Analysis

New Rangers lines expecting different deployment strategies

Rick Nash is Canadian for frustrating.
Really need a big year from you buddy.

If there was one thing proven about Alain Vigneault’s coaching style over the years, it’s that he tactically deploys his lines (after a whistle) depending on the zone start and the opposing line sent out. Last year we saw the Brian Boyle-Dominic Moore-Derek Dorsett line get the majority of their starts in the defensive zone, while the Mats Zuccarello-Derick Brassard-Benoit Pouliot line received primarily offensive zone starts. It is a common practice among coaches.

This year the lines have been shaken up with the turnover, and the matchups will likely change, both in zone starts and in quality of competition faced. Using the lines from practice the past few days, we can make some guesses.

Chris Kreider-Martin St. Louis-Rick Nash

This is going to be the powerhouse line. Incredibly deep offensively, but no slouches defensively, this line is likely to get the top competition faced while getting most of their starts in the offensive zone. This is the line that AV will start in the OZ whenever he can. This will be the same when Derek Stepan returns to take his 1C spot, moving MSL to RW on this line (and Nash to the Brass-Zucc line).

Carl Hagelin-Brassard-Zuccarello

Two-thirds of this line received a ton of offensive zone starts against weak competition last year. As the third line last year, that was expected. It’s one of the reasons why the line shined. However, they are now the team’s second line, and with that will come tougher competition and fewer OZ starts (see below). Hagelin adds a defensive element to the line that Pouliot did not, which will help them somewhat in the DZ. Zucc is the catalyst for this line, but they lack a true finisher. When Stepan returns (bumping MSL to the RW again) I’d expect to see Nash on this line to give them a finisher.

Anthony Duclair-J.T. Miller-Lee Stempniak

This is the line that I have the most worries about. The line is certainly fast, gifted offensively, and loaded with a good balance of talent and potential. That said, only Stempniak is solid in the DZ. Miller’s reputation in the DZ is questionable at best, and Duclair is a question mark. Expect this line to get the same minutes that last year’s third line did: Sheltered minutes against weaker competition with an overwhelming majority of starts in the OZ.

Tanner Glass-Moore-Jesper Fast

Moore and Fast are superb in the defensive zone. Glass is not. But Glass is a winger, so his role is to either guard the strong side defenseman or to cut off the passing lane to the weak side, depending on puck location. I bring up his responsibilities because this is the line that will get pinned with 70% DZ starts against all competition. Fast and Glass add a lot more speed that will compliment Moore a little better, and may help the transition to offense if possible. My only concern is Glass, but that’s been well documented by this point.

Naturally, this could change as players (Stepan, Kevin Hayes) get healthy and the lineup starts changing. But AV has been pretty good at giving his offensive players opportunities to score and putting defensive players in positions to help the club. He’s also been very good at sheltering those that need sheltered minutes. It will be fun to watch the deployment this year.

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  • Dave, has your opinion of Glass changed at all after preseason? In my opinion he looked very OK and wasn’t a glaring liability. I know it preseason, but that just my observation.

    • He didn’t look bad, he certainly impressed me a little throwing the body around. But this is a speed and puck possession game now. I want to see more from him.

    • I’m guessing you’re thinking:
      1-MSL is not a center
      2-Can Brass handle 2C minutes.
      3-Duclair/Miller are question marks.
      4-Glass

      I wouldn’t call all of them glaring, but some will certainly be addressed when Stepan returns.

  • I see an overall reduction in defensive ability. I am hoping they push their goals for number up, as I hate to say it, but Hank may get blasted early. We seem to have 3 lines that can score. Whether they do will take a little time.

      • It’s arguable that replacing Richards, Pouliot, B. Boyle, Dorsett and Stralman with Miller, Stempniak, Fast, Glass, and D. Boyle is closer to a wash defensively. The biggest downgrade would probably be the Stral/Boyle swap.

        Even with Brass/Zucc moving on to harder minutes (the addition of Nash to that line only helps), it’s not like the Richards/MSL line was a defensive strength. The new 3rd line will receive sheltered minutes just like last year.

        Glass is not a concern. So many options if he’s a liability.

  • I can’t see MSL playing between both big wingers. I still think Hagelin will swap with Nash or Kreider. It just makes too much sense to make that flip. Although I also figured there was no way MSL would actually play C on the Rangers, so what do I know.

    Maybe that 3rd line sees a lot less ice time with a lead and Stempniak fills in for Glass on the Checking line?

    • Can see Zucc and Nash flipping while Stepan is out, giving both lines a finisher.

      Good point on having Stempniak fill in for Glass. Certainly a possibility.

    • That’s something we shall need to see. If Duclair sticks, maybe Hags go straight to the 4th line. Maybe Stempniak goes to the 4LW. Lots of options.

  • Stempniak is the only player to be handed a spot with out doing much in the pre season. I would switch Stempniak and Fast because everyone says Fast is so dependable.

      • Exactly Dave, Stempniak was signed with a role in mind. He wasn’t signed on to win a job which is likely why he didn’t stand out in preseason.

        The guy is a right handed shot and a dependable three zone forward that can play special teams. Why he wasn’t signed earlier by anyone else is a mystery to me. I’m thrilled the Rangers got him for virtually nothing.

  • Was away for a few days…Ryan Malone. what happened? is he the healthy scratch or the guy who steps in for Duclair when we play philly boston type teams? or did I miss something

  • Just remember guys, the other teams out there are also searching for chemistry with the addition of new players, and our defense and goaltending will be very solid, thus helping out the weaker DZ forwards.

  • From watching preseason, and the scouting reports, stemp is the extra forward. He doesn’t know what to do without the puck, and he can contribute on the 2nd pp.

    Do not play stempniak over a kid.

    Pouliot was much better than this guy.

    Play the kids. As often as you can with a veteran backing them up if you need to bench them a bit. Or give them a break. Remember 82 game season. Every now and then a player needs to rest

  • Oh so wrong on so many levels…

    Exceptions for the odd game(s) or so due to injury, fine, but that notwithstanding…

    Must be
    big power line:
    Kreider Hayes Nash

    speed line
    Hagelin Miller MSL

    Malone Brassard zuc

    Glass DMoore Stempniak

    We must start breaking Hayes in at NHL level NOW so he is ready for post season. Top 6 mins here are just as good for him as at the A.

    • Don’t really see how the line combos can be wrong when these are the lines they practiced with, but sure.

      Also, no Stepan? Since Hayes is in your lineup, you’re discounting injuries, so Stepan should be somewhere too.

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