Jim Davis/Globe Staff
For the first time since 1973 the Rangers will square off against the Boston Bruins in the Stanley Cup playoffs. What was once a fierce rivalry between these two teams has been dormant for decades. That is all about to change real soon as another chapter will be written in sports history between these two cities.
Putting aside the obvious narratives about the two famed franchises and their wonderful histories, the story for this series will be about each team’s present day 5-on-5 play. Neither team possesses a power play worth envying and neither team is top-heavy in the skill department ala the Penguins or the Capitals (RIP). This series will likely see complete team efforts on both sides of the ice.
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KOSTAS LYMPEROPOULOS/ CSM LANDOV
Yesterday, I found myself intrigued by a series of conversations on Twitter by Japers Rink, Corey Sznajder of Shut Down Line, and George Ays (RangerSmurf) about the complete domination by the Caps in puck possession throughout the series. Looking at BTN this morning, I see why they were in such shock by the domination. The Rangers, who were a dominant puck possession team throughout the season, are getting thoroughly out-possessed by a Caps team that wasn’t a good puck possession team in the regular season.
There is only one player on the team who is on the positive side of Corsi, and that is Mats Zuccarello at a 2.44 Corsi/ON (aka Corsi/60). Kris Newbury (1 game), Steve Eminger, and Ryan Callahan are all at 0.00 Corsi/ON, but every other Ranger is in the negative in this category. Even Carl Hagelin, who despite putting up points is struggling in the possession department (-13.25 Corsi/ON). You might say that this is due to the tough assignments, but Zuccarello is third on the team in Corsi Rel QoC (5.321), so that’s not the determining factor. Zone starts aren’t a factor either, with the top offensive guys getting the most offensive starts, but still struggling to maintain puck possession. (All numbers at even strength.)
So what is the issue?
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Photo Credit: US Presswire
A lot of noise has been made about how coach John Tortorella deploys his defensemen. Most of this is due to the coach playing five defensemen during last year’s playoff run, but some new noise has been made recently when Steve Eminger was benched for half of Game Four. But a lot of this is just noise, and the Rangers don’t even have a defenseman in the top-five in playoff ice time among defensemen.
In fact, only Dan Girardi is int he top-ten in ice time, averaging 26:53 of ice time per game, good for seventh highest in the playoffs. You read that correctly, not a single Ranger averages over 27 minutes of ice time. Next on the list –as expected– is Ryan McDonagh, who averages 24:57 of ice time, good for #17 on that list. This makes perfect sense, as this is the Rangers top defensive unit, and they should be getting a good portion of the minutes. When you have stud defensemen, you play them.
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Thanks to LAR again for this.
Again big thanks to Loyal Anonymous Reader (LAR) for the above graphic, which shows the goal locations for each of Derek Stepan’s 18 goals this season. As you can tell from the picture, Stepan’s game is to get to the front of the net for deflections, rebounds, and otherwise dirty goals. He did this for 16 of his 18 goals, and I’d bet that only Ryan Callahan can match him in goals from the front of the net.
What is interesting to see is that all of his powerplay goals have come from in front of the net, despite the fact that he has seen time on the off-wing and on the point. It’s one of those signs that shows how effective he is in front with his hands. Cally will screen the goalie and collect rebounds, but Stepan adds a great ability to deflect pucks on net. In a theoretical 1-3-1, you’d want Cally in front for the dirty work and Stepan as the high slot man for deflections and passes.
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I think he likes that face off circle.
In our third post that comes via a great graphic from LAR (Loyal Anonymous Reader), we have a great chart of where Rick Nash scores his goals. Of Nash’s 21 goals this season, he really only scores from two areas: In front of the net and at the off-wing face off dot. Neither of these should really surprise anyone, as we’ve known about his sweet spot for a while.
Most of those even strength goals from down low are part of his patented “skate through everyone below the goal line then cut back and use ridiculous reach to slide it under the goalie” move. Almost all of those come at even strength, which makes sense since he’s driving to the net more at 5v5. When the Rangers are on the powerplay, they tend to set up more, thus less goals down low.
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Thanks again LAR.
