Lessons learned through the 2018 playoffs

Mats is still trying to understand golf

This might come as a surprise to you, but the New York Rangers did not make the playoffs this year. Though a rare, initially horrible shock to us fans, we can look at the silver lining. When you’re constantly in it, you don’t see certain things that you might from the outside.

It’s important to note the few positives right off the bat – for starters, this is an opportunity to get some rest for our oft-injured, overworked players. Think about Kevin Shattenkirk coming back refreshed, or how great Henrik Lundqvist’s tan will look. Also, a positive according to me, missing the playoffs essentially sealed Alain Vigneault’s fate.

There are a lot of things, though, that we couldn’t think about while constantly battling the Capitals and crushing their dreams of making it past the second round. Let’s look at some lessons learned thus far.

  • Overtime is actually fun! Who knew? It turns out when you’re not in your lucky spot with one buttcheek on the arm of the couch, ready to puke into a plastic bag you’re clutching nearby, it’s actually extremely exciting and fun! Stress-free hockey does exist!

  • It is really difficult to listen to Mike Milbury, and it turns out it’s not only because he hates the Rangers. At one point, during the Caps-Jackets series, Milbury called the game-changing player out as Tom Wilson because of his – you guessed it – toughness. Cheap shots does not equate to toughness, Mike.
  • This may be something we’ve learned in years past, but the second round truly is the best series of hockey. The Nashville – Winnipeg series is by far the most entertaining I’ve seen throughout these playoffs. Both teams are so fast and so skilled.
  • The Rangers may have been right to trade the players they left behind. Michael Grabner only played two games for the Devils before they were knocked out in the first round. Sending Rick Nash off to Boston was smart to get a return with his contract coming up. Even Ryan McDonagh, who is doing okay in Tampa, seems more comfortable deferring to a more talented defenseman (no, not Girardi).
  • There’s no shortage of surprising great players out there that we may not see often. Case in point: Mark Scheifele. He’s 24 and has 10 points (8G, 2A) through 7 full games played. David Pastrnak? 18(!) points (5G, 13A) through 9 games. Eighteen points could be an entire playoff run – through to the finals – for a decent hockey player. These guys are fun to watch.
  • Watching teams you’ve been so used to hating play one another makes you almost – almost – cheer for one over the other. Almost.

What’s been the most surprising thing you’ve noticed while watching the playoffs this year? Share it with us in the comments.

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  • Watching the Pens-Caps game, and then switching back to the Jets-Preds game, the thing that stood out the most to me is how physical these teams are playing.

    Sorry to say this folks, had we made the PO’s this year, we would have been swept in four, unless Hank stood on his head. The skill level shown by these teams, and the size of these players just blows by socks off. I always liked bigger, SKILLED players, who can skate, and mix it up should the need arise. We lacked both the skill, and the size necessary to compete with the big boys. Thank you JG for identifying this short fall, and making a commitment to rectify this problem.

    PS, Tom Wilson is filthy, but so is Latang, and Cindy!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Did anyone see Rinne take a baseball style swing at a Jet behind his net, they sure got into his head, and made him lose his cool………..

        • and yet, NHL thug Tom Wilson gets a 3 game PLAYOFF game suspension while not even drawing a penalty.

          Refs need to be fined for their disgraceful “performances.”

      • Hey Pal!!

        I wonder if NSH, TOR, WAS get eliminated , will they come a calling to see if they can pry Hank away from the Rangers. All tree teams have shitty goalies who have shown they choke very well during the playoffs. I know Hank doesn’t want to go but…..

  • Scheifele is one of the best players in the league, he just plays in Winnipeg so no one hears about him. Smart move the Jets locking him up early.

    Jets making some noise. They have everything, just their goaltending is suspect, same for the Preds.

    Appropriate picture of Zuc is a golf cart. #1, that’s what the Rangers are doing now, and #2, he’s probably going to be traveling soon, lol.

    • Helleybuyck(Jets) & Rinne(Preds) are 2 of the 3 Vezina trophy candidates this year along with Vasilevskiy ,so I’d say their goaltending is pretty good also.

    • To be honest, and taking no credit away from LV, but the league’s parity due to the hard cap, and in sports in general, has a lot to do with their success.

      Of course, William Karlsson going off like he has doesn’t hurt either.

