Playoffs Musings: Hold Fast

Seriously wtf is this?

Good morning Rangers fans! I hope everyone is excited as I am for the playoffs to begin again. Although I don’t make internet as much as I used to (family time has gotten in the way of that), I still can’t get enough Rangers hockey, especially this time of year.

Dave is traveling this week. I believe he’s at a Cross Fit convention or something…I can’t remember which one of those fake workouts he does. Anyway, since he’s gone everyone’s favorite Suit is back!

It’s been a while since I’ve posted and in that time a lot has changed in the Rangers blogosphere.

For starters, I was perusing through our image archive trying to find a good picture to insert into today’s post. You know, something to get everyone pumped for the playoffs, like an image of a sold out MSG (kind of rare these days eh?), or a photo of Kevin’s Klein playoff beard circa 2015. However, all I could find were bar charts and graphs. Seriously the nerd factor of this site has increased exponentially since I’ve been gone.

Anyway, let’s get to it.

Once the puck drops in Montreal, there’s more or less three key elements of the Rangers game that I am going to be zeroed in on.

Lineup/Matchup Deployment

My old friend John Tortorella used to obsess over matchups. Which d-pair is lining up against which forward line? Which center do you want out there against which center at which face-off circle? Endless scenarios. AV isn’t much different in that respect, but some of his choices this year have been pretty interesting.

For me, the postseason is when you really can’t be experimenting anymore or trying to get guys icetime so they can develop. You have to go with the lineup and matchups you think are going to win a series. With Montreal being a similar team both in terms of systems, roster construction, etc., matchups could be the difference.

So who do I want out there? Buch has to play. Yes he’s young, yes he has some defensive warts, but we’re going to need as much offensive pop as possible in this series. If we were playing the Bruins, the Blue Jackets or one of the other heavier teams in this conference, maybe I’d pencil in Glass in certain scenarios, but not against Montreal.

Who else? Brady Skjei needs as much minutes as he can handle. Girardi, Staal, and Klein are all shells of their former selves, which isn’t news to any of you. Skjei is the antidote. He’s been terrific at both ends of the ice. While he’s certainly received some sheltering, I think the past month he’s really elevated his play.

More Mika

Derick Brassard for Zibanejad was about as good of a hockey trade you are going to get. Z is younger, cheaper, and the production — at least during the regular season — was pretty much a wash. The playoffs are a different story though and Brassard’s skates will be tough to fill.

Zibanejad doesn’t need to light the world on fire, but I’m expecting that he will dominate at the dot, backcheck like hell when the inevitable turnovers happen, and hopefully will find twine at least as much as he did during the regular season.

Can Henrik Lundqvist turn back the clocks?

It’s obvious. It goes without saying. I get it. Without Hank at top form, we’re toast. Gone are the days of having five Rangers skaters packing it in between him and the face-off circles. Gone are the days of an elite penalty kill and guys willing to block shots come hell or high water.

You almost wonder what kind of silverware we’d have if the Rangers played that collapsing d-zone system now and a more pressure oriented defense back in the day. Who knows?

What we do know is that our defense is what it is. Our penalty kill is what it is. Expecting Lundqvist to play the way he did earlier in the decade is almost unfair, but it’s almost necessary for us to even have a chance.

Anyway, that’s what I got. What will you be focusing on?

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  • I feel a few big issues are the following:

    Faceoffs and puck possession – we need a way to win the 50/50 chances in our end. We cannot be out muscled in our end and give up chances. They lead to scoring chances that we cannot afford.

    Breakouts – we need to have them and need to protect against them. Use our speed and defend against the lack of our defensive speed. Use the long pass when it is there and hope that Kreider and Grabner are at the top of their game.

    60 minutes of hockey- don’t go into that dump and protect game up a goal with 6 minutes left. Continue to play like you are down a goal. Play tough and throw some checks all game long.

    • Great point Sal about don’t go into that dump and protect game up a goal with 6 minutes left. Continue to play like you are down a goal. Play tough and throw some checks all game long. How many times have we gone ahead with some good amount of time left to play, and went into a shell, or prevent defense, which I hate. The only thing that does is prevent you from winning!!!!!!

      Meantime, LA fired both Sutter, and Lombardi this week. Here is an interesting quote: “The 59-year-old Lombardi’s loyalty to the Kings’ championship-winning core has tied up their future payrolls with lucrative, multi year deals for players including Kopitar, struggling ex-captain Dustin Brown, oft-injured veteran forward Marian Gaborik and Quick, their workhorse goalie.” All the mentioned players are over the hill, and had themselves lousy years for themselves. To those who are proponents of getting, and paying high priced veterans, who have seen their better days, this is another example of what doesn’t work!!!!!!!

