Thoughts heading into Game 5

Bruce Bennet/AP Photo
Bruce Bennet/AP Photo

Good morning, BSB’ers. You’ll have to forgive something of a sleepy “Thoughts” post. I haven’t even had a full cup of Earl Grey yet. The Rangers are back in Los Angeles tonight trying to hold off the fates and send the series back to New York, if only to give the Blueshirt faithful further coronary/anxiety/substance abuse issues. Here are some scattered thoughts on a rainy morning…

  • With all the debate and enthusiasm leading up to this series, it’s kind of a strange limbo we find ourselves in. Obviously, it was nice not to be swept, but I think most realistic fans are disappointed in what seems to be an inevitable result. Yet here we are, still fighting.
  • I feel like this series has just thrown all of our #fancystats and analysis out the window. The first two games, Rangers executed their game plan the best we could have hoped against a strong LA side, yet blew two goals leads and surrendered the games in OT. Yet in Game 4, they mustered a measly 19 shots on goal, got some help from everyone’s go-to guy, Mr. Crease Snow, and managed to win. Go figure.

  • What happened to Brad Richards over the course of like, two weeks? Through the first couple of rounds, I was getting legitimately concerned he was going to trick Slats into keeping him around. Don’t get me wrong, I was impressed/pleased with his play, but this is a no-brainer business decision. Then he fell completely off the map. Fatigue? Just that overmatched? To find Richie on the 4th line in the Final was not something I expected. At least the buy-out is inevitable again.
  • Hank’s beard has turned into something to behold, huh?
  • Thank whichever deity of your choosing that the Kings didn’t get to lift the Cup on Garden ice. Yet…
  • At this time of the year, we can harp on individual performances, both good and bad, but at this stage of the game, we are just looking for the results. Hank stole Game 4, does he have a couple more showtime performances in him after a long and grueling playoff?
  • The players have to have that clichéd, “one shift, one period, one game at a time” mentality, because that’s the only way you can claw your way back in to a series with a 3-1 deficit. But since I don’t have to do that, I can wonder what the Garden would be like if the Rangers were able to force another game with a chance to go back to LA with a 50/50 shot for the Cup.
  • Ticket prices for said 6th game would probably put a dent in most 401(k)’s.
  • I think the most frustrating thing about what this series has become are those first two games. If LA just steamrolled us and took the Cup, I could live with that and try to determine what needs to be addressed in the off-season to get the Rangers to a place where they could stand toe-to-toe with the best of the Western Conference. But, those two games were winnable. Very winnable. It just feels like a huge missed opportunity.
  • Expanded instant replay is a no-brainer to me. This game is so fast, and officials have to pay attention to so many things, why shouldn’t we do everything in our power to get the calls right? Not to mention getting some consistency in our goalie interference policies.
  • The realist in me wants to start to look to off-season analysis, start to appreciate the roller coaster season we have had, and look forward. However, we’re still alive. The Kings look to be a team that is just too talented to let a lead like this slip away, but until it’s over, it’s not their Cup yet.

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  • Agree on most points, but in retrospect, goal #3, game two was the straw that broke the comel’s back. I believe that it took the wind out of us, and we had a major let down in game #3!

    I didn’t believe we would get as far as we did, and I’m enjoying the ride, but this cup victory, should it go to LA, will be tainted. The ref’s should never impact the results of a game, like these Bozo’s did!

    When all is said, and done, we need to address a few needs, and when they are corrected, we could make another run next year! Let’s go out there tonight, play their hearts out, and bring the series back to MSG for game 6!!!!!

    • Amen Walt!

      Agree – that goal was a killer. As we view the Kings, we see that having speed is not enough. You need strong forechecking with a relentless pursuit. We may have the heart, but our guys get pushed around. On defense, I think we need a big body or 2. Stralman has played exceptional, but he does not punish their forwards – none of our D does. Get me 1 or 2 big defenseman, a real center and a forward who plays defense first (like a Boyle at a discount).

