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Rangers Vs. Coyotes: Two Points On Tired Legs

NHL: Arizona Coyotes at New York Rangers Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports
  • The New York Rangers played probably their worst game of the year last night and still came away with two points. OK, they definitely played their worst game of the year and still came away with two points. This offense is going to be able to steal games for the Rangers all year, although last night it was an unlikely goal-scorer in Dan Girardi who secured the win.
  • That game is another example of why you need both analytics AND the eye test together to come up with a big picture. In terms of possession the Rangers got smoked (41% to the Coyotes 59%) but the scoring chance differential was only a -5. The Rangers did do a pretty good job keeping things to the outside for the most part, although there were extended stretches where the Coyotes victimized the Rangers top four defense.
  • Speaking of: A war broke out pre-game — when it was announced the Rangers were sitting Adam Clendening for Girardi. I knew Girardi was coming back into the lineup. I accepted that. I don’t care that he’s in because he’s always going to be in. But Alain Vigneault can’t have both Girardi and Nick Holden in the lineup at the same time. Holden had a 41% corsi last night to go with a forgettable game. Girardi -- outside the goal -- was smacked for a 37% corsi for. In fact, Brady Skjei (who I thought played a good game) had the team’s highest corsi of all defenseman with a 44%.
  • It’s not so much that Clendening was the Rangers top possession defenseman through five games and still sat. It’s that because Clendening was scratched Holden was on the point of the power play, Ryan McDonagh got used at all three strengths heavily and the Rangers had even less defensive to offensive transition than they normally do. It’s also another shining example of the Vigneault wheel of justice. He said Clendening played a good game against Washington but “had a few bad touches with the puck” which, of course, ignores all those bad touches by other veteran defenseman who are always above the law.
  • Since we’re sticking with the negatives: Not a great game from Kevin Hayes at all. On the Coyotes’ game-tying goal he turned the puck over in the neutral zone and was the guy covering for Kevin Klein when he lost his man for the goal. Not good.
  • Mika Zibanejad can be in this negative category, too. Not that he was bad (he led the Rangers in possession and had a strong, active game) but he has to start hitting the net. I’m giving him a pass on the puck that floated towards him at the side of the cage with the net wide open because he was checked from behind, but there were two other moments in that game where he missed a huge chance. If he hit the net just 50% of the time this year he probably has three more goals to his name.
  • Funny, I thought Josh Jooris (who scored a goal) played a good game for the Rangers (goal aside). Turns out he was one of the Rangers’ bottom-dwellers in possession.
  • To the positives, though, that’s why you have a real fourth line. Having a real fourth line has been an enormous benefit to the Rangers in every game they’ve played. Last night it earned them a big goal.
  • Jimmy Vesey is getting better and better with every game he plays. He continues to put up big possession numbers, takes great shots and is a much better passer than advertised. He set up Rick Nash twice on plays where I thought he had no business getting the puck there, but he did.
  • J.T. Miller had himself a heck of a game. He’s played really well to start the year, too, and deflected McDonagh’s point shot for his second goal of the year.
  • I liked Nash’s game a lot. I was also pleased with Mats Zuccarello and Derek Stepan. Brandon Pirri had his moments but got roasted in possession so he’s in the middle. He had an assist and also missed an open net with a big chance. It must be contagious.
  • The power play looked much better with McDonagh on the point than Holden (obviously) and I yelled at McDonagh for not passing to a ready to go Zibanejad at the faceoff circle when the Rangers scored. So, yeah, shows what I know.
  • Good for the participants in Hockey Fights Cancer. What a wonderful showing from the two survivors and their families.