardinals Coyotes (I make that mistake way too much). Suit looked at the Rangers trade deadline strategy, which is likely about adding depth on the blue line. The Rangers have already been linked to Mike Santorelli and Antoine Vermette as well. Oh happy days.
No matter who the Rangers are linked to, they will need to identify the tradeable assets within the organization. That’s not an easy feat, as the salary cap looms, and the Canadian Dollar, which was supposed to be around .85 USD, is tanking hard to around .60. Acquiring someone with a large cap hit into next season isn’t doable unless salary goes the other way.
Continuing on with the mid-season report card, this is my take on the Rangers bottom six forwards. Dave covered the goaltending and coaches and Chris wrote about the top-six forwards previously, so be sure to check them out.
(ALL STATS ARE 5v5 UNLESS NOTED OTHERWISE)
- GP: 43
- TOI/Gm: 12.7
- CF/60: 51.3 (8 fwd)
- CA/60: 49.2 (2 fwd)
- RelCF%: 2.0 (4 fwd)
- P/60: 1.4 (10 fwd)
- SHCF%: 11.0 (TOI/Gm – 2.1)
Hagelin’s speed keeps opposing teams honest. He’s been very reliable defensively, a dangerous part of the penalty kill and has big playmaking potential 5v5 on the offensive side of things. Keep your eye on his name in trade rumors. He’s a free agent at the end of the year and with cap space tight after Marc Staal’s extension he could be a cap casualty. Hagelin has been a big part of the bottom six and will continue to be moving into the 2nd half of the season.
In case you missed it, the New York Rangers have won three in a row and 11 of their last 12 games. I feel like no one missed that. What you may have missed is that the Rangers are 17-5-2 with Jesper Fast in the lineup, including 11 straight wins. I’m not usually one to bank on the performance of a team based on the presence of one kid in the lineup, but it’s certainly something looking into.
Fast’s #fancystats aren’t among the league’s best, but he’s certainly no slouch. Primarily deployed in the defensive zone (35.6% OZ starts), Fast’s CF sits at 45.7% (-4.8% relative). That has been a steady increase in effectiveness, as before the winning streak Fast was around 40% CF and -7.0% relative. Fast isn’t paid to put the puck in the net, but he’s put up a respectable 3-3-6, with 1-1-2 coming in this 11 game streak.
All told, Fast’s ability to drive puck possession has been trending upward (rolling five-game average). It’s not perfect, but considering his deployment and solid positioning/play in the defensive zone, you take it. He’s a defense-first forward, so his trend upward in CF is generally related to suppressing shot attempts.
Because of Fast’s deployment, you expect him to suppress shot attempts, both quantity and quality, and he’s been doing just that (CA/60 at 50.0, 6th among forwards). All forwards ahead of Fast –except for Dominic Moore– have significantly higher offensive zone starts.
His hextally, identifying shot locations against with him on the ice, is pretty impressive:
To read this chart you want blue circles in high risk areas, which is what Fast has been able to suppress. He’s doing a better job, comparatively to league average, of suppressing quality shots in the slot. He limits shots to the outside.
Put this all together, and you have a defensively sound player that limits both quantity and quality shot attempts from the opposition. It’s really all you can ask for given his deployment and the relative faith that Alain Vigneault is starting to show in the kid. While the record with Fast in the lineup is not caused directly by Fast, he has certainly been a positive contributing factor to the recent run.
What a difference a week makes. The Rangers went to Western Canada unsure of themselves and came back on a roll, with a double header against a weak opponent on tap. It’s the festive season and the Rangers can really make some ground up to close out the year. A week to go before Christmas, let’s muse.
The cliché was always that power forwards take several years to maximise their potential. Could it really be that Rick Nash has only just begun to fulfil his potential? Yes he has been an elite power forward for several years and a consistent goal scorer but it’s a fair argument that he’s never maxed his undoubted skill set and upside. Until now.
Nash is definitely having the best patch of his career. Consistent, a beast at both ends all the while he’s finishing at an unprecedented rate. He’s a game changing force every single game. It’s early, but people have started to whisper the words Hart Trophy candidate with regard to Nash. Absolutely deserves to be in the mix.
Should we be worried about Dan Boyle? Or glad that he’s a sort of afterthought because of the improved play of the Rangers ‘big three’ on the blueline?