      • We have McIlrath, I really hope they give the kid a real chance next season. As for a forward who is big, strong, can score, Buffalo has a guy who would come here in a heart beat, Stewart, would fit the bill nicely. Let’s see if they can’t work a deal for him??????

        • Walt, you keep mentioning McIlraith in your posts. Is he even ready yet? I don’t remember hearing any glowing reports about him over the Season. If he can provide that tough physical presence, fine, get him here quick. I just don’t know if he can even play in this League; let alone fill any specific need. Can he play the uptempo style that AV wants? Girardi is having troubles keeping up. We don’t need another plodding, one-dimensional defenseman. I think they might have to go outside the Organization to find that type of player to fill that need on the backline.

          • He does seem like an even more fleet footed Girardi with bigger size and snarl.

            The one game he played he seemed out of his League.

          • I agree. I didn’t see anything there when he played that 1 game. Granted, a very small sample, but still. I think he was a reach when they picked him, and I haven’t heard anything that changes that opinion.

          • He has a good shot from the point, can skate better than Girardi, and given a shot, I believe he can do the job!!

          • Yeah, but you’re reaching. There is no real evidence that he can do the job. I hope he can, then we don’t have to trade any assets. But again, right now, he’s just another in a long line of prospects and maybes.

    • … The bozo’s who took the payoff from Russian mafiya in all likelihood, you mean. If the price for an NBA referee–from his very own memoirs–to throw one regular season game was $250K, I’m keen to learn the threshold to buy one, if not an entire officiating crew. (A used Sea-Doo and a case of Coors Lite?)

      But not just the goalie interference/non-call, Walt, but the puck shot over the glass non-call.

      Whoever got to the officials got away with it because they knew they could.

      Take a look at the level of corruption–recently exposed–in the European and African elite football leagues if you want to write it all off as Flat Earth Society/tin foil hat level speculation.

      Looking skyward, Rick Nash bags the winner tonight.

      • I agreed with you on this subject the last time you posted it! I’d hate to believe that these guys can be paid off???????

        • This is why i don’t bet on sports or gamble.When a Casino can throw you out for counting cards(my brain works that way)or the World Cup game Thursday,they can be paid off.

  • “I feel like this series has just thrown all of our #fancystats and analysis out the window”

    Exactly. And that’s because your fancy stats and analysis are often misleading because they are highly imperfect tools.

    Can we get rid of the silly notion that the “worst” team won all of the games? Game 4 is the only one where I can see that being the case. In the first two games the Rangers were the better team for about half the game in Game 1 and for two periods is Game 2. They had some bad luck but they also failed to hold leads, missed numerous chances to extend their lead or win in OT and committed some truly awful defensive gaffes that the Kings capitalized on.

    The Rangers were not the better team in Game 3. I don’t care how many more shots/chances they had than the Kings. A lot of that was the Kings sitting on their lead. Also, the Rangers failed to generate the second and third chances that lead to goals and were terrible on the power play. LA capitalized on their chances, two of which were off terrible defensive play (Moore failing to cover Carter with < 1 second left in the period and no one covering for Girardi's ill-timed pinch on the third goal). Yeah, the Kings got a lucky bounce on the 2-on-1 on the third goal but they didn't really need that one did they?

    Your puck possession and shot/chances stats are the equivalent of a football team piling up yardage between the 20 yard lines but failing to convert on key third-down plays or score when they get in the red zone because they drop passes in the end zone or fumble the ball away inside the 10.

    Yes, the Rangers could be tied 2-2 or up 3-1 with better luck but they could also be in those positions if they had simply played better with the lead and not made so many bad mistakes in the first two games. The Rangers also had a bit of luck in Game 1 (remember Hagelin's SHG going in off a King's defenseman?) and they also had an enormous share of luck in not playing in the Western Conference or having to beat San Jose, Anaheim or Chicago (all of whom are better than the teams the Rangers have played in the post-season) to get to the finals.

    • Fair points. At the end of the day, you still have to execute, and fancy stats don’t account for the lack of execution (finshing your chances).

