NY Rangers lines tonight: Ryan Lindgren returns

Yesterday we saw the first real lineup shuffle of the season from Peter Laviolette in response to the Rangers’ struggles and woefully bad California road trip. The big news was about Nick Bonino, but something that was surprising to see was Fox/Lindgren broken up, as that pair had been as synonymous with the Rangers as Kreider-Zibanejad.

Aside from Fox/Lindgren broken up, we saw Erik Gustafsson and Braden Schneider broken up as well, as Laviolette is trying to shuffle things around to see what options may jump start the Rangers. As per usual, I have thoughts.

1. Before we get to why Fox/Lindgren broken up may be a good thing, let’s just acknowledge Nick Bonino. The guy did a lot more than what was asked, as his signing was supposed to be for a 4C role, likely playing 50-60 games in a rotation. That plan did not pan out thanks to two long term injuries and several other short term injuries that left the Rangers routinely using their 15F in the lineup.

Bonino was never meant to be a 3C. His hockey mind is still fantastic, but Father Time caught up to his body.

2. I still expect Bonino, assuming he clears waivers, to be back with the Rangers for the playoffs as a Black Ace. The Rangers would benefit from as many positive voices in the locker room, and Bonino is certainly a strong one. He and Barclay Goodrow are the only guys who “have been there before” in the locker room. When the cap doesn’t matter in the playoffs, Bonino’s presence will still be valued.

3. Onto the surprise news, which was Fox/Lindgren broken up, I do think it’s about time the Rangers tried something different. It wasn’t the full hope that many wanted, which was Lindgren-Trouba and Miller-Fox, but we got halfway there. Instead, Miller-Trouba is still together, and we got Gustafsson-Fox and Lindgren-Schneider.

Per Natural Stat Trick, Gustafsson-Fox has 59:55 minutes together this season with pretty phenomenal results:

  • CF/60: 103.14
  • CA/60: 40.06
  • CF%: 72.03%
  • xGF/60: 5.11
  • xGA/60: 2.08
  • xGF%: 71.03%
  • HDCF/60: 23.03
  • HDCA/60: 9.01
  • HDCF%: 71.88%

This is far better than Lindgren-Fox, Miller-Fox, or Lindgren-Trouba have ever put together, so it’s a big reason why Gustafsson-Fox are a pair right now. If Lindgren/Fox broken up means better balance and results, then let’s stick with it.

4. As for Lindgren-Schneider, they have 67:50 TOI together over the last two seasons, with 32:03 TOI this season. The results are strong, but nowhere near as good as Gustafsson-Fox:

  • CF/60: 50.41
  • CA/60: 51.29
  • CF%: 49.57%
  • xGF/60: 1.91
  • xGA/60: 1.64
  • xGF%: 53.70%
  • HDCF/60: 6.19
  • HDCA/60: 8.84
  • HDCF%: 41.18%

The concern is HDCF% for this pair, as that 41.48% is actually propped up by 2022-2023’s performance, as this year’s sub-30% HDCF rate is quite bad. But like Gustafsson-Fox, small sample warning required.

5. The best expectation for the two new pairs with Fox/Lindgren broken up is a strong puck control game from Gustafsson-Fox, even if it’s not as dominant as their numbers to date. Lindgren-Schneider will likely have some trouble getting out of the zone, which is why we hope the HDCF% numbers even out more favorably.

6. What Fox/Lindgren broken up doesn’t address is Miller-Trouba’s struggles. Laviolette has been using them primarily as a shutdown pair against top competition. I wonder if that changes with Lindgren-Schneider shifting into a shutdown role, with Miller-Trouba’s minutes easing up a bit to help get them going.

There’s risk, given neither Schneider nor Lindgren are strong with zone exits. There may be long shifts in the defensive zone. There may not be. We won’t know for a bit.

7. What this does show is both Peter Laviolette and Phil Housley are willing to change things up and use past history and stats to justify their decisions. They are at least showing they are willing to buck the old school hockey trend of a puck mover with a defensive defenseman pair. Putting a pair of puck movers like Fox and Gustafsson together has been considered hearsay in the past.

This may work. It may not work. But with Fox/Lindgren broken up, the Rangers are showing a willingness to change things up to achieve the ultimate goal of winning a Stanley Cup. The players see this and gain trust in their coaching staff. It’s a win-win.


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