Big picture outlook > lockout shortened season.
After the Rangers loss against Boston Sunday night, much of the Rangers fan base went into panic mode. The usual suspects came out and called for Tortorella’s head, Michael Del Zotto’s and to some extent Brad Richards, as if the loss was solely on them. We’ve been down this road before, and quite frankly, I wasn’t surprised at the fan sentiment. The stakes are high at this time of year and everyone is wound tight. I get it.
Still, despite some Rangers bloggers calling this team mediocre and overachievers (which kinda contradicts the Torts hate no?), I beg to differ. No matter what happens the next couple of games, I still believe the Rangers are closer to the Cup than most give them credit for.
Do the Rangers need to make a couple of moves this offseason? Sure. But the right core is still in place, the right coach still leads them, and both will be back next season. I guarantee it.
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Something that was very obvious during yesterday’s loss was that the Rangers defense had a lot of trouble matching up and shutting down the Bruins forwards. Prior to the series, coach John Tortorella swapped his defense pairings to prepare for a much deeper Bruins club. In doing so, he split up Dan Girardi/Ryan McDonagh, and put Girardi with Michael Del Zotto.
Let’s be clear about one thing, Del Zotto is a top-four defenseman in this league. He’s a top-50 guy, which puts him in the upper echelon of second pairing defensemen. He’s not perfect, he’s not going to do well against the top scorers in the league, but he will be able to hold his own. That said, the pairing of Del Zotto/Girardi has never worked. It didn’t work two years ago, it didn’t work last year, it won’t work this year.
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Zuccarello scores pretty goals.
There’s a mountain of clichés attached to the not-so-mountainous Norwegian that describe his appearance, his NHL ability, the challenges he’s faced and even the fact he’s now a main act on Broadway. All that considered, it’s fair to assume Mats Zuccarello has secured an NHL future as the Rangers prepare to take on the Boston Bruins.
Throughout the playoffs Zuccarello has been forechecking, making plays, playing physical and has been much harder to knock off the puck. He’s been consistent and on top of all that, he’s been productive – something that (at least consistently) has eluded him in the past. He returned to the Rangers from the KHL with something to prove and he’s proving it.
While the Rangers have undoubtedly advanced because of a certain member of royalty in net and an upstart kid from French Canada at center ice, the Rangers wouldn’t have gotten this far without Zuccarello’s contribution. So what next for the little winger?
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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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Paul Bereswill/Getty Images
Last night, Marc Staal was a last-minute scratch from Game Four, forcing Steve Eminger back into the lineup. In Games One and Two, Eminger got enough ice time to give the others a rest, playing 10 minutes in Game One and 14 minutes in Game Two. After sitting out Game Three (with Staal in the lineup), Eminger played just six minutes in Game Four, and didn’t see the ice after a gaffe in the offensive zone that led to the Caps first goal.
Perhaps that is just a one game benching, much like we had seen with Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik this season. But we’ve also seen the other end of the spectrum (see: Bickel, Stu) where repeated gaffes led to barely five minutes of playing time per game. Eminger has seen his fair share of benching, but he has also seen top-four minutes under Torts.
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Marc Staal returned last night, will Ryane Clowe follow on Wednesday? (Photo: Credit: Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports)
What, you thought this was going to be easy? The 2011-2012 Rangers came within two points of winning the President’s Trophy and still needed two seven-game series to get to the Eastern Conference Finals, so why would the 2013 version, which had to scratch and claw just to get into the postseason, have an easier time?
So far in this series, all that’s happened is that each team has held its home-ice advantage. New York must simply continue that pattern tomorrow night to even the series and there were plenty of reasons to believe that’s possible during last night’s thriller.
- The power play, which had been the greatest source of frustration through two games, directly led to two goals and generated all kinds of pressure. Conversely, the Rangers finally figured out that they need to stay out of the box against the NHL’s best power play. It’s no coincidence that the team that had the special teams advantage has won every game of this series. Read more »
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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Andrew Theodorakis/New York Daily News
Mats Zuccarello has been one of the catalysts for the Rangers recent 9-3-1 run that clinched a playoff berth. He was brought back, and with a new confidence that is apparent on the ice, changed his game and is now becoming a leader in driving puck possession. It’s a transformation in his game that is not only showing up on the scoreboard (3-4-7 in 14 games), but is showing up in his metrics.
Although Zuccarello is subject to small sample sizes, he leads the forwards with at least ten games played in Corsi Rel QoC (1.035!!!) and RCorsi (18.7!!!). We always rave about how Carl Hagelin (12.1 RCorsi) is a puck possession beast, but Zuccarello is blowing him out of the water. What makes Zuccarello’s emergence special is that he is helping Brad Richards and Taylor Pyatt improve their puck possession stats. Both were pretty awful (comparatively to the type of player they are) before being put on a line with Zuccarello.
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All NYR PPGs.
A very loyal reader, who prefers to remain anonymous, spent his own time and effort to create a graphical depiction of where the Rangers have scored their powerplay goals this season, represented in the image above (click for a larger image). This is fantastic stuff, and when it was sent to me, I noticed some very interesting trends.
The first thing that jumped out at me, something that the “loyal anonymous reader” pointed out, is that Ryan Callahan is always in front of the net. If there’s a rebound goal scored with the man advantage, you can safely assume it was Cally who scored the goal. Two of his goals are actually from really bad angles for a right-handed shot (the two black dots on the left by the goal line).
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Still control their own fate.
The Rangers lost last night. It happens. They dominated the game, but still fell short to an inferior team. It happens. The Blackhawks had their record streak broken by the 29th best team in the league this season. The Rangers lost to the worst team in the league. A team that has still won 13 games this season. It happens.
What is more important is that the Jets lost. What is more important is that the Rangers control their own destiny. What is more important is that the Rangers’ magic number is at two. What is more important is that any combination of the Rangers getting two points in their final two games OR the Jets losing two points in their final game (remember, the Rangers have a game in hand) and the Rangers qualify for the playoffs.
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