Both poised for bounce-back years. Will they do it? (Scott Levy/NHLI via Getty Images)
It’s no secret: Brad Richards and Ryane Clowe had disastrous seasons. Richards was a non-factor for the Rangers on the powerplay –something he was brought in to help bring back to respectability– and was even a healthy scratch for the last few games of the postseason. Clowe didn’t score a goal until he arrived in New York before suffering what is rumored to be two concussions over the span of the last week of the season and his two playoff games.
What we do know is that they were both awful. What we don’t know is whether or not these were off-years or the sign of a complete downward spiral for both players. However, handy-dandy puck possession metrics and shooting percentages can give us a bit of insight into what to expect from them next year, be it in New York or elsewhere. Yesterday I looked at the puck possession leaders for the Rangers, and both Richards and Clowe were among the top five for the Rangers, which may allude to the fact that there’s still gas in the tank. Insert “watch the game nerd” joke here.
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(Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images)
Glen Sather doesn’t speak to the press much anymore. Other than his recent quasi compliments/critiques of Tortorella, or his professed love for Sean Avery, I can’t really think of anything he has said in recent seasons that was quite remarkable.
Pre-lockout Sather (the original lockout), had a quite different communication plan. Whether it was referring to Malakhov as a “superstar” or predicting Tom Poti would be “one of the top players in this league,” it seemed every acquisition he made back then was generally followed by some sort of over the top statement.
Perhaps my favorite Sather quote of all time was the one he dropped after acquiring Eric Lindros where he said, “if you don’t make this deal, you’re a mouse forever.” If there was ever any sort of insight into his thought process, that line pretty much gave you all you ever needed to know.
Which brings us to today’s exercise…
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Anton Stralman: Rangers leading puck possession player this season.
As the Rangers look to move beyond the John Tortorella era and into the Alain Vigneault era, they are going to need to lean on their puck possession monsters to ensure a smooth transition into a more creative offensive flow. This means more reliance on their top offensive guys to maintain offensive pressure and keep the puck in the offensive zone. If you are unfamiliar with Corsi, read up here.
Among the forwards, we all know that Carl Hagelin is a puck possession monster, and truly jump-started the Rangers offense with his call up last season. Hagelin’s 11.73 CorsiON (Corsi/60) and 11.5 RCorsi is second on the team, but he was tops among the forwards last season. The addition of Rick Nash bumped Hagelin to second with his 12.56 CorsiON and 13.2 RCorsi. The full list (minimum of 20 games) has a few surprises, and really illustrates the struggles of Chris Kreider.
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Don’t expect a huge difference in performance under Vigneault.
With Alain Vigneault on board, the Rangers are likely going to be changing their styles of play. But with that style change comes understanding what that change will bring. This is something we’ve covered a few times here, but it’s worth digging deeper into the puck possession metrics to see how exactly the Rangers will be differing in styles of play, and how effective AV’s more conservative style is at driving puck possession.
Make no mistake, there are very few coaches as aggressive as John Tortorella. The Rangers sat at the top of the league in GF% (goals for percentage, GF/[GF+GA]), CF%, and SF% this past season, which was likely the most efficient on-ice performance of any Torts-coached Ranger team. They may not have been pretty, they may have been maddeningly inconsistent, but they were efficient in puck possession as a team. Vigneault’s Canucks, however, were not in the top-10 in these categories this past season.
But it is unfair to really rate Vigneault –or Tortorella for that matter– with just one lockout-shortened season of stats. So let’s look at the last three years for these coaches:
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After a frustrating end to the Rangers’ season in Boston several days ago, the voracious New York media was bestowed with the “We’ll see” heard round the world. Henrik Lundqvist’s non-committal response to his future in New York almost imploded the entire hockey media. Articles were written, page hits were had, and ad revenue rained down on media outlets. Many observers and analysts alike feel that the King possibly moving kingdoms was the impetus for John Tortorella’s unceremonious dismissal on Wednesday. Obviously, I’m not behind the New York Ranger curtain, so I couldn’t tell you with any certainty whether this is true, but I can dig a little deeper into those comments and see if the “threat” is credible in this case.
For those who missed it (and I’m paraphrasing), when asked about his long term future with the team, Hank responded with the functional equivalent of “we’ll see, I need to talk to my agent”. Normally, this is a very typical response from a player when asked about his contract, but considering Hank’s importance and impact on the franchise, his remarks were bound to cause a stir. Read more »
AP Photo/Ann Heisenfelt
Before I get started with our post-season evaluations, I just want to give some insight about myself and a bit of my background before we go down the road of critiquing people’s jobs and livelihoods. I have been accused with these posts in the past of being a pom-pom waver for the Rangers organization, specifically regarding the coaching staff. It’s an awkward balance trying to bring you all unbiased analysis, while simultaneously trying to respect the people that we cover.
