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

Posts tagged ‘random thoughts included’

Happy Hour!

Nash scoring on a shootout move

Nash scoring on a shootout move

“For the life of me/I cannot believe we’d ever die/For these sins/We were merely bloggin’.” The Freshmen, by the Verve Pipe

Howdy, and happy game day! I’ve decided to start running a new feature (Segment? Bit? I really should’ve thought this out better) before games that I’ll be calling Happy Hour. 2 reasons for this: first, casual references to heavy drinking will make me seem fun and cool and I am desperate for approval. Second, I really love this team and I want to make sure I spend more words pointing out things that are fun and interesting instead of constantly pointing out negatives. Alcohol puns, deploy.

LINK SPECIALS

Ya know, because it sounds like drink specials? God please like me.

  • How the ever-present threat of ‘backhand shelf’ influences breakaway dynamics – written by Justin Bourne at The Score (One of the best hockey writers there is), this post examines how scorers use the threat of the forehand-to-backhand-to-top shelf deke to beat, trick, and generally just be impolite to goalies everywhere. Provides an interesting insight into how Rick Nash specifically uses the threat of this move on so many of his breakaway goals (see the header picture for reference).
  • 30 Thoughts, by Elliotte Friedman – this weekly column is a must read for any NHL fan, with tons of insider tidbits and observations that don’t show up anywhere else. One item stood out, re: Henrik Lundqvist:

22. The last four seasons saw Henrik Lundqvist’s numbers drop in October, with his save percentage going                                 .929, .925, .908, .891. This year he was a monstrous .943, leading the Rangers to a strong start as coach Alain                             Vigneault tried to get others going in front of him.”

  • Blueshirt Banter – Lineup changes tonight – Blueshirt Banter is the only other Rangers blog on the internet. This post takes a look at why Girardi is being moved back to the top pairing with McDonagh despite having spent the last few games on the 3rd pairing, the reason Stalberg is back in the lineup while Etem will go back to the pressbox, and a mention of Dan Boyle being scratched for Dylan McIlrath.

ON TAP TONIGHT

  • Who to watch for on the Caps: Brayden Holtby is a stud in net; Evgeny Kuznetsov is off to a start best described via use of the Fire Emoji; Nick Backstrom remains one of the best playmaking centers in the league; new additions TJ Oshie and Justin Williams are both offensive weapons; Alex Ovechkin is the greatest goal scorer on earth and is bad at buying Batman costumes.
  • Prediction: Nash scores for the Rangers tonight, largely due to increased efforts to get to the net-front more consistently with or without the puck. That’s right, my bold prediction is that a 40-goal scorer from last year scores. I live on the fucking edge.
  • The Rangers’ power play (and offense in general, to a lesser extent) is going to try to put pucks on net every chance they get. Last game saw multiple odd-man rushes end without the puck even getting on net, and multiple power plays expired without a single attempt on goal. When the Rangers have power play struggles, they usually attempt to cure it with more north-south play, shots through screens, and, frankly, hopes and prayers for lucky bounces. Expect that this evening.
  • Tonight will be the most physical game of the season. Not only are the Caps tough, but there’s legitimate bad blood between the 2 teams after playing each other in the playoffs for the last 57 years in a row (all #s approximate).

It’s going to be fun tonight. Let’s go Rangers.

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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.

Avery, and a Dusting of My ADHD

Confession: I have a full-time job involving cold calls and a cubicle. My commute is as fun as a swift kick to the groin every morning because I’m forced to sit near and often EVEN INTERACT WITH STRANGERS. My hours are long, and because I’m a stupid person who does stupid things I am not sure how much money I make yet because I feel too self-conscious to ask about bonus and commission structure. I spend 13 hours from the time I leave my door to the time I walk back through it at night. Basically, I’m busy as fuck and haven’t been able to write as often as I’d like. But once I start adjusting to being a cube monkey and answering to The Man, I’ll put more up here.

MOVING ON, this fucking Sean Avery thing. God this is stupid.

