PlayoffsState of the Rangers

Adjustments shaping the series for Rangers

Daily News

After a miserable showing in the first two games of this series, the Rangers have been dominant for the past two in evening the series up. Heading back to Ottawa, there have been several changes made by the coaching staff that has paid dividends on the scoreboard. Obviously, the players need to execute, but having an effective game plan can go a long way toward putting the players in a position to succeed.

There has been a lot of talk around here about adjustments, or lack thereof. We have seen specific weaknesses of this team exploited over and over again with seemingly no recognition from the coaching staff or front office. The thing about adjustments is that they are incremental. They are local. They matter in the minutia, as opposed to the big picture.

Here at BSB, we are big fans of analyzing in the big picture. To make organizational level decisions, you need to have proper process and proper analyses that lend themselves to the highest probability of future success. The playoffs, alternatively, are all about the small picture. The ability to win four out of seven and then start the process again.

An additional unique feature of the playoffs is developing a game plan to beat the same team four times in a short span. There are in-game and between game adjustments, depending on the results. The decisions that impact one game, may have a very different impact on the next.

Which brings us to the Rangers. For two games, there was a stubborn adherence to in-game strategy that lead to bad results. The Staal-Holden pairing was routinely overmatched by the speedier Ottawa forwards, leading to turnovers and missed coverages. Stapling Brendan Smith and Brady Skjei to the bench in deference to Staal and Holden was maddening. There was a disconnect about the necessity to bring Tanner Glass back into the fold.

In this context, adjustments had to be made. To AV’s credit, he did recognize that changes were necessary. They are not what I feel are the right decisions, but I was happy to see him snap out of the inertia. Sometimes bad process can lead to good results in a small sample. Objectively, Tanner Glass is still a bad hockey player. However, if his presence is a catalyst for AV to make the proper adjustments on defense, I will gladly make that swap.

To his credit, Tanner Glass has played well this postseason when he has been in the lineup. The forwards have the depth and overall skill to mask a weak link in the chain, especially when he isn’t hurting the team on the ice. The defense on the other hand, well we know that story. The way I look at it, the best way to minimize the necessary adjustments is to ice the best team you have available and deploy them consistently with that approach. Clearly, AV makes these decisions by his gut and his comfort level and it has traditionally served him fairly well in his career. He is going to have to be prepared to make the adjustments based on the hot hand or who seems to be a psychological motivator for the guys in the room.

Tactically, it has been more common sense based. You need to employ a strategy to combat the trapping system used by the Sens and also diffuse their counter-attacking speed. Putting pressure on the Ottawa blue line to create counter-attacking pressure and sheltering your less mobile defensemen makes perfect sense, tactically. It’s nice to see those adjustments being made after being on the business end of it in the first two games.

The Rangers have exposed Craig Anderson’s weaknesses and put themselves in a good position offensively. The defense has been better as deployment has improved and Hank has been solid. Ride this until it doesn’t work, then adjust. I will always be a proponent of good process and lineup optimization, but I also understand that sometimes things just work. When they don’t, though, you better be ready to adjust.

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  • Regardless of what you think about Glass (and I’ve been a critic for years), he’s been really really good in the games he’s played and the OTHER forwards aren’t masking anything right now. I think this was the player they were thinking Glass could be when they signed him almost 3 years ago. Man, the guy has 5 points in 6 playoff games playing limited minutes on a 4th line and you still had to toss him a “dig” about being masked. lol

    • A miserable first 2 games ? Ottawa has lead a total of 4 minutes I think the rangers could have swept them if it wasn’t for a weird angle shot in the first game and a bad last 3 minutes of game 2

      • I have enjoyed the past 2 games watching the team play hard with the lead, hopefully we will keep that up. Playing with a lead seems to be a weakness in the past…

        but keeping this stat in mind, a win is a win and winning 1 – 0 means you never had the lead anyway…

        OK I will admit I just ate a hug fat burger and my brain is sleeping now… but this all sounded good in my head before I typed it…

    • Glass has limited talent, but no matter, the POs are built for guys who play with physicality & intensity. It’s something Hayes needs to learn.

      • so true… its like he gets in his own way sometimes and looks like a guy who hasn’t reached puberty yet…

        all lanky and clumsy… but sometimes his hands are awesome…

        put Zucc into his frame… WHAT!!!

    • One thing no one can take away from Tanner – he’s the leader in the ‘Mean-things-said-to-goalies’ per 60 category….

