Musings

Monday musings: PDO crashes and the usual October/November start

AP Photo/Frank Franklin II
AP Photo/Frank Franklin II

When I started writing this post, I had about 20 things going through my mind about this team, but nothing was solid enough to be a stand alone post. After about an hour of trying to figure out what to write about, it dawned on me. Since Thursday is Thanksgiving, a Monday Musings sounded like a solid idea. I feel like this should have come to me sooner than an hour later, but such is life.

  • Let’s get this out of the way first: This start is easy to enjoy. Getting all these points now will make things a lot easier in March/April when other teams are fighting for their playoff lives. They haven’t clinched anything yet, but 32 points after one-quarter of the season is a nice bank of points to start with.
  • That said, this team has not been playing as well as their record indicates. That’s not saying they aren’t as good as their record, it’s saying they have not been playing like an elite team. Their defense has been relatively atrocious, and they’ve been poor with puck management. They’ve excelled with what we’ve expected them to: goaltending and transition scoring. Based on the reaction from the poor showing in Florida, people are starting to catch on.
  • There will be a significant PDO crash for this team. That means the hot shooting will likely level out, as will the unsustainable goaltending. This doesn’t mean the Rangers will become a bad team, it just means that we should expect some losses. No team can continue at this pace, it’s just not possible.

  • For those who keep inquiring: The Rangers are sitting at a .961 SV% at even strength. Over the past two seasons, that has been at .932. It’s fair to expect SV% to level out to that number over the remainder of the season. However it is also fair to be hopeful that this team can be a statistical outlier and finish with a .940 SV%. It’s been done, but only by teams with elite goaltending (Tuukka Rask, Carey Price). If that happens, then it isn’t out of the realm of possibility for the Rangers to finish with a PDO greater than 103 (100 is usually where teams sit). Only six teams have done this, and none won the Stanley Cup. If you expand this to a PDO of 102 or greater, you have 16 teams and a pair of Cup champs (2011 Bruins, 2013 Blackhawks). Both of those teams were north of 50% with possession though.
  • If not for the unsustainable goaltending, the Rangers would likely be slightly above .500, probably between Pittsburgh and Washington. One of the things that few are pointing out is that the play in front of the goalies has been the same in every October/November in front of Alain Vigneault. The difference is that the goaltending is in playoff form, while the skaters are still working through the kinks. Each year, the team has turned it around and played significantly better come December/January. Assuming that normal turn around comes, then the PDO crash mentioned above will be weathered.
  • What concerns me about the puck possession game is that it starts at the blue line, and the Rangers’ blue liners have been awful so far, save for Keith Yandle and Kevin Klein. If the other four guys can’t figure out how to make the smart, simple pass out of the zone to start the transition to offense, then this team won’t make much noise in May/June. That is a critical piece that has been alarmingly absent.
  • I always get a good laugh when people tell me I’m not allowed to criticize anyone on the defense during this streak, but those same people are the first to throw Rick Nash under a bus.
  • Speaking of Nash, that hatty was a long time coming. Way too many posts for him, and hopefully that was the sign of some better puck luck.
  • As of this morning, the Rangers have nine players that are on pace for 40 points: Nash, Mats Zuccarello, Derick Brassard, Oscar Lindberg, Kevin Hayes, Derek Stepan, Keith Yandle, Chris Kreider, and J.T. Miller. Six of those guys (Nash, Zucc, Brassard, Lindberg, Hayes, Stepan) are on pace for 20 goals. That, my friends, is some serious scoring depth.
  • The powerplay will come along, as soon as Yandle is playing PP1 minutes.
  • The quartet of Etem, Moore, Stoll, and Fast is the best fourth line the Rangers have ever had. Better than Boyle-Moore-Dorsett. It is that fourth line that makes this team so good up front. If and when the defense catches up, this team could make another run.
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25 Comments

  1. I don’t love simply looking at even strength sv%. I prefer overall. The pp sv% may go up as even goes down. However you wanna look at it, Hank sv% should be projected for around .930 overall and he sits at .943.

    They would still have an elite record, goals against, and elite goal differential to date if Hank had his normal .930 instead of current .943.

    Again, not arguing they are playing the way we would like, just dispelling the notion some crash is coming with a sv% adjustment if the adjustment is simply .943 to .930.

    Also, I prefer to be winning in a way that can be deemed more sustainable, and the stat guys HATE this argument, but it really just is about points right now. I understand you want to be a better overall team come playoff time, but that’s the point I am getting at. How you play now is not indicative of how they will play in 4-5 months from now. Right now you want points, at the end of the season you want points coinciding with play more conducive to winning in playoffs.

    I’d rather them get “lucky” and get points then play great but get less points, because as I said playing great now is meaningless in terms of how they play in 4+ months.

    1. Since the majority of the game is played at even strength, we use that to view goaltender performance. Usually PK SV% skews the overall number too much.

      1. I think at the end of the day Hank is going to have an overall sv% of around .930 anyway you want to slice it. If he does then there won’t be a goals against correction that moves Rangers out of the elite in that regard.