Sean Avery is bad. He is not a good hockey player. You can make arguments that he should have a line-up spot, the problem is that they are all wrong. For a few years he was an effective pest, but his shtick stopped working a few years ago. So, he currently brings this to the table: a pretty solid skater unless he has to turn in which case he looks like he’s about to have a yard sale and fly headfirst into the boards; someone who can’t be used on the penalty kill or the power play unless you enjoy wasting ice time with ineffective personnel (any time there’s a bench minor or a player gets ejected, Avery would go to the box to serve the penalty); someone who doesn’t produce points; and someone who takes a ton of penalties and rarely draws any without sending himself to the box as well. What’s appealing about that? Nothing.

Pests and fighters are pretty much useless in this league if they can’t play. Matt Cooke is a pest and dirty, but he can play. Same with Max Lapierre. Guys have figured out if you don’t want to deal with guys like Avery (or guys who are purely fighters), you do not have to. This renders Avery useless because when players ignore him, which they now do, he provides no value.

There are other arguments. There’s the “The Rangers were 12-5-1 in games where he had a point in [insert year here]!” That means 2 things: in an effective year he could only record points in 16 games. This is not a good thing. Second thing: teams tend to have a better record when they get secondary scoring. In other news, the world is round and dinosaurs are extinct. Blow me.

Another: “He fights and brings grit to the line-up!” He fights occasionally, but he was rarely even top 3 on the team in total fights. Avery will start some post-whistle scrums, but he’s not a hard or frequent hitter. No players particularly care about that. Any player would tell you in a heartbeat that they wouldn’t mind playing against Avery because he’ll talk and he’ll be annoying but that’s it. The Rangers already have Cally, Dubi, Staal, and players hate guys like that because they hit you harder than hell and they do it clean and they do it every second of every game. Avery doesn’t do that by any stretch of the imagination. He’s not good at providing a consistent hard forecheck and possessing the puck, which are the only 2 offensive responsibilities you have as a bottom-6 guy.

The worst: “The Rangers are better when he plays his game!” God. Go play in traffic. That’s up there with sportswriters declaring Tim Tebow to be Jesus or whatever because his shitty football team beat another shitty football team. If you find out that you’re yelling at people because an exception to the norm supports your argument, that means your argument is probably wrong. If Avery was good, no one would have to say “He’s effective when he plays that game.” They would say, “He’s effective because he plays that game consistently.”

In conclusion, I understand that people have different opinions about this. That’s fine; this is America and you’re allowed to have your own opinions. But just because you can have them doesn’t mean they aren’t stupid.

Random thoughts:
1. Andre Deveaux: not bad for a 4th liner. To improve his play, I say the Rangers call up Brandon Bell and sign some dude named Biv from a European league somewhere. Why, you ask?

I apologize for nothing.

2. That Joe Thornton-John Tortorella thing was pretty weird, man. Thornton always struck me as a pretty laid back dude. Granted, Torts not so much.

3. Jonas Hiller’s Movember helmet is pretty righteous.

4. Gaborik’s shootout move tonight broke my ankles and made me lose control of my bowels.

5. My office is right by the Occupy Wall Street home-base. Yesterday, there was apparently a pretty good amount of raping going on down there. I’m not really one for hot-button political issues, but I’d have to imagine that’s not the ethos behind the OWS movement. “Rape for Reform!” I’m thinking that’s a bad PR move.

6. Confession: I’ve never seen “Heat” or “The Shining.” I know I’d like both, but hell hath no fury like laziness or something. Also no Netflix.

7. Song that is currently stuck in my head (Wildly NSFW, unless your work place rules):

Sort of hard to believe Donald Glover got started in the Bro Rape video. Those lyrics are sorta Kanye-esque.

A Referendum Before the Game at MSG

Finally, the Rangers are getting back to playing at home. Actually that’s not a good thing, they were like 10 games under .500 at home last year. And the year before. But it’s a new year! Optimism! Positive mental attitude!

