Wednesday, May 06, 2015

N.Y. Rangers: Staring at the Blueshirt in the Mirror - Game IV


Eastern Conference Semi Finals
Capitals lead series 2-1
I - WAS 2; NYR 1
II - NYR 3; WAS 2
III - WAS 1; NYR 0

Game Four
Washington Capitals
Conglomerate Named Arena

NEW YORK RANGERS: Jay Beagle's Goal Puts Blueshirts in a Very Familiar Bind.

Outside of the obvious character, personality, disposition, sociability, and overall attitude differences that exist between John Tortorella and Alain Vigneault, etc, the Rangers are not that much more evolved (two seasons later) as one might think - at least not in results - or at least not to me.

Something about the Rangers recent play has me thinking - where have I seen this all before?


Don't get me wrong..., John Tortorella needed to be fired.  He mastered every infraction in the "How to get fired in a blaze of infamous glory for Dummies" instruction manual.

On the ice, two of the many dilemmas faced by Tortorella were trying to get better and more consistent play out of Carl Hagelin and Chris Kreider, and, what to do about a pathetic power play.

If you remember, Alain Vigneault was hired in part, to improve said power play.  In Tortorella's final two regular seasons, the power play operated at a 15.7 rate.  They finished 23rd in the league each time.  This season under Coach Vigneault, the power play posted a 16.8 mark, 21st best in the NHL.

In the 2013 playoffs, Tortorella's Rangers went 4 for 44 in 12 playoff games for a 9.10 rate.  In these playoffs, the Rangers are 4 for 28, good for a 14.8 mark.

In 2013, Rick Nash, Carl Hagelin, and Derek Stepan, combined with Brad Richards and Ryan Callahan to score a total of 11 goals in 12 games.  As a team, the Rangers averaged 2.2 goals in those playoffs.

In 8 games during these playoffs, Carl Hagelin and Derek Stepan each have 2 goals and 2 assists, and Rick Nash has one goal and 4 assists.  Derick Brassard has 4 goals, and Chris Kreider has 2 goals.   The Blueshirt Five have so far scored 11 goals in 8 games.  As a team, the Rangers have scored 15 goals in 8 games, for an average of 1.9 goals per game.

You can make of these numbers what you will.

John Tortorella once tried incorporating Carl Hagelin into the power play to no avail.  Hagelin remains a non-participant on the power play to this day.  Moreover, if he's not on a rush, or on a breakaway, where he can utilize his speed in open ice, he's usually passing off, or getting bogged down by bigger bodies, and getting pushed off the puck.

Then there's Chris Kreider, whom it was thought, that if he ever managed to escape the wrath of Tortorella, he would flourish.  He has 2 goals in these playoffs.  Despite a loss in Game Three, Kreider actually played a very effectively.  He also opened the scoring in Game Two.

Kreider is most intimidating when he's crashing the net, which he has done a few times during this post-season.  The problem lies within his varying levels of reliability - you never know when he'll decide to take the night off, commit a mindless penalty, or lose his bearing from shift to shift, as he did in the closing seconds of Game One.

He is too big, strong, fast, and skilled, to play inconsequential hockey.  Weren't those John Tortorella's exact issues with Chris Kreider?

The Rangers won 52 games this season and won the President's trophy.  It was Vigneault's third award.  But guest what... the Vancouver Canucks fired him and hired Tortorella because they wanted to adopt a tougher mentality and more physical style of play.  That wasn't a Rangers issue; that was strictly a Vancouver thing.  That should nevertheless speak to someone, no?  Tortorella additionally won 50 games with the Rangers, with arguably less talent.

...just saying.

But Glen Sather steered the Rangers away from the more methodical, and extremely physical team coached by Tortorella, and transformed them to align with Alain Vigneault's philosophy and system.

This team is younger, well rounded, and more skilled than any edition Tortorella coached.  Three lines of defense, transition and speed, passing and puck possession, have rendered physicality an inconsequential component of the Rangers' game.  Those methods are the new preferred way to thwart opposing team's physical play.

Then again, timing is everything.  In the two seasons under Alain Vigneault, we have witnessed the end of the New Jersey Devils era, a considerable drop off by the Boston Bruins, the decline of the Pittsburgh Penguins, not to mention the disarray of the Maple Leafs, and particularly the perennially tough Flyers (no more).  In other words, the Eastern Conference opened up very conveniently for the reprogrammed Rangers to step in and seize control of a less physical conference.

After all that said, the word that keeps entering my head is, negligible, as in minimal net gain.  The team is still in search of an elusive winning goal, and dependent on Henrik pitching a shutout every game.

Indeed, these coaches actually have two things in common.

They've both had to list Rick Nash as missing in action.  In the end, both coaches could wind up suffering the consequences of Nash's annual playoff disappearances.  After leading the team during the regular season, Nash scored one goal for Tortorella in the 2013 playoffs.

Secondly, both coaches ultimately resorted to worshiping at the House of Henrik.  When all else seems to fail, and does, they both fell in rank behind The King.

Nevertheless, Tortorella was his own worst enemy, and consequently worked himself out of Hockey.

But, Vancouver's overwhelming reason to ultimately part with a successful head coach is somewhat of an omen with regards to the Rangers' presently deteriorating situation, and near future - IF they fail to make Rangers history together, that is.

Before Tex's Rangers can claim the Eastern Conference title (after all they are the favorites), they need to tie this series against the Capitals first.  Easier said than done.  Then again, the Rangers were a superior team on the road this season, weren't they?

For now, just win Game IV in order to regain home ice advantage in a short series, and quiet down a lot of noise.

I tip my hat to the new constitution.... I get on my knees and pray, we don't get fooled again.  -  (stuff The Who would say.)


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