Talking about the Rangers, unless I decide to talk about something else

Archive for October, 2015

3 Early Observations

“My name is Ozymandias/Look upon my blogs, ye mighty, and despair.” Ozymandias, by Percy Bysshe Shelley

The Rangers’ season has, despite being less than 10 games in, already seen some interesting ups and downs. We’ve seen a 3 game winning streak, a 3 game losing streak, glorious goaltending from Lundqvist (and Raanta!), and some excellent coaching from AV. Now seems like a good time to make 3 observations about things we’ve seen so far, and since this is my goddamn blog that’s happening right now.

1. Dan Girardi looks… not great

As a fan of hockey and good stories, I’ve always loved Dan Girardi. If you’re unfamiliar with his background, I’d recommend watching this. His career is inspiring and he seems to be a great family man and teammate.

NOW. My least favorite roster move the Rangers have made over last 5 or so years was when the Rangers cut Anton Stralman loose to re-sign Dan Girardi (for more term and more money per year than Stralman approached the Rangers with at re-signing negotiations). I’m of the bold school of thought that when deciding which of 2 players to keep, it is unwise to keep the one who is older, not as good, and more expensive. Sather made plenty of great moves, but that one hurt my brain then and still does now. Stralman got Norris votes (the Norris trophy is awarded to the league’s top defenseman each year) last year and Girardi started to slow down a little as the FANCY STATS continued to reflect poorly on his performance (that’s even while he shares most of his minutes with McDonagh). So far this year, Girardi’s play has continued to slip. He is making awful decisions with the puck, continues to find himself out of position, and generally looking like a shell of the player from 2 years ago. Hopefully this improves, and if it doesn’t the Rangers may need to find a way to move him to another team.

2. Power play: still bad, dumb

The power play is bad and dumb (see above). To me there are 3 issues that stick out very obviously, and it’s weird because this has been the case every year of AV’s tenure.

First: the zone entries are absolutely horrendous. Considering the talent on this team, it is mind boggling how awful they are at getting across the blue line and setting up. It works the same way every time: wingers stand still on the blue line on each side of the ice easily checked by defenders. Defensemen slowly trail the play through the neutral zone. Whichever player has the puck is forced to attempt to skate through all the defensemen, who are available to easily take the puck away because the Ranger’s other 4 players are either A) standing still on the blue line or B) several feet out of the zone and unable to help. This is dumb, and the coaches must know that it’s dumb, and for the love of God make it stop.

Second: if they accidentally do get the power play set up, the players without the puck never. Fucking. Move. It’s infuriating. Every good power play involves heavy movement from every player who doesn’t have the puck, which gets the defense off balance and opens up extra passing lanes which then lead to quality scoring chances. That does not appear to be the plan. The plan appears to be based entirely around a player standing in front of the goalie, 2 players standing still against the half boards (a theme emerges!), 1 player in the middle of the 4-man box formation every PK uses, and the guy at the point skating around aimlessly then firing a shot off a defender’s skate or leg. Again, dumb.

Third: I don’t think the Rangers have a single player who can take an effective one timer. You don’t need to have Ovi or Stamkos ripping unstoppable bullets from the left dot, but even someone with a solid shot would be an improvement. I counted 2 goals on Power Play one-timers last year (yes, I am a weirdo), and considering how little turnover there was on the roster there is no reason to believe this year will be much better. The ability to get off quick shots when forcing the goalie to move side-to-side is a huge power play asset, and the Rangers have built a team that isn’t capable of creating or taking advantage of those chances. Bad.

3. Nash stuff!

Nash is an interesting player to me. He’s always scored a ton of goals, thus the reputation as a top scorer. But after watching him for a few years now, I feel like Nash is an A+ all-around player who isn’t a pure goal-scorer. His athleticism and anticipation are the reason he gets 75% of his goals.