      • Also, the Knights got lucky that a goalie like Fleury was available. And the real key was starting from $0 in a hard-cap league.

        Still think the optics of an expansion team going this far in their first season makes the NHL look like a pay-to-play clown show though.

        • I will take luck and CAP parity, but with all that said, the GM and coach have instilled a very positive attitude on that team – and it shows on the ice. Before the season, you would have said we had a better goalie and better top 2 lines than the LVK. It isn’t the name on the jersey, but the content inside the man that puts a “team” together. The Knights are a great example of team play and a coach that is aligned with his players abilities.

          • It’s a well-coached team, but their D is not good, and the results of their first season are either miraculous or suspicious. It all depends on how you view the nation’s capital of sports betting getting an expansion team that is a legit top-10 team in the league, of course—and Bettman’s pre-commish NBA background.

            I think the Vegas franchise fee bought more than league membership.

          • Their D is not good? Their D has 3 playoff shutouts. Their D is fine….if their D is not good then there is no D on any team that’s not good.
            They play under a system which has blown me away. They exemplify that D is a team concept. Better to have that than 4 D men that hog up the ice time. Engelland who is their oldest player, plays often and at critical times. I don’t see any favoritism or jealousy. Team points to this player, said player points to the team….They ARE a team

          • Strongly disagree. Any team that plays Schmidt and Engellund in their top 4 doesn’t have much in terms of talent. They’re a solid team of decent to good players, but they win with depth, teamwork, good coaching, and good goalie play—much like the Rangers between 2007-2015. Did I mention good coaching? Gallant has done good stuff as a coach no matter where he’s been. To me he and McPhee are their MVPs.

            their goalie play has been outstanding this year, their D was so-so. Half have decent possession numbers (Engellund is in the half with bad possession numbers), and they didn’t get much point production from the D. You’re not gonna change my mind on this either, so let’s let it drop.

      • Their success is their mindset, which I totally agree with. The entire team is made up of players who were not protected by their former teams. A smart leader would remind them how good they really are and to make their previous team regret not protecting them. That is a powerful motive!

        • The ole “chip in our shoulders” mentality, for sure, but talent is what win games too.

          Bettman set this up so that team would succeed, but even they did not predict this.

    • Real Cinderella story there!!!!!!! You almost want to root for them, but I picked the Jets as my sleeper team…………………..

    • The Knights also took to a Philosophy (out of necessity) that many around the league have preached for years but have not bee able to execute….Building four skilled, speedy lines with relentless puck chasing.

      Our Esteemed AV knew this after losing to the Bs in SCF, preached about it, HAD IT IN NYC, and let it go for 4th line toughness and scolding.

      You win in this league with Elite Talent or top to bottom lineup of hockey players. The Knights are proving the 2nd can be successful and should be a model the Rangers follow unless we get extrememly lucky (or bad) the next few years.

      • The Knights haven’t proven anything except that a $500 million franchise fee buys a lot from Gary Bettman. The Rangers have followed the same model of roster depth as Vegas, if you remember the seasons between 2011-2015 it worked pretty well for the Rangers but didn’t win a Cup.

        If Vegas was facing an actual NHL caliber goalie in their current series they’d be down 2-1 instead of up 2-1. Even their playoff draw is suspiciously soft.

  • There are good matchups of teams. And, it reaffirms that national coverage isn’t nearly as informative, articulate, or well-dressed as MSG.

    • I don’t find MSG coverage to be that informative—Sam & Joe could be working for the old Soviet TASS press agency based on how tightly-controlled their opinions are, while Bill Pidto has spent the last five years rewriting Puck Daddy’s daily articles and passing them off as his own. Valiquette IMO is the best part of MSG’s hockey coverage. But you’re right—compared to Milbury/Jones/Roenick/Emrick the MSG crew come off as Nobel Prize-quality broadcasters. Doc Emrick’s voice is so unpleasant and overwrought that it nearly gives me seizures to hear him call a game.

      • Whenever he calls Rangers games and I’m in the other room, I nearly stroke out thinking something great happened and it turns out to be an offsides call.

  • The thing sticking out to me… and not just these playoffs… is that our darlings that we trade away and value so highly, are almost always other team’s 2nd and 3rd line players. A few exceptions obviously. But our top line players tend to be depth players in other organizations. They literally slide back one whole line a lot of the time. Top 6 in NY is middle six elsewhere. Our former top D pair is now TB’s 2nd pair.