I know from my own experiences how hard it is to break into the sports business. And I know it is even harder to stay here. The politics in front offices are fierce. The travel can be relentless — I know some random airport bars and bathrooms in this country better than I know my own city sometimes. The hours? Ask Mrs. Suit. Some weeks I’m lucky to see her at all. Thanks for your patience hun
You think Torts is tough on his players? You should have played for my father growing up. If I didn’t play well, my ass went right to the bench. I didn’t really understand it or realize what he was doing for me at the time, as I couldn’t have been older than 10-12 years old. Now I couldn’t be more grateful for learning a lesson in accountability. Though he never benched anybody else’s kid.
So when it comes time to share my perspective on the game at large, all of these things factor into the lens in which I write.
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During Tuesday night’s game, I noticed the Bruins were finding an easy way to exploit the Rangers aggressive 2-1-2 forecheck early in the first period. The Rangers just seemed a step behind making contact with the puck carrier. While I always prefer a 2-1-2 forecheck and I am glad it is the system Torts has installed, I couldn’t help but think an adjustment needed to be made. Generally speaking, when guys are a step behind, the 2-1-2 becomes very, very risky.
Anyway, so the Bruins were putting on a clinic, creating three quality scoring chances before the game hit the 10 minute mark. I started to think to myself, “Come on Torts, make the adjustment. Drop the third guy back.”
And what does Tortorella do? He makes the adjustment.
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Yesterday, I used four stats to discuss how the Rangers are not a team that sits on a lead. Those four stats I introduced to the blog (note: These are not new stats, just new to being used on this blog) were Fenwick, Situational Corsi, CF%, and FF%. Since the Rangers are off today, now would be a good time to go into detail about each stat.
Fenwick is the easiest to describe, since it is a lot like Corsi. Corsi is the plus/minus of the number of shot attempts taken by a team that are missed, blocked, or on net. It is something we have used very often on the blog. Fenwick is almost the exact same thing as Corsi, but it removes blocked shots from the equation. The logic here is that it eliminates coaching strategy from the equation. Some coaches preach blocking shots, and others preach preventing shot attempts. Fenwick eliminates that variable.
Personally, I prefer to use Corsi when analyzing players. That said, Fenwick is a bit more reliable when comparing players on different teams, since it does eliminate the coaching variable.
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“The Rangers play boring hockey. They sit on leads, they block shots, and the don’t even attempt to score once they have the lead.”
I’m sure you’ve heard this before. Almost every media outlet says this about the Rangers during the postseason. The logic here is that the Rangers block a lot of shots, thus are a passive team and are content sitting on one-goal leads. The logic is flawed, as blocking shots has nothing to do with the aggressiveness of a team once they obtain a lead. Blocking shots is how a team plays in their own zone. There are two other zones in hockey with completely different systems, as we’ve noted on this site many times.
Aside from the Caps series, where the Rangers were completely manhandled in terms of Corsi (not a single player had a positive Corsi), the Rangers as a whole are not a team that sits back on leads. Even in the Caps series the Rangers were still generating offense, but the Caps had an overwhelming puck possession advantage that it marred their attempts. This is something we’ve detailed with chalk talks and systems before, but now we have some data to match the eye test.
This brings us to situational team Corsi. I will touch more in-depth tomorrow, but situational team Corsi is exactly that: The Corsi of a team based on the current situation (note: Score) of the game. Since Corsi is a puck possession metric that measures the +/- of shot attempts (on net, missed, blocked), situational Corsi just breaks this down into the Corsi of a team at any particular score (up 1, down 1, tied, etc).
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After dispatching a tough Washington Capitals team in the first round, the Rangers have been rewarded with the Boston Bruins as their next opponent. Boston is coming off a somewhat improbable victory over an upstart Maple Leafs squad who is trending in the right direction. Opposing The King in this series will be former Maple Leaf, Tuukka Rask.
Rask is a former 1st round pick of the Leafs (21st overall), who was moved to the Bruins for Andrew Raycroft (!) just before the 2007 season. Rask was putting up solid numbers in Finland, but was just 19 years old at the time of the deal. Toronto needed established goaltending now, and had Justin Pogge waiting in the wings. This left Rask expendable, and former Bruin’s interim GM and current Rangers assistant GM, Jeff Gorton, was more than willing to make that deal. Obviously, this one worked out well for Boston. Rask made it over to North America in 2009-2010, and has been groomed as Boston’s goalie of the future ever since.
Ok, enough with the history lesson, let’s break down Rask’s game. Since Tim Thomas was the starting goalie in Boston the last time I scouted the B’s, Rask gets the full format. General style, strengths, weaknesses and how the Rangers should approach the matchup. Here we go… Read more »