    • Hear! Hear! Sal. Winning face offs is often huge. Zibanejad and lately Oscar have been good on them. Step and Hayes need up their game on face offs. It would help a lot.

      • I have seen the future and it is a battle. I hope the fighters are Hayes and Stepan. Know that guys like JT and Nash have your back! Win some puck battles, even if you lose the face-off. Men, this is war! Don’t give up until the whistle blows.

        This is the time you all waited for, so pull up your big boy pants and play like you mean it.

  • we need to win faceoffs and we have to limit the power play when the Canadians go on it by getting blocking out price and weber that shot of his and don’t take stupid penalties

  • Guys, I would be the first to cheer if Buch actually did something. But, his last 300 minutes of ice time have been absolutely dreadful. Throw out the first two months and the two games back from injury and you have this body of work for his last 5 hours of play: 31 shots, 2 goals and 6 assists. Or, succinctly dreadful! He was given every opportunity over the last few games to show he was ready to be inserted into the playoff lineup. In his last 6 games over the last two weeks, he has but 3 sog’s, and all in the same game. He cannot get his shot off and hasn’t created a thing. I wouldn’t mind arguing for his inclusion if there was a legit reason, but what exactly does he bring? He cannot work along the boards, is easily pushed off the puck, bigger teams hammered him, and did I mention he cannot get his shot off?

    But, I am a fan true and true, and if he lights it up, I will be applauding. But, I just don’t see where he should be inserted.

  • Hank is historically bad in the Bell Centre. I know last time we played them, we snuck out with two wins in Montreal, but that was also a different Hank…

  • We need to own the paint at both ends of the ice. Carey Price can’t be allowed to see what’s coming. Kreider will do his part but others like Stepan must get dirty. The puck, players and all bodies should be moving towards the net. The flip side is The King must be allowed to see everything. He must be given a clear line of sight without sticks and bodies crowding him. If that is done it means the Defensemen are playing tough and with a edge. Everyone should be willing to make sacrifices for the greater good here. Check and hit with purpose and bad intentions. The playoffs do separate the men from the boys.

    • Agree, especially the last 3 sentences……But there lies the crux of the problem, let’s see them show some emotion, and grit !!!

  • Hey Suit! Kids take up a lot of time & they need your attention to thrive so good on you. I’ll be watching play on the boards at both ends of the ice. To win we need to battle hard & come out with the puck. If the Habs can successfully cycle the puck in the Ranger D-zone, that will be trouble. Conversely, we aren’t going to always score off the rush, so the Blueshirts will have to be able to cycle the puck in the O-zone as well. Down & dirty board work wins the day. I’ll also be looking at how the Rangers react to adversity when it confronts them. They will need to be able to create momentum shifts & if they can do so, it will lead to success.

  • I am not as positive as previous years. For a few reasons, I have not seen heart this year. I have not seen a 60 minute complete game. I have not seen passion. When your best player is Glass, we have a problem Houston!
    The coach is in la la land and the fans are fighting each other. Yes, this a house divided. We have no momentum and I fear the worst and have no hope. Titanic!

    We have one of the best coaches in the world and he has never let us down before and we will win. Our leader Glass and Fast will lead the way. Our Defense will score more than the other team and we have the most powerful scoring offence in the league. The only problem we do not have a superstar. We are as good as any other team and we will go far. Tomahawk!

    • Rangers Goals per periods…

      P1 = 62
      P2 = 85
      P3 = 101

      I dont recall losing many games where we lead or in the 3rd this season?

      • Most of those goals were scored in the beginning of the season. But the biggest problem is, did the Rangers give up on AV? Can they turn it on just like that? I don’t know about the players, I did.

  • First shift I want to see Kreider crash the net hard and spray Price with snow.

    Talk about a quick way to get into the head of ALL of Montreal.

  • I rather bench Fast then hold him. Raanta last outing against the Kings was spectacular. If King Henk can’t find his mojo then Av should not hesitate in putting the impressive Finn goalie between the pipes.

  • Hey Suit, I’m sure you know the term, “you don’t know what you had till its gone”, well, that’s how I feel about you. We’ve had our differences and I love that you brought up Tortorella after all these years, LOL, very funny. Great write up, and I think you are right about this series. Rangers in 6.

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