    I think this is why so many NYR fans feel like we get shafted in trades. But really, I think we (and the NY media) are just over-valuing everything here.

    JG did the absolute right thing, and I’m still a little surprised they actually did it. Just think of how bad this summer would have been had he not blown it up, and we’re sitting here trying to make ourselves believe that something would be different next season.

    • Luckily Vigneault did the same thing with many key Ranger in-season acquisitions. Yandle? 1st pair for years? He’s a 3rd pairing guy now! Eric Staal, 1st line center for a decade? Now you’re a 3rd-line winger!

      Seriously though—you’re exaggerating a bit here. Boston and Tampa are 2 of the 5 best teams in the league, Boston’s first line is set in stone. Rick Nash is a 2nd line player at best now anyway. While in Tampa JT Miller is on the first line, and Stralman was a first pairing dman for three years before his “demotion” to the 2nd pair. McDonagh playing behind Hedman is completely appropriate as well, Hedman is a Norris Trophy caliber dman.

      • I never was an AV hater, but I feel this year more than others, he lost the team. I do not disagree with all his decisions, but his player movement and talent judgement needs to be questioned.

        Is JT a first line player? I might be pretty good playing on a line with Stamkos, but the combination and chemistry is the key factor there – something that AV never let blossom.

    • Agreed. Its because our scouting is so awful. Yes we draft players in some cases that become NHL regulars but when was the last player we drafted in any round who became a star? Hank? That was 18 years and dozens ago.

      • We need to draft a very good player (dare I say top 6 player) in the first round and real quality players that can be NHL players in the later rounds. I think we need to find a speed replacement for Grabner for the team next year. Not sure how that player gets acquired.

        Not sure who will put the puck in the net for this team besides the first line. Need more threats up and down the lineup.

        UFAs and RFAs may help here.

    • Umm, what? Nash was a borderline 2/3 liner for the rangers this year, Grabner 4th for the most part until injuries forced him higher.

      McDonagh is a top pair D on at least 25 NHL teams, he just happens
      to be on the same team as the best lefty D out there.

      I don’t at all think that we were overvaluing our players. The only reason I felt they could have done better in trades is that comparable players have brought more in previous years’ trades. (Paul Bissonnette for a 1st? Erat for Forsberg?)

  • Hi all,

    Just a side note, all the teams remaining out west, no team has ever won the Stanley cup. The only team in the east that hasn’t won a cup is the capitals. I would like to see a capitals/jets or capitals/knights finals. First, that would obviously guarantee the pens don’t win, LOL!!! Second, bettman would have to present the cup to someone other than Crosby, and still get booed. Make up his crap ass speech he wrote up 5 minutes before he presents the cup.

  • overtime is fun. But I would rather be stressed out over it. Mike Milbury is just awful. I wish The Isles would take him back as GM.Nashville and Winnipeg have been a lot of fun to watch. I could route for either one of these teams. Watching Byfuglein swing around Roman Josi and Austin Watson like a couple rag dolls was actual toughness. Combine that with his 10 points already The Jets have 2 solid scoring lines that are almost impossible to contain. I am surprised that Nashville’s D has been a bit leaky vs The Jets.I would love to see us poach some scouts from Nashville and Winnipeg. They both draft very well. I also hate watching other teams in our division. Penns/Caps series doing nothing for me. Vegas is a great story. I see WCF in their future. Stanley cup? They keep defying the odds. I wish Gallant was our coach. I did not learn that in the playoffs though. There’s been talk about bringing back Nash and Grabner next season as UFA’s. I guess I would say why? Grabner maybe. I think he struggled with The Devils which may hurt his value as a UFA. Nash has been ok with Boston. But we were not really a better team with these guys. It’s amazing how many ex-Rangers are still in the play offs. The Tampa 5, Rick Nash, Brassard, Hagelin, Marchessault…looking forward to the draft.

  • Have you guys seen where there was a suspension of Lias Andersson from 2019 World Junior Championship? For 4 games for throwing his silver medal into the crowd.

  • Great comments Becky. Didn’t like what you said about McDonagh though, because it seems to be true.

    So much more fun watching the western series than TB-Boston.

