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Dreaming of Tanner; A great effort in Anaheim; Stanley Cup rematch; Stemp's solid play; Ulf's coaching; Let Zuc do Zuc

Bantering Points for Thursday, January 8, 2015 - Afternoon Edition

Alex Goodlett/Getty Images

So I had this crazy dream last night. For real. Flat crazy.

Basically, I was sitting on a couch in the Rangers' front office talking with Glen Sather and none other than BSB perpetual whipping boy, the #Nutritionist himself, Teflon Tanner Glass. The conversation revolved around Tanner's playing time, and the beating he was taking by the "blogosphere" and "Twitterverse" (his words, not mine). Basically, Tanner didn't understand why his style of play, one that had "contributed" to the success of other great teams like the Canucks and Penguins, had suddenly fallen out of favor.

Now, Slats at this point in the dream started literally rumbling in his chair. Like bubbling and bouncing as if he was in an earthquake. I can only assume that this was my mind visualizing how I think he interacts with players that test his patience. But I don't know.

So as Slats was rumbling away like he was about to erupt, I turned to Tanner, who now was pulling something out of a dark green (Dartmouth?) backpack. I remember getting this sense of dread. I don't know if I was afraid of what he was pulling out of the bag, or if it was just a general realization that I might be the source of his discontent. Just as the object was about to emerge, AV appeared next to me on the couch. He didn't really say anything that I can remember, but instead put his hand on my shoulder and kind of nodded at me. I immediately felt better.

Tanner started to explain, "I don't know about you but I love craft beer, and I want to share this with you. Do you like craft beer, Nick?" I couldn't really talk in this dream, or I guess I just didn't. But he seemed to know that I certainly do enjoy a flavorful, extra hoppy brew. Because he pulled out a non-descript west-coast imperial IPA and offered it to me.

We were then suddenly at a bar (it's a dream...you just kind of change venues on the fly), bantering around with each other over this absolutely delicious beer he had given me. I mean...so tasty. I really grew to like him in a short amount of time. I can't remember what we talked about, but it was as if we were instant pals. He was just a good guy.

Anyway, this probably went on for a bit, though the memory is fuzzy. But what I do know is that the dream ended awkwardly. AV had appeared again next to me. He was sliding a beer in my direction and asking, "do you like this kind of beer?" It was a fruit beer made by Two Roads, named "Road Jam." Now, this is a real beer. It is absolutely terrible tasting. If you have ever had it, you know of its terrible cloying jammy sweetness. I politely passed on it and told him I did not. He said "well Tanner will drink it. That's what he does." But by that point, Tanner was gone.

I've been thinking about this bizarre dream all day. I have some thoughts on it. But I'll let you guys interpret it first.

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The New York Rangers played in a very tight checking battle with the Anaheim Ducks last night. I was pleased that the game had a lot of the earmarks of what I discussed in my analytics preview. Made me feel pretty smart!

The Ducks were at their best when they were dumping, chasing, and keeping the smaller Rangers down low in their own zone, where they can't utilize their speed and skill. However, while the Ducks would produce shots, most came from the outer areas of the high slot and the point. The Rangers did mostly well to get out and cut off the passing seams and clog the front. This is evidenced by all of the blocked shots in those high danger areas.

Anaheim Shot Plot 1-7-15

Because they consistently stifled opportunities around the net, there would be spurts where, after those high slot and point chances were blocked or turned aside by Henrik Lundqvist, the Rangers were able to get out in transition with lightning fast passes and quickness up ice, generating quality odd-man chances coming through the middle of the slot. When those were not available, they played a simple, safe and effective chip and chase style, winning battles along the half-boards. The Rangers frustrated the lackadaisical Ducks defense with their in-zone closing speed, forcing turnovers on bad zone exit passes and capitalizing.