      However, there is a place for fancy stats over a larger sample of games. They, very accurately, predict good (playoff) vs. bad (non-playoff) teams over the course of a season.

      Generally speaking, a team that controls possession wins hockey games more often than not.

    • Let me qualify that, roadrider. I never intended for that statement to infer that I have abandoned the advanced statistics/analysis approach that we preach here at BSB. I was simply acknowledging that this is one of those times when the sample is too small, the bounces too extreme and the intangibles playing a larger part than normal. This is why they actually play the games on the ice.

      #fancystats are the future of the sport, there’s no getting around that. Based on the dynamic nature of the game itself, it’s always going to be more difficult to quantify, than say, baseball. Stats don’t always tell the whole story, but considering the money at stake, predictive models will be employed and they are not going away. Information is power, even if incomplete.

      • One has to remember that the best team does not always win. A hockey team creates one opportunity with a 10% chance of scoring, another with a 23% chance, then a 5% chance, then a 60% chance, etc. The better team is the one whose probabilities up to a higher number. But they are just probabilities and individual games are decided by luck. The caveat is that if you are consistently unlucky, you are usually miscalculating.

        Seriously though, we’ve had two overtime games and a split in the two regulation games. Overtime games suggest evenly matched teams, but if you flip a coin twice, there is a 50/50 chance you will get the same thing both times. And that undeserving team ends up with a 3-1 lead.

  • Well, It’s Friday the 13th, and it is a Full Moon. That won’t happen again until 2049. Something is brewing in the clouds. I can feel it.

    All negatives aside (Richards, Officiating, PP woes etc.) we are in the Cup and although being swept looked like a possibility we avoided it.

    We win in LA and Hank will be Hank in Game 6 at home… we all know what game 7 is about.

    Lets go Rangers. I believe. Big-Time.

    PS: Nash gets one tonight

    • I like it. Tonight’s going to be really tough. You know LA will come out with all they have. They know they are tempting fate if they let this get to a game 6 in NY. Rangers need to play their best game of the series tonight.

  • LA has brought it each and every game. I don’t expect anything surprising from them. I think we’ve seen their highest gear. On the flipside, if the Rangers lose, the seasons over. So if NY doesn’t come out with their best then it’s done. No way the Kings are more desperate then the Rangers tonight. Plus we all know the stats with our backs against the wall, especially in elim games… LETS GO BOYS!

  • Justin,

    I see a constant between this year and last year regarding Richard’s game.

    Last year, during the series against the Bruins, he was moved to the 4th line before being ultimately scratched.

    This year, during the series against the Kings, he has been moved, once again, to a 4th line role.

    The Bruins and Kings are 2 big, physically imposing, responsible teams who do not give you a lot of ice. Richards is a player who excels when he is allowed some time and space and put his exceptional vision to work. When he does not have that time and space, he is ineffective.

    To cement this theory, as you pointed out, “Through the first couple of rounds, I was getting legitimately concerned he was going to trick Slats into keeping him around.” He looked good against PHI, PIT & MTL. None of those teams are physically imposing or play a tight team game from a systems perspective. Under Julien and Sutter, the Bruins and Kings are 2 of the best teams in the league at getting 5 guys to play as 1. When done so correctly, time and space is taken away from their opponents. At the end of the day, Richards is still NHL calibre, however he has a tough time being an effective player against the League’s elite teams.

    • Sounds like a solid theory to me, Hatrick. I like Richie as much as the next guy, but from a business perspective, he MUST be bought out. The risk of recapture and a general decline at $6m is just too great. Even with the cap going up, I’d rather risk it on someone like Statsny, who is two years younger than Richie when he signed and is limited to 7 years, as opposed to 9.

      • I saw something on cap geek that Richards would have to clear waivers to be bought out and if a team claims him the Rangers would still get hit with the recapture…any truth to this? Considering how front loaded this deal is, NYR could be screwed if a cap floor team wants to get a 6.6 million cap hit and only pay 1-3 million of it.