    I am inclined to take something else away from the Vegas phenomenon. The fact that an organization can start from scratch and do so well suggests that by and large, NHL general managers are not getting things right. Bad decisions are perhaps the rule and not the exception and a team that better knows how to value talent and is better coached will indeed prosper.

    • A starting salary point of $0 is what has helped Vegas and their front office the most. Don’t forget McPhee is the same guy who traded Filip Forsberg for Martin Erat, arguably the worst NHL GM move in the last ten years.

      • Looks like he has learned a lesson on trading.

        The league needed a new face and a boost of life and Vegas has provided that. The rules for drafting may have given them a better chance than teams in previous years, but so what. It is time to have new faces in the playoffs and Vegas is as new as they get.

        Maybe Buffalo makes the playoffs next year. HA

        • McPhee’s done very well this year, but he is still the same guy that couldn’t put it all together for the Caps in 10+ years as GM. I like McPhee because he was a great scrapper as a Ranger—pound-for-pound one of the toughest guys to ever wear blue—but Vegas had the easiest playoff draw of any team except for Bettman’s other favorites, the Penguins. Nashville or Winnipeg will beat them. Minnesota would’ve been a tough matchup too for Vegas.

          To act like a GM who was nothing special in Washington (for a team that had the world’s best goalscorer in Ovechkin) is now great in Vegas—without acknowledging all the unique advantages McPhee got to work with in Vegas—is overstating the case quite a bit.

      • One should never judge a general manager by a single move. They all make good trades and they all make bad trades. The good ones just make more of the former and the bad ones more of the latter.

        • McPhee had ten-plus years on the job in Washington, he proved again & again what kind of GM he is. If measured against his career thus season’s success is not unusual for him—the Caps got to the 2nd round a bunch of times while he was GM, but never further, despite having the league’s most elite goalscorer.

          I’d argue that most GMs in this league could’ve done what he did with this roster. Vegas had very favorable drafting regulations compared to every other recent NHL expansion club. Vegas also came into this season with the full amount of the salary cap available for them to spend. He’s done well in Vegas for sure, but it doesn’t erase his past.

          • Not a single other GM would have had the same roster. So many choices, so many trades.

          • I didn’t say another GM would put together the same roster. What I said was plenty of GMs could’ve constructed a good team out of the best salary cap situation in the league, selecting from this pool of unprotected players, which was advantageously set up for Vegas.

            Remember Ottawa, Tampa, Atlanta/Winnipeg, Nashville, Minnesota, Columbus, and Florida all came into an uncapped NHL with a much smaller talent pool to deal with. That’s a huge difference—which you are refusing to acknowledge, since it doesn’t agree with your original point.

  • Just announced:

    OFFICIAL: #NYR have agreed to terms with free agent forward Michael Lindqvist.

    Lindqvist, 23, skated in 33 games with Färjestad BK of the Swedish Hockey League this past season, registering 20 goals and 14 assists for 34 points

    This is probably a Pack move, but interesting just the same!!!!!!

    • The Dallas Stars will hire Denver University head coach Jim Montgomery as their replacement for Ken Hitchcock, TSN Hockey Insider Bob McKenzie reports. McKenzie reports an announcement is expected to be made later this week.

      This announcement makes me a bit upset because he was looked upon very favorably by the Ranger brass!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • i know the cup playoffs brings out the tuffness in this sport, I hope the ranger brass are watching. WE havent had that around here for a while. A great player would help, but we need to get that tuffness and edge that this team is lacking.

  • Nice piece becky!

    The one thing that pops out at me is the difference in play between east and west. Almost all the Eastern teams play counter punch style not much different from our own and all the West teams play a crash the net with numbers. High point shots and deflections. You definitely see the overload style alot more on the eastern teams.

    Winnipeg isn’t going anywhere with their power play as is. To crucial at this time to keep fumbling like they do with all that talent. I just referencing last nights game the part I saw they were john tortarella awful. lol…

    The only Vegas game I watched was a little of the LA series and man was that boring hockey. Really system hockey. I couldn’t watch more then a minute of that.

    Pitt and the Caps are just way to sloppy. No defense and just lets see who can score the most. Entertaining by all means but a solid Defensive team is going to sweep which ever one wins.

    Winny/Nash vs Tampa in the finals.

    ps to anyone who thinks Rinne is a bad goalie please don’t breed I wouldn’t want to see your kid on the Darwin award list.

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