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.
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.
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?