He has an accurate but not heavy wrist shot, which is part of why half his goals are weirdly placed shots from just above the face-off dot that look like they came here in a time machine from 1980. When he gets breakaways, he VERY clearly picks his move before executing it and observing the goalie. Usually that’s a recipe for failure, but his reach is so big that his moves rarely fail. I can’t remember more than a couple goals of his that came on slap shots (and don’t get me goddamn started on one-timers). Nash basically manages to be such a smart player who does everything so well that he can’t help but score. When I want to teach my son how to play hockey one day, I’ll show him tape of Nash in order to learn about the right way to do everything on the ice EXCEPT how to score.

Also, am I alone for thinking he might pot a few more if he used a shorter stick? His reach is a major asset when it comes to puck control but he leaves a lot of goals on the table (especially in the playoffs) because he’s a split second late getting to a loose puck around the net. If his stick were a few inches shorter (phrasing!) he’d be on those pucks quicker and it might result in a few more of those garbage goals around the net. Says the moron with the blog.

THAT’LL BE ALL! Let’s go Rangers.

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WEEKEND RECAP; PLAYER UPDATES

“Blog so hard motherf*ckers wanna fine me” – Jay-Z

2 very different games ended in 2 wins this weekend. I could research the numbers (I won’t due to crippling laziness and mild disdain for my readers!) but between the end of the 3rd period on Friday night and the beginning of the 1st on Saturday, the Rangers scored 6 goals in just under 9 minutes against Columbus. I’m no math guy, but THAT’S SOME GOOD SCORIN’.

Friday was a game the Rangers probably shouldn’t have won. Columbus came flying out of the gates; they were fast, consistently dangerous offensively, and physical as hell. Their forward group is big, mean, and super skilled, and the Rangers were on their heels all night. An advantage to being an awesome team, however, is that even if you aren’t playing your best you still have a chance to win if you can keep the game close. The Rangers did just that. Also, Bobrovsky let in one of the worst goals I’ve ever seen an NHL goalie let in on Hayes’ winner. That is also helpful.

Saturday was the photo negative of Friday’s game. The Rangers went up 3-0 before the first commercial and the game seemed to be over about as soon as it started. Also, the crowd at this game was brutally unenthusiastic. There were maybe 2 “Let’s go Rangers” chants that caught on, which was insane considering, you know, the team scored 3 times within the first 6 minutes. That said, I sat next to a couple that decided to skip checking out wedding venues to get drunk and come to the home opener. I don’t like using the word hero, unless it’s for someone who deserves it like Marcus Luttrell or the dude who invented Tinder. But that drunk couple? Heroes.

Starting like this has been a welcome change, considering both the team and Lundqvist started off each of the last 2 seasons horribly. Let’s take a look at some of the highlights from the beginning of the season.

1. OSCAR “WAYNE GRETZKY” LINDBERG

It’s great getting contributions from players from whom very little was expected. Is he going to continue scoring like this? Of course not. Am I excited to make a tasteless “Lindberg Baby” joke the second he goes quiet for a few games? Absolutely. Have I considered an exit strategy for this ridiculous device in which I ask myself dumb rhetorical questions? Not once.

2 of Lindberg’s goals have been products of pure luck that won’t be replicated. Both goals last night were completely the result of exceedingly fortunate bounces, but it’s encouraging that he puts himself in a position to take advantage of those opportunities when they arise. His other 2 goals, however, have been excellent. On opening night he buried a one-timer, which was the prototypical goalscorer’s goal. The tying goal on Friday, however, was a GREAT play. As a left-handed shot, he releases the puck on the same side as the goalie’s blocker. One of the worst things to deal with as a goalie (that wears a right-handed blocker) is a lefty shooter with a quick release who can accurately shoot the puck about 18 inches off the ice, under the blocker and over the pad. Lindberg did just that, and it gives me hope for the rest of his season.

2. MATS ZUCCARELLO

Welcome back. He looks sneaky, quick, and is making crafty plays with the puck. 2 goals on Friday was awesome, but Saturday was when he looked all the way back. Great passing, quick choices, and generally looking dangerous. The fact that he’s playing hockey again is enough; playing well again already is a miracle.