Not really. I do think that we won’t know what this team is capable of until they get a few weeks at home to get settled and probably get about 14 or 15 games into the season. Having said that, there definitely are still a few lessons fans can take from the first 7 games.

1. Not an ideal start, but not worth panicking: Again, 7 games on the road to begin the year. That’s starting with a couple in Europe (not even including pre-season), which all the players say isn’t an excuse to be out of rhythm, but frankly it totally is. Do not listen to anything a hockey player says in an interview ever. They have like 4 answers total and they’re all “Work hard play hard play our game great teammates class organization.”

2. Henrik Lundqvist is a God, We Must Praise Him: Self-explanatory. He is crazy. All the goalies in the league are athletically pretty much equal. Some guys are a bit bigger or have longer legs, and guys have different styles. What makes top-tier goalies elite is an indescribably high level of focus. There’s a reason that athletes talk about being in “the zone”: it’s the highest level of focus and mental sharpness combined with all of their athletic cylinders running at full efficiency. Lundqvist is mind-boggling to watch because he seems to be in that zone all the times. He’s made saves every game that are just not normal. The kick save on Bobby Ryan. The blocker save off a rebound in Calgary. The entire Vancouver game. As fans, we’re just lucky to be able to witness it every year.

3. The D is Going to be Even Better than Last Year: They’re giving solid minutes basically every game to 2 guys who are just not good (Eminger, who has moments but is mostly Steve Eminger; Woywitka, who was picked up off the scrap heap and looks like it). Del Zotto isn’t a liability so far and he’s only going to improve. Erixon is visibly improving game by game, he plays smart, and the coaches are obviously beginning to trust him more. Girardi is a goddamn rock and McDonagh has been great every game (except Calgary; he scored the OT GWG, but he tried to do too much all game and ended up making a ton of mistakes). Staal is going to make it back eventually and be one of the league’s top shut-down defensemen, and Sauer’s reportedly back for Toronto (injuries were a problem for him as a prospect and badly slowed down his development). That is going to be one of the best defensive corps in the league from 1-6 without question, and hopefully allow for the secondary forwards to make more of a scoring push.

4. Marian F Gaborik: Oh man, does he look good so far. I suppose that happens when you’re a faster skater and better shooter than everyone on the ice. He looks even better than he did in his first year in New York, and hopefully he keeps it up.

5. Bad News: Philly looks absurdly good so far, and Pittsburgh keeps rolling without 2 of the best forwards in the world. This is upsetting. The Rangers play them a total of 12 times this year. That is not good. The Islanders aren’t a night off this year, and Jersey has Parise back and he is very good at hockey. Every division game is going to be really tough, and that’s the only reason the slow start makes me nervous about later in the year.

6. Random Thoughts:
I’ve been watching “Damages” on Netflix. That show’s pretty good. I must propose to Rose Byrne.

Alex Burmistrov and Zach Bogosian (Did I spell those right? I doubt it) are going to be really fun to watch for the rest of their careers. Burmistrov looks like Semin Jr. and Bogosian seems to have a 495 mile an hour slapper.

I can’t believe the Oilers are even pretending to consider thinking about sending Nugent-Hopkins down. That would cause a riot amongst the 875 residents of Edmonton. I did not do any formal research about Edmonton’s population.

Does anyone own a website that tracks all official odds for when Lindsay Lohan finally does hardcore porn?

A night of filling out spreadsheets is a really strange contrast with being the only person on a subway car with 3 other dudes break dancing.

I will be attending the game tomorrow. Really, really excited for the first time they announce Cally as the new captain. Hopefully Torts does the right thing and puts him out for the first shift so the crowd can acknowledge him.

I’ve made it through two blog posts without a single penis joke. This is the most impressive achievement of my life.

ANYWAY, that’s all for now. Let’s see if McD and Girardi can handle Phil Kessel, and hopefully the Artie-Cally-Dubi line can feed off the energy from the crowd and get some offense going. Also a win would be nice. Let’s go Rangers, and I can’t wait for the puck to drop at the Garden 2.0-kind-of.

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