  • you guys crack me up. your analyses may or may not be correct, but sometimes (like this article), you actually believe your advice means something to ny rangers hierarchy.

    for example: “to make organizational decisions ….. blah blah blah”

    this is the armchair quarterback to the highest (or lowest) level imaginable.

    stop taking yourselves so seriously. take a step back … realize you are not the coach, nor the general manager … realize they are where they are because of their past successes … and you are writing a blog/website because you lack any success in the field at all…

    i enjoy reading some of the rangers blogs/ websites … but a reality check is needed. this is entertainment … you’re not rangers management. stop taking yourselves so seriously.

    i’ve been a rangers fan over 50 years. i have a very high iq (i’m a successful endodontist). i understand the game better than most fans. played high school and a little college hockey – never anywhere close to the professional level.
    but i never take myself too seriously. life is way more fun that way.

    not trying to insult you …. but seriously, “lighten up Francis” (“stripes” was a great movie). otherwise, you’ll be “psycho” instead of francis.
    seriously, stop taking yourself so seriously. lighten up. enjoy being a rangers fan a little more, and stop criticizing rangers management so much. throughout the nhl, they are incredibly well-respected. why do you think players like kreider and vesey want to be rangers.

    • Maybe you should find a blog that feels the same way.

      Here in ranger country we look past and deeper than most. So we can sink our teeth into the matter at hand

    • You may have a high IQ, but you should learn how to use Capitals & write coherent, complete sentences.

    • Wait a minute, now I am really confused, I thought the purpose of a blog was to in fact deep drive, question MGT, think about the team and process in large ways…

      You mean this all is supposed to be blah blah blah?

      and if I am not mistaken many of the topics written here come to pass and are in fact proven correct… AV recently admitted his “losing” players on the bench echoed most people’s rants in this blog…

      dude, sorry, steve, your taking your self too lightly… lets hear some of that 50 years hockey knowledge and we’ll go from there, Francis…



    • As a retired guy this site gives me lots of entertainment and an opportunity to talk about my favorite team….

      Hey Doc…Are mercury fillings safe?

  • They were BRUTAL the first 2 games?

    I swear every negative analysis of this team is blown Waaaayyy out of proportion. Especially when it comes to the defense and the coach.

    If the word “dominant” doesn’t apply then the next level down is awful and horrible.

    • AV’s bench management was, in fact, brutal.

      Justin, Dave and co are very even keel around here. The comments are always doom and gloom but coverage isn’t.

      • Why is it gloom and doom when it’s comments based on what’s happening?

        I predicted the Rangers in 5 for this series, which isn’t gloom and doom at all. But yet I trashed them and the coach for the first 2 totally unacceptable games.

        Ottawa stinks and the Rangers are exposing them by finally playing the hockey they should have at the start of the series.

        4 straight Rangers in 6.

    • What I liked about Pollyanna was how balanced she was & never had an unkind word. Don’t worry Spoz, be happy!!

    • The problem with AV isn’t what he is good at. The problem is what he’s bad at can be easily fixed without much ado.

  • Please keep taking yourselves seriously – especially if this is something that you love. Please keep writing thoughtful articles, with supporting evidence, and insightful data! Critical thinking is allowed, even if it’s ‘just hockey.’ Your writing, and opinions make the game, and most importantly the Rangers, more fun to watch!

  • On Glass for Buchnevich, Buch really wasn’t contributing at all. Whether Glass is better or not, or whether the best player is really Puempel of Pirri, my own feeling is that there is so little difference between these options that the correct choice is the 12th forward that enables the Rangers to get the most out of their best eleven forwards, not the actual best player. And the adjustment transformed Miller from a passenger to a real force.

    • In defense of buch. He is a good talent. But he needs to percolate and steep a bit. Remember this is his first year playing so many games. His Russian stats list him at ~40 games a year. He does have stamina issues that hopefully will be dealt with this summer.

      • I have every hope that Buchnevich becomes a first rate player. It’s just that the likelihood that he will be far better than Glass ever was doesn’t mean he belongs in the lineup now.

    • To be fair, although I have been vocal about the necessity of playing Buch (who, admittedly, hasn’t looked awesome), I’ve maintained that the choice doesn’t necessarily have to be between him & Glass.

      Hard to say who would sit, though…. the usual suspects played pretty well last game. Hopefully they keep it up!

    • Ray, you and others keep saying that, that Buch wasn’t doing anything. That’s not true at all. When he actually got playing time he was more noticeable than most of the other Ranger forwards at the time.

      He was not given playing time. You can’t play well sitting on the bench. Putting Glass in for Buch is not the right move but the point is that Glass has not hurt the Rangers being in the line up.

      The Rangers finally woke up in Games 3 and 4 and are crushing the Sens like they should have at the beginning of this series.