3. HENRIK LUNDQVIST IS MORE HANDSOME THAN YOU

He is handsome. Also, he is playing out of his goddamn mind right now. Saturday’s game saw him make 2 or 3 of the best saves of his career. I’m still not fully over how ridiculous he was. Normally, he’s so far ahead of the play that it doesn’t look very difficult for him to make stops that are completely insane for any other goalie. Last night he didn’t have that luxury, and it was a pleasure to watch. Everyone, for the love of God, please respect and understand that he is the best goalie the Rangers have ever had and, barring a miracle, will ever have. Hank is a living legend and I love him and if you don’t I will fight you to the death.

Next game is on Tuesday! Prediction: JETS ARE STILL FROM WINNIPEG, THEY LOSE ON AN EXISTENTIAL LEVEL REGARDLESS OF THE FINAL SCORE

One More Thing; Game Preview

Ballin

“We fly high/No lie/You know this/BLOGGIN!” – Jim Jones

One important item from Wednesday night: great job by the NHL and the broadcast team during the season opener to address Pat Kane’s sexual assault case. First of all, Blackhawks and Blackhawks fans, gross. You introduced an accused rapist by cheering him wildly and parading him down a red carpet. I understand innocent until proven guilty, but Jesus. Fuck you.

Doc Emrick gave an understated summary of the situation during the game but did explain that since no charges had been pressed Kane would continue in the lineup. Bob McKenzie (who, if you’re a real hockey nerd, is an absolute must Twitter follow) made an appearance during intermission to dig into the particulars of the sexual assault case and made absolutely no bones about the details. Whatever happened that night between Kane and the alleged victim is unclear, we may never know, and sadly the lack of transparent truth may cast a pall over the remainder of Kane’s career despite the fact that the truth might never be known except between Kane and the accuser.

I bring this up because if this was the NFL, the announcers would have mentioned Kane have an offseason where he “faced adversity.” Adrian Peterson beat his kid’s testicles bloody with a fucking stick and is being treated like a redeemed hero who learned a valuable lesson, despite publicly stating he thinks he never did anything wrong and doesn’t plan to change. The NHL is wildly flawed business, marketing, presentation, and really everything-wise. But at least this once, they handled something important correctly.

Anyway, I’m anti-rape so I’m a hero. Worship at my altar.

FRIDAY NIGHT GAME PREVIEW

The Rangers face the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday night. Columbus spent about a year being the “talented young team on their way up” heading into the 2014-2015 season. They had several former Rangers and won the franchise’s first playoff game. They also fleeced the Flyers in a trade which saw the Jackets send RJ Umberger (always hurt and bad) to Philly straight up for Scott Hartnell (good and never hurt and for less money).

This offseason, however, Columbus became the Ma$e of hockey. They went from the no-question next big thing and hanging out with P-Diddy to spending most of their net worth on something dumb like David Clarkson and now they’ll be bankrupt and spend years in prison but will eventually be a preacher I guess I lost track of my analogy please help me I need to stop.

ANYWAY. Columbus kind of screwed their team up (CLARKSON) but they have good pieces. Ryan Johansen is a stud. Ryan Murray might be good but keeps getting hurt. Brandon Dubinsky is a pest extraordinaire. Scott Hartnell is a player Rangers fans would’ve killed to have but will instead be forced to hate to play. Newly added Brandon Saad, from Chicago, is a straight up beast who will be an interesting addition to watch now that he won’t be playing with guys the same quality as the Blackhawks’ top forwards anymore.

Columbus also has a former Vezina Trophy (league’s best goalie as voted by the league’s general managers) winner, kinda, who had an incredible season during the lockout year but has never been particularly impressive during a full league season.

They are the typical team that has intriguing and fun forwards that seem like a sexy pre-season pick until you get to mid-year and realize that your buddy Steve who was like pretty decent at hockey at age 13 might be their 3rd best defensemen and they won’t actually do any damage this year. Also, CLARKSOOOOOOOOOOON.

Fun fact: Columbus is in Ohio, which is a fine state to reside in if you hate yourself and your family. Ohio is like if Florida was cold and insane as opposed to warm and seaside year-round and insane. Exhibit one. The defense (prosecution?) rests.