Henrik Lundqvist came up big when he had to, squaring up to most shots and eliminating quality rebound opportunities. The lone goal was the result of a screen and deflection by his own teammates (the catch 22 of clogging the slot and shot blocking). Ilya Bryzgalov didn't play poorly, but he was swimming a bit on a lot of the Rangers' premium chances. It felt like the Rangers were a goal away from blowing the game open throughout, outside of a bit of turtling in the third.

NYR at Anaheim Event Chart 1-7-14

All in all, this was an absolutely great win against a very tough opponent. The Rangers' preferred style of play was made to beat a team like the Ducks. And they did just that.  [Blueshirt Banter]  [Newsday]  [NY Post]  [NY Daily News]  [Blueshirts United]

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11 wins in their last 12 and rolling. The NHL should be taking notice that the Rangers are a real threat.  [CBS NY]

But...

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Bruce Boudreau thinks the Rangers are a really good team. [SNY Rangers Blog]

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The Rangers spent today right where they were, and will be taking on the Los Angeles Kings in a rematch of last season's Stanley Cup Final. For more on the game, please see my forthcoming RBTN analytics preview.  [NY Post]  [Rangers Unlimited]  [Fox Sports]

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There are some great late games tonight. Aside from the Rangers and Kings, Roberto Luongo makes his first return to Vancouver when the Panthers visit the Canucks. I expect that he will get a warm reception. Or at least he should. He fought off an ever-hounding media and constant needling about his ability to lead a team to a cup, while consistently performing at a world-beating level. I am a huge Luongo supporter. What are your thoughts on him?  [USA Today]

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Patrick Kearns (@PatrickKearns) of the Fourth Period and Vice Sports made a great point on Twitter today regarding the mind-numbingly idiotic criticism of Lee Stempniak's play over the past few weeks. Basically, it is completely unfounded and it literally takes one chart to show that:

Stempniak is a solid all-around utility player who contributes a bit of everything. He should absolutely be in the lineup, and can slot in well on nearly any line.

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This is pretty interesting. Ulf Samuelsson reviewing video and giving some coaching insight on defensive support and generating transition rushes up ice. I have some personal experience with Ulf from his time at Avon Old Farms. He is an exceptional teacher of the game. This shows a bit of his influence on how the team plays, especially leaving the zone.

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Hank talks about playing with poise and within the Rangers preferred style. Spot on.

videos courtesy of: BlueshirtsUnited.com

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Jeff Gorton is a top GM candidate around the league. But he is also the favorite to succeed Glen Sather. Who knows when Sather will actually loosen the reins, though.  [SNY Rangers Blog]

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Marc Staal either needs to get a contract done or be moved. That much we know. While he has performed a bit better in recent games, he has hardly been anything more than a complimentary top 4 defenseman. Not someone that should command a large portion of the cap. At least not as large as Dan Girardi's bloated contract. It just doesn't make financial sense, regardless of whether he is imminently replaceable or not. If that domino falls, so to do all the other cap constrained decisions that would result. And those, which affect the futures of guys like Derek Stepan, Mats Zuccarello, Martin St. Louis, and Carl Hagelin, may ultimately be as or more important to the team's future success.

This article boldly claims that Staal has been the lynchpin of the defense, and that without him the Rangers Stanley Cup hopes die. I think that is just a tad dramatic.  [Rant Sports]

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Everyone stop telling Zuc to shoot more out there. He knows what he is doing. Let him use his unique and elite setup passing ability to find teammates in a better position to finish. He forces goalies to make saves while moving better than nearly any playmaking forward in the NHL, as evidenced by his second best in the league setup pass rate last season (only trailing Ryan Getzlaf). Just let Zuc do Zuc, please. [SNY Rangers Blog]

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J.P. Parise, the long time Minnesota North Star turned New York Islander, and father of Zach Parise, passed away at the age of 73 after a long battle with cancer. He should be remembered not only for his NHL career, but for reviving the hockey factory of Shattuck St. Mary's, which has gone on to produce some of the greatest talent in the game, including Derek Stepan.  [The Hockey News]