        I am on the try to trade for Eric Staal bandwagon. I am not sure of all the contract details, but I dont like the longterm commitments to Statsny who has not been a #1 center for a few years now.

    • The question isn’t can BRICH play.It’s can he play up to the money he’s making.Answer is NO.He’s old and slow and getting older and slower.He must be bought out to clear cap and room for a younger player.Girardi has looked so slow and the unforced errors.We may need to look into moving Girardi while his value is high.G has looked lost.Take BRICH off the PP and put MZA,MSL,Nash,McD and Kreider 2gether.

  • The Rangers need to play a complete game for the duration of the game and especially with the lead. They have played scared with the lead. Girardi must get better, he has been brutal. Stralman must replace Richards on the power play. Nash must get puck luck, I think he is due. They have it in them to win this game tonight and they will.
    Bottom line there is no expectation for them to win by the media critics. Almost everyone has anointed the kings as the Stanley Cup winners. Listening to the NHL network analysts they are riding the kings as the dominant team. Cup is theirs they say. Fellas there is still games to be played. They win tonight uneasiness will set in, win game 6 doubt will set in get a lead in game 7 and fear will set in. Rangers have a huge challenge ahead of them. All they need to do is challenge themselves 1 shift at a time, 1 period at a time to 1 game at a time.
    We need to win the 1 on 1 battles with support, against the wall and corners with support. We must play as a team and win it, we will.

    This is our game. There are many games but this one is ours. This game is my life. We must play this game and shoot the puck true and hit the Kings who want to eliminate us. We will. So be it until victory is ours and there is no king standing and the Stanley Cup is hoisted over our heads. We will…Let’s Go Rangers!!

  • One puck sitting on the goal line not going in is great, two that fail to go in seems like divine intervention to me.

    St. Louis must that this as an omen for greater things to come.

    Richards MUST come off the PP. If we lose this series, it would fall on a coaching mistake rather than a player mistake.

    Anyone and everyone, including the bobblehead broadcasters are saying the exact same thing, yet AV and Co. will not be flexible. Torts was scorned for not being flexible either.

    As much as do not like Sutter (he being a former Islander) he has made in game and in between period changes that have been very effective.

    AV not so much.

    I would switch lines all over the place tonight. LA would not know how to match up our lines because there won’t be any specific ones.

    Confuse them, and while we are at it, why don’t we cheat on the faceoffs as they have done? Not putting your stick permanently on the ice should result in you getting tossed, but tapping it up and down, now you become a “crafty veteran”. Hog wash, the rules are the rules.

    We rallied against the Flyers because,well, they are the Flyers, Pittsburgh, we had Cindy and Igor, Montreal, Subban and the Canadien National Diving Team, now we need something to hate about the Kings.

    The D needs to get real mean, more hipchecks from folks other than Anton. Girardi needs to buy better sticks. He has gone from an elite Dman to being exploited. Kreider needs to be more physical.

    In the first game, the Rangers were lobbing pucks up in the air down the ice and LA couldn’t find it. Why did they stop doing this?

    Most experts predicted LA in 5, let’s prove them wrong.

  • I’m not optimistic about our chances, but…

    The Kings have lost three straight in two different series this post-season. We’re not asking for the impossible.

    • Well, the Rangers would have had to win 4 straight. The are one win into that potential streak. 4 losses in a row is a tough thing to ask from the Kings.

  • Man, you do just not know until it is all said and done.

    I though for sure we would lose game 5 against Pittsburgh. But here we are.

    My Spurs are up 3-1 against Miami, and all the analyst say its over. While it probably is, I don’t buy it until the last seconds tick off the clock.

    I feel that way about this series. There is such a sense of inevitability in this series. To be honest, tonight’s game seems unwinable, but I don’t buy that LA is going to win the cup until they beat us that fourth time.

    This season has been so special, this team has overcome so much. There is a lot to look forward to, but they’re alive still. Like Hank said, “It’s not over.”

    Let’s Go Rangers!!!

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