I missed the game yesterday and was only able to grab some extended highlights. I cannot, under any circumstances, write a notes column the next morning off of not watching the full game. If I were to do such a thing the leaders in the comments like Big and Moshe would get out their pitchforks and then like a pack of sharks who smell blood in the water would swarm and take my limb by limb. I'm not in the mood for such treatment. Not on a Monday morning. And not when Tony -- who at one point in his life would have helped me -- would allow it to happen. 50 has to help me because he's on the staff, but I doubt he'd try very hard.
So what I am going to do is address some concerns overall the Rangers should have about this six-game start to the year where the team is 3-2-1 but could very easily be 1-5. This I can speak intelligently about, so back off sharks!
The Slow Start
Are we actually surprised? Like, genuinely surprised? I think the 3-0 start might have tricked some people into believing this team wouldn't fall to such early-season troubled but if you looked at the underlying numbers you'd see a different story.
The always fantastic Regressed PDO has a great quote (which I can't find so I'm paraphrasing) "Analytics are like vital signs. They tell you how healthy your team is."
The Rangers, ironically, didn't look too healthy in the two wins against the Blue Jackets. They looked a lot better in the losses to Winnipeg and Montreal. The Rangers, at least from a highlights standpoint and a quick glance at the fancy stats, did the same last night. Losing to the Devils is unacceptable, though. The Rangers have run into three hot goalies these past three losses who have been on their game -- and Cory Schneider is absolutely a great goaltender -- but you can't lose that game. You just can't.
With that being said: The Rangers went 10-11-0 in 2013 when they went to the Stanley Cup Final. Last year the Rangers were 9-9-4 in their first 22 games and made it to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final. This year the Rangers are 3-2-1 and everyone is asking if the team is tuning out Alain Vigneault.
Lineups And Scratches
That's not to say AV doesn't have some issues he needs to work through sooner rather than later. And the noise machine is only going to get louder now that he has at least one competent player (and maybe two depending on the lineup) who is sitting in the press box itching to play every night.
Part of the concern needs to stem from the fact that AV keeps talking about how the Rangers need to find their game, but he never gives them an opportunity to gel. I think the lineup that played Sunday afternoon (with Jarret Stoll replacing Emerson Etem on the fourth line) is probably the most polished lineup Vigneault has in his hands. Replacing Stoll with Etem is probably the most skilled lineup Vigneault has.
We can get into the plan (or lack thereof) in the usage of Etem (and we sort of already did) but a lineup needs to stick and it needs to be devoid of Tanner Glass.
We all know Vigneault is a coach that likes to tinker, but sometimes that does more damage than good. After the Rangers lost to Winnipeg he changed up the fourth line for the better, removing Glass and inserting Etem. After the Rangers lost that game he really changed things up, again some of them for the better. Sliding Dan Girardi off the top pairing was very smart and a long time coming. Moving Stoll in for Etem is whatever at this point, and completely switching up the lines is fine.
But when things get a little hectic because everyone is getting used to their new assignments/lines the reaction cannot be to throw your hands up and keep pressing buttons. Those are relatively substantial changes and if things don't work right away it should be somewhat expected. Yes, the Rangers should have trounced the Devils Sunday afternoon, but sometimes the right move isn't to scream and yell but to smile and nod. Be patient. Let this group (or the Etem group) come together a little.
Moments like that are where I really think Vigneault is at his best. John Tortorella was a great "in the moment" coach, in terms of making you (the fan) feel better because he's just as mad as you are and he's yelling too. But that's not always -- and ended up not being -- the best thing for a team. When things are going rough but a team is doing all the right stuff, yelling and screaming doesn't help.
But switching things up and getting annoyed they're not working right away doesn't help either. He needs to stick to something and find it.
The Rick Nash Nonsense
A story is coming up about this and it will be much longer and much more in depth. Simple version: Worry about a player when he's not generating scoring chances, not when he's not scoring on the chances he is generating. Nash is currently second on the team with nine high-danger scoring chances this year (Kevin Hayes leads the team with 13).
Nash not scoring isn't "the playoffs all over again" or "him choking." Nash has been ridiculously unlucky. The good news is the regular season is much, much longer than the playoffs and his luck will turn around eventually. And when it does he's going to score a ton of goals. Like I said, something longer is in the works so I don't want to diminish that now, but worry about him when you don't notice him at all. Not when he's still making things happen and the puck just isn't going in.
Where You Should Be Concerned
1) Girardi is currently at a 39.77% corsi with a -36 shot differential at evens so far this year. That means in seven games the Rangers have allowed 36 more shots than they've generated with Girardi on the ice. Five more years.
2) J.T. Miller might be putting up points, but he's had a rough few games. his corsi (38%) and shot differential (-23) are beginning to become a problem.
3) Four Rangers are above a 50% corsi. Kevin Klein leads every (boy is he telling me I'm an idiot) at nearly 58%, Keith Yandle is at 54%, Chris kreider is at nearly 53% and Derick Brassard is at 51%. Kevin Hayes (49.61), Rick Nash (48.59) and Mats Zuccarello (48%) are the only players above 47%.
4) The power play in general is not generating any results. Some power plays have looked better than others but Vigneault might need to try something new here. Maybe put Oscar Lindberg -- who leads the team in points -- on the man advantage?
Things You Need To Do
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