I again would like to thank LAR (Loyal Anonymous Reader) for providing the graphic you see above. LAR put this together to show the locations of all 25 powerplay goals scored against the Rangers this season. From the graphic, you can tell that the Rangers have a particular weakness against deflections and rebounds in front of the net, that’s where half of the goals were scored.
This shouldn’t surprise many, as we’ve had many goal breakdowns where we highlighted one defenseman in front of the net, and another one out of position. This occurs more often than we would like, and it’s very often we find a defenseman in No Man’s Land, out by the face off dot or higher. When that happens the opposition outnumbers the remaining defenseman in front and it’s easy for them to get the goal.
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Alex Brandon/Associated Press
Yes, I’m aware out-puck-possessioning isn’t a word.
The Rangers out-shot the Caps last night by a margin of 36-30. The Rangers out-hit the Caps by a 41-32 margin. The Rangers out-Corsi’d (out-possessed) the Caps by a +16 margin. But yet, the Rangers lost. All of these stats would make you think that the Rangers outplayed the Caps. But, leading in stats does not mean you outplayed the opposition.
The tone for last night’s loss was set just 34 seconds in, when the Rangers took a too many men penalty (I still have no idea how you take that penalty 30 seconds into the game. Did they start with 6 guys on?). The Caps may not have scored on that powerplay, but it gave them offensive rhythm and put the Rangers on their heels. The first shot on goal for the Rangers didn’t even come until eight minutes into the period. You can also make an argument that despite the fact that the Rangers out-hit the Caps, they were dominated physically. After all, how many board battles did the Rangers win last night?
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The single most important line this series (AP Photo/Gary Wiepert).
As Game 1 nears, we have covered almost every aspect of how the Caps and the Rangers will match up against each other. The one thing that hasn’t been covered is the particular line matchups that Adam Oates will deploy against the Rangers, particularly in Games 1 and 2 where he has the last change. As Suit pointed out last season, getting the right line matchups can be critical to a team’s success, and there are certain pairings we should expect the Rangers top guys to see as they play the games.
Per Left Wing Lock (courtesy of JP of Japers Rink), the Caps lines have been rather static in their formation of late: Alex Ovehckin-Nicklas Backstrom-Marcus Johansson, Troy Brouwer-Mike Ribiero-Martin Erat, Jason Chimera-Mathieu Perreault-Eric Fehr, Aaron Volpatti-Matt Hendricks-Jay Beagle. Since Joel Ward is likely to be back in the lineup, expect him to slot in for Fehr on the third line, with Volpatti coming out of the lineup and Fehr moving to the fourth line. On defense, you have Karl Alzner-Mike Green, John Erksine-John Carlson, and Jack Hillen-Steve Oleksy.
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- After the trade deadline Derick Brassard had five goals in six assists while Marian Gaborik had three goals and five assists.
- The Rangers went 9-3-1 following the trade deadline.
- Before the trade deadline the Rangers averaged 2.4 goals per game. After it, they averaged 3.6.
- Check out this chart of where playoff teams ranked in shot differential this season. (Via @NHL_Stats) Read more »
Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images
Well, it’s time for our annual Rangers-Capitals playoff matchup. Since these teams met just twelve months ago, the scouting report I wrote on Holtby last season is still pretty applicable. He’s had an extra half a season to acclimate to full time starter duties in the NHL, so there has been some evolution in his game. I decided to change up the format for the guys I scouted last season; I’m going to consolidate four categories into two. Being combined are general style and strengths, along with weaknesses and how the Rangers should approach the matchup. Let’s get to it…
Holtby’s style hasn’t changed much, if at all, since last season’s scouting report. He is still an extremely poised, athletic tender with solid instincts and vision. He has near elite levels of lateral movement and recovery, with an absolutely lethal glove hand. He has rounded his game out a little through this lockout-shortened season, specifically with blocking and rebound control.
In the playoffs last season, he was all hands and legs. Generally, when a goalie’s saves are concentrated to their gloves and pads, they are losing peripheral inches on their positioning, requiring more acrobatic save techniques. This year, Holtby has improved his over-movement to the point where he is catching pucks in the mid-section more frequently. This is a product of allowing the puck to travel and “hit you”, as opposed to affirmatively attacking the puck with various parts of your equipment. Read more »