PREDICTION: no

Predictions are dumb. Hockey, like life, is an encounter between 2 entities and the result will be decided almost entirely by chance. To predict would be a fool’s errand. I will not partake in such shenanigans.

RANGERS 42, CBJ 3

Let’s go Rangers!

THE BOYS ARE BACK

HOCKEY BACK HOCKEY BACK. I, for one, am excited. The title of this post references both me arbitrarily ending my blogging hiatus AND far and away my favorite dumb internet story of the past year. I’ll try to not flake out on you this year (/cuts to shot of all my exes nodding sarcastically)!

As you’re well aware, our boys started the 2015-2016 regular season with a quality 3-2 win over the defending champion Chicago Blackhawks. The game was fast, players showed off a TON of skill, Corey Crawford’s pads looked stupid as shit, and god hockey I missed you so don’t ever leave me again. Also, it’s just awesome seeing Zuccarello out there playing again after that horrifying injury last spring. A lot of guys had rough injuries last spring, but only Zucc fractured his skull and, I can’t stress this enough, WAS PHYSICALLY UNABLE TO SPEAK UNTIL UNDERGOING REHAB. Welcome back, you crafty Norwegian hobbit.

ANWAY – Drawing conclusions from a single game is dumb, and because this is my blog that’s exactly what’s about to happen. Buckle up.

1. SPEED SPEED SPEED

While Carl Hagelin and his glorious, glorious hair may have gone west, the Rangers seemed to be much faster as a team. Marty St. Louis, God love him, had lost more than a few steps by the end of last season. Nash-Brassard-Zuccarello didn’t generate much but skated incredibly well. Kreider is the only burner on his line with Stepan and Hayes, but on more than a few occasions his straight-line speed created scoring chances single-handedly. The 3rd and 4th lines were buzzing around the puck in every zone all night long. Take in to account that Emerson Etem, a major burner in his own right, didn’t even dress last night and it’s hard not to feel encouraged by what the team displayed. Speed is probably the hardest thing in hockey to counter when it’s utilized properly, and if the Rangers stay healthy it looks like they’ll have that advantage against most teams all season.

2. BREAKING THE GLASS CEILING (I MAY INJURE MY BACK ATTEMPTING TO BLOW MYSELF FOR THIS ONE)

When the Rangers made the Stanley Cup 2 seasons ago (I don’t remember what happened and no I don’t want to talk about it), their biggest strength was the ability to roll 4 effective lines every night. Brian Boyle made Dominic Moore a luxury, and having a roster where any line is capable of stepping up and scoring brought the team within a few hit posts of raising the Cup (I SAID I DON’T WANT TO TALK ABOUT IT). Last year, not so much.

Tanner Glass can play NHL hockey on a team that’s top-heavy in terms of talent (think this year’s Penguins) because he can usually take a shift without any disasters occurring. If you have a roster like the Rangers do, depth matters even more because the team doesn’t have the same kind of high-end scorers that a lot of other contending teams have. The season finished last year with Dominic Moore taking shifts as a third line center (bad) and Tanner Glass playing over 10 minutes a night (BAD).

Moore is an overqualified 4th liner, which makes him perfect in the role he played last night. Same goes for Jarrett Stoll. JT Miller was on the 2nd line during last year’s playoffs, and last night he was wreaking havoc all over the ice as a 3rd liner. Victor Stalberg looks like a bigger, faster, meaner version of 2013’s Benny Pouliot. Oscar Lindberg scored as the 3rd line center, and the 4th line generated at least 2 high-quality scoring chances I can remember offhand while playing physically every shift sure the Hawks’ defensemen didn’t get a chance to catch their breath.

If Glass does crack the line-up anytime soon, it will only be due to injuries. The team lost some quality players last off-season, but the front office managed to re-tool so well (and on the cheap!) that it’s much stronger top-to-bottom than it ever was last season.

3. HENRIK IS GOOD

pretty good

pretty good

He is #good at #hockey. #Content over.

God damn, I am excited to have this team back. Let’s enjoy the season, y’all. LGR.

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