  • AV finally made some of the adjustments he needed to make. While on paper, we’d love to see Buch in, along with Clendening, we know that’s not how AV operates.

    The usage and ice time of the 2nd / 3rd D pairings, as well as Oscar Lindberg in game 2 were brutal. AV has renewed my faith in him by making the proper adjustments. Bringing up Glass is the move we focus on, but the other moves probably had equal, if not greater impact:

    – Increasing ice time for Skjei/Smith, who have been dominant based on the eye test and the stats.
    – Decreasing ice time for Holden/Staal, who have been really bad to the eye, and decent in the stats.
    – Demoting J.T. Miller, who really wasn’t showing up much this post-season compared to his rather dominant regular season performance.

    Putting Miller on the 4th line really stretches out the Ranger’s depth. Miller brings a high level of skill, which happens to complement the defensive responsibility of Glass and Lindberg. It creates better matchups for Miller, and also sends him a message that his play isn’t good enough. Win-win move right there.

    Holden scored, so we all love him today, but let’s not overlook the fact that he made a cross-ice pinch in the neutral zone, which lead to the one goal against. Marc Staal also forgot that he had a stick in his hands, as he tried to block the shot with his body instead of getting stick-on-stick. He screened Hank as the shot went through his legs. Looked eerily similar to that 2OT winner goal in Game 2.

    • Come on. When a player tightly covered pushes the puck between a defenseman’s skates, no way is his partner to blame.

  • Since 2012 he Rangers have now played more playoff games than any other team in the NHL (91) and have won more than any team (46), except Chicago (48). Since 2013, they’re 23-12 in games 4-7 of a series. Not bad considering for four of these six we’ve apparently had a coach who misuses his players and can’t make adjustments — in addition to myriad other sins.

    Now, don’t get me wrong – if I ever meet AV, the first question I’m going to ask him is what the heck he was thinking by shortening his bench in Game 2 (when team depth is our biggest advantage). But, enough! The man can flat out coach. Perfect? No. But one of the best in the sport.

    • I’ve been reading this blog for a few days, and the other (banter) for a few weeks. This is the first time I’ve chimed in, because it’s about time someone said something positive about AV. I have to admit I came to the boards with some root-for-the-sweater fan loyalty naivete, but my assumption was the worst AV criticism would be whether he could win the big one. To see him get slammed all the time is ridiculous.

      I felt Tort got a lot out of the team in the earlier stages, but AV was needed to take them to the next level with a more fluid style, and he has. I’m a die-hard, and hope to talk about Hank, AV, Girardi, and others getting a Cup (though time is running out for sure), but I feel win or lose, AV is the coach I’ll go to battle with.

      • Kudos to you for putting your thoughts in, Waitsfan. It’s weird first looking in on these fan sites, right? Can these really be people’s considered opinions? It’s a little like an Alice in Wonderland trip, where things that would have seemed important to reasonable people before you drank that Kool Aid now seem to be shrinking and shrinking, while things that seemed unimportant before are now being blown up and blown up until they are completely out of all sensible proportion.

        I tried for a while, but eventually gave up trying to be reasonable with these nattering nabobs of negativism. The Rangers would have won at least two recent cups, perhaps the last six in a row, if only they themselves had been coaching instead of this cretin, AV, who somehow, inexplicably, has had the undeserved luck of being around perennial winning teams in Vancouver and New York. Based on their infallible “numbers,” they are sure Adam Clendening should be playing second line D, maybe first, just like they are sure Yandle was the unrecognized answer last year. That worked out great for the Panthers this year. Apparently their insight is of a rare quality, yet somehow no one in the league has brought them on board, even in an advisory role.

        Also, Kudos to Kenny Albert and Dave Maloney for telling off all the social media “geniuses” on the radio as the game ended last night.

        • Myth

          Just what did they say?

          I have always liked Dan on the radio, great analyst, and a wonderful radio broadcast team!!!!!!!

        • Mythdoc, thanks for the welcome, but more so for the laughs (I’ll teach my kids alliteration from “nattering nabobs of negativism), and nods of agreement I had on every point. This blog is decidedly more positive (at least in my first few weeks) than the other. The funny thing is my brother-in-law is a big sports fan, but in the learning stages of hockey (he’s good, but new from Wales), and when he asked weeks ago if AV would be fired, I wondered what he was talking about. Then I found he goes on these sites. I probably watched every minute of 80/82 this year (nice family forgetting me at the right times), and I’ve been a big fan since taking Dave Maloney’s 26 as a kid. Now I’m wondering if the current crop assumes 2 rounds of the playoffs and losing the ECF is a failure. What’s even funnier about that is they spend so much time talking down the players, you wonder how the coach can also be bad and get as far as they have. I have no hesitation saying the last few years we lost to 1) a team with superior centers to ours and the league’s best D-man and a goalie who’d won it all; 2) a very fast TB team where we were missing key players and went to G7; 3) a team so hot that Crosby was only a little better than 6-7 other guys on the team. And as you alluded to……Vancouver is really lighting it up since AV left.