        Maybe I am wrong and his even strength sv% takes a huge hit while the pp % remains way lower than normal, resulting in a sv% much worse than .930… I just don’t see it. I’d take .925+ overall sv% to the bank.

      2. Do you think the Rangers man coverage has something to do with the high CA/60 and low SCF% for the Rangers defense? I know they pack it in when the puck comes down low but when the puck is moved quickly, that takes a split second. Most times that’s more than enough time to get off a shot attempt and/or a scoring chance.

      3. more data gives more accuracy. The only reason to toss the PP data is because it goes against the intended message.

        Where the Rangers do come back to Earth is that Raanta doesn’t win every start all year.

    2. The Rangers had troubling starts the last two seasons. Last season it was the same but injuries played a part yet they weathered the storm and held on until they got healthy.
      Same thing this season but they’re finding ways to win games even when not at their best. IMO they’re using skill and attributes (like speed) to find a way to win.
      Sv% is high and Hank has saved our butts a lot thus far. However, at ES the Rangers are also shooting a tic under 11% as a team (10.9%). That is also unsustainable over a full season. They’d be lucky to have the same 8.8% Sh% they finished last season with (8.4% including playoffs).

  2. Good thing Kreider keeps on missing on those breakaways or our metrics would be even more unsustainable.

  3. there will be two tests this week Nashville first and then Montreal on Wednesday but the habs will not have Gallagher in the lineup as he broke two fingers.

  4. Dave

    I have to admit that this posting is right on the money. Yes we are winning, yes we have been lucky, and yes some of the marquee names haven’t been scoring at the rate we’d like, but the defense has been piss poor.

    Now I’ll get jumped on for this, so have at it folks, but Girardi, Staal, and Boyle have been extremely poor. Then McD, and Yandle haven’t been that great either. Personally, I’m of the opinion that the only defenseman to play well for the season, is the guy everyone waned to trade, Klein.

    Am I seeing the 1964 NY Giants again, this time in the hockey version? They got old over night, and I believe that is the case with Girardi, Staal, and Boyle as well. McD, and Yandle are younger, but haven’t played the kind of game we expect of them though. We need an infusion of young legs out there who are happy to prove themselves, and bust their humps. Say what you may, and I expect Eddie to jump on me here, but the older d-men aren’t hungry any more, and are getting too fat and sassy. We need some competition for defense, Skjei, even maybe, heaven forbid Mc Ilrath could provide it. Bottom line, something has to be done to shake these guys down to their collective core, and make them perform. The old saying goes, sh*t or get off the pot, applies to these guys!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Thanks goodness for Hank, and his oversized shoulders, for carrying this team on his back !!!!!!!!!!

    1. McD has been better on the D side, but as with all of them it’s the breakout passing that is the problem, almost as if *teams have 2-1/2 years of video to research and learn tendencies*.

      Allow the D to lug it out a little more if that’s what the D gives you.

    2. Walt

      And not unlike the 2015 Yankees either. The defense each got a step slower while the offense has sustained their speed. I also think the opposition is faster and we are playing somewhere in between the Torts prevent and the AV push to the outside.

      While we are letting up a ton of SOG, what is more worrisome to me is how, in the last 5 minutes of the games, our defense seems to have no legs left. Training, conditioning or age?

      1. training, conditioning or lackadaisical ???????????

        it goes back to being hungry………..

        how many times have we seen, in many sports, that once a player signs long term, big money contracts, their play goes to pot !!!!!!!

      2. The question could be answered by average shift time; once you get closer to 1:30 the likelihood of anaerobic burn increases.

    3. Walt, I agree that the defense has underwhelmed to this point. That’s undeniable, although I certainly don;t agree that it’s the tire fire that some make it out to be.

      Where I disagree is your dual premise for the reasons why they have underwhelmed–

      1) 1964 Giants vs Current Rangers–The key Giants on that team–future HOFers–Gifford 34, Robustelli 39, Tittle 38, Webster 33. That is OLD, especially for NFL players. The Rangers defense, other than Boyle, all range in age from 26-31. Four in their NHL prime where typically best years are achieved (due to peak athletic conditioning and acquired experience) and one approaching his prime is our best defenseman, McDonagh. And Boyle hardly is keeled over, bloodied, as Tittle famously was. He’s playing ok, and would be a top six on probably most teams in the league right now. It’s just not even close to being a valid comparison.

      2) Age vs Youth–This is something we dont agree on–the value of veteran players on a SC contender. Even though virtually every team that’s won the Cup in recent years has a mix of vets and youth, let’s agree to disagree there. Where I VEHEMENTLY disagree is the notion that young players are hungrier than veterans. I have to tell you, 95% of pro coaches will tell you in fact that the OPPOSITE is true.

      Why? Think about it. As you get older, you understand how to play the game on the highest level. You appreciate the fact that careers are fleeting. To keep a spot, you have to work harder–way harder than you did when you were a kid. Say what you want about MSL, but it was well documented that he was the hardest working Ranger on the team. Who tests off the charts in his conditioning tests each year???–it’s that grizzled veteran Dom Moore. Who’s the hardest worker on the Yankees? A-Rod. On the Giants? Manning. Hardly a coincidence.

