Midseason grades: Goaltending and coaching

It’s not exactly the midpoint of the season, but now is as good a time as any to begin our midseason grades. It also helps that I had writer’s block and no idea what else to write about, so this won. I’ll be covering the goalies and coaching this year, and I’ll be grading the coaching staff at the group level. I won’t be breaking it down into each assistant coach.

Henrik Lundqvist: 20-9-3, 2.31 GAA, .917 SV%, 5 SO

Hank had another very slow start to the year, allowing three or more goals in 11 of the first 20 games of the season. His numbers remained respectable due to four shutouts in that span, but it was the second season in a row where people wondered if Hank was starting to decline. Of course Hank turned it on in the next 12 games, allowing three or more in just two games.

Hank’s successes under AV tend to ride with the team hitting its stride in the middle of the season. AV is a coach known for his slow starts, and Hank isn’t immune to that. The defense was very suspect in front of him during those first 20 games, and has been much more consistent and solid since. Hank shares some of the blame in that of course, but without him this team is a bottom feeder.

I fully expect the Hank we’ve seen over the past month to be the Hank we see for the rest of the season.

Grade: B+

Cam Talbot: 4-3-1, 2.14 GAA, .925 SV%, 3 SO

Talbot has been solid this season, appearing in ten games and starting in eight. He –like Hank– was shaky in the early going, allowing four, three, and five goals in his first three starts of the year, respectively. After that he posted back-to-back shutouts, and sandwiched a third shutout in between a pair of three goal performances. Every night he’s in net, he gives the Rangers a chance to win the game, and that’s his job. There aren’t many backups that do the job better, and I think it’s safe to say he’s one of the top-ten, if not top-five, backups in the league.

We expected Talbot to regress from his .940 SV% last year, and I certainly expect him and Hank to basically swap save percentages by the time the season ends. If a backup has a SV% above .915, it’s solid. Above .920, and it’s great.

Grade: A-

Alain Vigneault, Ulf Samuelsson, Scott Arniel, Daryl Williams, Benoit Allaire

Last year the Rangers had to deal with a brand new coaching staff that brought in a much more aggressive defensive zone system and a more creative offensive style. It took the Rangers until January to figure it all out.

This year the club had to deal with massive roster turnover at the forward position, injuries throughout the lineup, and a severe lack of depth at center. AV tinkered and tinkered, seeing what he had in the kids, seeing what he had in the vets, and seeing who can fill in at center until Derek Stepan healed. It was certainly a bumpy road, but things started to settle once Stepan returned and Dan Boyle’s hand started to be an afterthought.

It wasn’t all pretty for the coaching staff, they hung on to Tanner Glass in the lineup way too long, despite what everyone saw on the ice and on the stat sheet. Anthony Duclair was yo-yo’d in and out of the lineup while Glass played each and every night. In the end it was J.T. Miller, not Glass, that forced the Rangers’ hand to send him back to the Q though.

The management of the defense has been pretty solid. They’ve been doing a good job of rotating John Moore and Matt Hunwick based on performance, which is all you can ask for.

Grade: B

I think I was fair with the grades, but I’ve been called a Hank apologizer in the comments a lot. Stay tuned for more midseason grades posts, as we will be doing more through next week.

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  • Goal tending is a B+, as good as the numbers look right now, they have had their share of stinkers!

    Coaching also has been questionable this season and a B is maybe a bit high, but I will give the benefit of doubt. When a head coach is so enamored with a guy like Glass, and plays him over better players, one has to question it????? Did anyone eve find those questionable photos of AV that Glass had of him???? Just kidding folks, have a great day!!!!!

  • I would bump up the coaching staff exactly for the reasons you stated above; massive roster turnover on the bottom lines, key injuries to start the season, lack of C depth. They had Chris Mueller on the roster for goodness sake! To me, those outweigh Tanner Glass getting games in October and December. I get every game counts in the standings, but AV likes to tinker, set his lineup by the New Year and roll. I am ok with that approach. AV also has to keep a big group of kids fresh and from hitting the wall. Most of their kids have never played this many games, let alone get 16 wins during the playoffs. That guarantees that Tanner Glass will get some more games.

  • This is an exceptionally well-coached team that, just like last season, is improving in every phase of the game as the season progresses. To give AV a “B” just because of a (justifiable) disagreement over the use of the fourth line left wing is disproportionate – particularly at a time when he’s been (finally) sitting him.

  • AV’s one big error was a bit of a mysterious one, especially given his experience. He allowed Stepan’s early injury to disrupt his entire lineup. Instead of dealing with that “vacancy” he shifted positions and lines and affected, on a given night, three of four line combinations. That never works.

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