          I have a painful reality when favorites of mine like G have the clock ticking. But where I could always talk about his being a warrior whose body has to feel 25 years older than the birth cert shows from blocked shots (while having a good +/- and half the penalty minutes of a less physical D like Staal)… i have to see some metrics that try to tell me I’m not seeing what I am, and commenters telling me blocked shots (7 last night including a key dive) are disrupting Hank. I love Hank, but in their 40s, he’ll be walking a lot easier than Girardi, but I keep reading how Hank props up G. And when G made the bad read on where McD was and Hank missed Pageaut’s shot that he’d stop 9/10, the boards went on for 20 mins. But when he backhanded the puck to start Zib and Zuc scored, nothing. Blocked shots….nothing.

          On Glass, I like Buch and preferred to see him. I think his better days are ahead, but if someone is going to make an impact in 8-10 mins with a 4th line, it’s going to be Glass (at least for now). And even if I wanted Buch in, it’s waaaay too stubborn to ignore things like when Glass checked Brass right before a shot, and when his D play started the 1st Lindberg goal. But the reaction? Be mad at Pierre because he didn’t talk more about Miller and talked about what he felt was a good story in Glass and AV playing him. But hey…it didn’t fit the board’s narrative.

          • Ha, you must have spent some time reading Blueshirt Banter. They’re certifiable over there.

            Welcome aboard! Glad to have yet another level headed fan who recognizes the accomplishments this team and coaching staff have achieved these past few years and who doesn’t demand perfection at every turn.

          • Hey thanks, Chris. My first reply was almost to you on the defenseman article yesterday. Appreciated your take on the “eye test” and the few others (angry wiener was one). But I figured no one was reading a day old article anyway.

            On the D, though, don’t mistake my appreciation for G as being blind. His positioning is generally very good, but it’s because it has to be. He and Staal, when flat-footed, won’t catch anyone, so a pinch is often a skate to the front and stay there (Skjei and McD can make up the speed, as others mentioned). And he also can’t make the same mistakes others can (example: McD losing Pageaut’s stick with 3 mins left), because G’s upside is limited (unlike McD’s), to where he has to be close to perfect in the role he does perform.

            But as much as I liked that things didn’t fall off when Clendening would come in… did these metrics make him the second coming. The same guy on the other site that wrote a Glass article today saying there’s a reason no one claimed him off waivers several times is then blind to how easy it was to sign Clendening as a 7th D. And they’re full of it that they’re all happy when Glass got an assist. When he scored against MTL, I wondered if that bought him a lot of games (since he wasn’t even in the lineup to score), so I’m being honest on my own thoughts….but to see the last 2 games and not credit Glass and AV is willfully blind.

          • I agree completely. I love Dan Girardi and defend him regularly, but not because I think he’s an elite defenseman, but because I think he’s better than the metrics would suggest.

            He’s way past his prime, and his contract is a liability for the organization at this point in his career. But, he seems aware of his deficiencies, especially foot speed, and has made the necessary adjustments the last few months to really become a useful defender again. He plays a simpler, more conservative game now and it has resulted in a fairly solid playoff performance this far. Is he perfect? By no means, but he’s been largely steady.

            And he’s better than Klein or Kampfer. Clendening’s metrics would suggest he’s superior, but something about that kid’s game gives me the heebie jeebies. I dont trust him this time of year.

  • There’s something to be said about just playing your game in the regular season, but to be honest with all the video scouting, you have to break your game plans into mini seasons to the point where when the other team has figured out the answers, you’ve changed the questions.

    A bonus to this concept is you develop a well rounded squad(if rotating them) that can change styles on short order while making opponent scouts scouting staffs go gray by having to put in more work. Tough to pull off with the lack of practice, but if you rotated lines/pairs you could implement new ideas by running it line by line.

    • Good points. The whole idea of the way that the Rangers are constructed is “depth.” That depth was to serve them well in the playoffs after a marathon season.

      The coach is finally using that depth in Games 3 and 4 and it even turns out that the “4th line” has been playing great.

      Isn’t it funny how, in general, 3rd and 4th lines are outplaying the top lines because the playoffs are more of a grinding game as opposed to the more wide open play during the regular season?

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