      When you are younger, yes you are blessed with raw talent. But many of these kids are undisciplined and immature. And play in NY, combined with being young and good looking? Who’s more likely to be out partying and lacking focus– the younger kids or the older guys? It’s already been acknowledged in a report that JT Miller doesnt always bring his A game, something he copped to. Unacceptable, yet somehow understandable because he is so young. Kreider cant seem to figure it all out yet. When Del Zotto was here, his lack of discipline and commitment was strongly suspected.

      I can tell you for a fact that when I covered the Rangers, the hardest working guys were the veterans. The younger guys spent more time at Studio 54 than in the workout room! 🙂

      And seriously, the notion that you can just call up guys from the AHL, slot them in on one of the best teams in the NHL and just expect that they will play BETTER than guys with veteran experience–on defense??? The toughest position to play in the league? I like Skjei, but unless he’s the next Victor Hedman, he’s highly unlikely to make an impact today. How in the world does that help this team win now???? (And in an interview, Hedman himself says it takes a good two years before a young player masters the art of NHL defenseman.

      Maybe the explanation for the early struggles is a little simpler–a) It’s well known that there is such a thing as playoff fatigue accumulated over the last few years, and maybe some of them are going through that. And b), maybe we need to cut a break to a core group that had their conditioning over the summer disrupted due to significant medical procedures.

      We’re winning games, allowing very few goals, and yet we have lots of players not playing up to par yet. This is a good thing, not a bad thing!

  5. “If the other four guys can’t figure out how to make the smart, simple pass out of the zone to start the transition to offense, then this team won’t make much noise in May/June. That is a critical piece that has been alarmingly absent.”

    – I’ve been saying this all season. It’s the Achilles heal and if it’s not corrected, this team has a long road back to the SCF. I’m hopeful, but for certain players getting important minutes (Girardi, Staal) this has never been a strength. Realistically, this team needs an upgrade, but also realistically it won’t happen (unmovable contracts).

    1. It’s not the players, it’s the system. Lug it out, force the forecheckers to commit, then make your pass.

      1. That’s part of “smart, simple pass” aspect of defensive play in AV’s system. It’s puck management.

        And yes, it is the players. There are some that do it very well and others that do not.

  6. People,we have let in 38 goals! The next best team is Wahington at 44. And you want to complain about the defence? I know it is all Hank whose goaltending is apparently unsustainable. Why? He’s playing better than ever. Carey Price carried the Habs on his shoulders with a mediocre D and in 1993 Roy won the Stanley Cup almost singlehandedly. I think our problem is our play along the boards. We get outmuscled too often & let teams cycle the puck too long. Some of that is from having a D which is not tough enough along the boards but also forwards who need to use their bodies to pry that puck loose. If the forwards are backchecking then the D can play a tighter gap and hit people coming over the blueline with the puck. Remember Tampa’s first goal? Sure Yandle turned it over but hell there was not a forward in sight. The D had to back up and it resulted in a goal.

  7. Maybe we should look into acquiring another dman 2 way kind & maybe unload G or Staal & their awful contracts… food for thought..

    1. This gets suggested every day on every Ranger blog, and there are 3 big problems with it: First, they both have NMC’s that they’re not likely to waive. Second, neither one is likely to bring back replacements that are capable of doing a better job. Third, this is a salary cap league, and there’s not much chance that we can trade either one and get quality replacements at a number we can fit under our cap next year.

  8. Perhaps the shooting pct #’s aren’t so much of an anomaly. Our transition game generates many odd-man rushes (witness Zucc’s goal vs. Fla). Isn’t it fair to say shooting on a breakaway or a 2-on-1 results in more goals/higher pct than shooting with 10 skaters in the zone?

  9. Time to bring back Wade 1st Pass Redden…..

    My view on the start to the season is as follows:
    Up front, the 1st line has been great, the 2nd line has struggled, the 3rd line has had some high highs and low lows and the 4th line has been good. The forward group overall has been good and is the kind of fast, deep, dangerous group that can succeed in the playoffs.

    On D, Hank’s best amazing, the 3rd pair has been good (Klein + Yandle) and the Top 4 has struggled. This is where the real issues lie. McD’s been playing better but still puts up some terrible numbers, The Girardi and Staal contracts may rival Gomez, Drury and Redden as some of Sather’s worst if things continue down this path. Boyle’s old and has clearly lost a step, but he was brought in to be a depth defenseman and PP guy. For as much focus is on character and leadership, the two alternate captains on the back end need to seriously pick up their game.

    AV also needs to get Yandle more minutes. He’s such a dynamic presence from the back end and the idea that he plays 13 minutes a night is laughable

  10. I think we are unfair to the defense. Slight exaggeration, but you really do notice when a forward or a goalkeeper does something right – and when a defenseman does something wrong.

  11. Do you remember when Mess dissed Roger Neilson because he said that the Rangers method to exit their zone was too predictable & the other teams knew exactly what to expect? So is AV guilty of the same thing, stifling instinctive play with obsessive exit strategies> I don’t know.

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