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Rangers Vs. Blues: This Offense Is Cray Cray

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NHL: St. Louis Blues at New York Rangers Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports
  • The Rangers have now truly spanked some of the best teams in the league. They ran through the Lightning like a hot knife through butter Sunday and then did the same thing to the Blues on Tuesday. The Ranger's offense scored 11 goals in those two games and the team surrendered just a single goal.
  • The impressive thing? This isn't anything like last year's "hot shooting hand but crappy play" win streak that saw the Rangers go 16-3-2 to kick off the year. The Rangers are actually winning these games by being suffocatingly overwhelming on offense. Four lines of skill has allowed this team to be relentless on offense. There's not a single line that isn't coming at you trying to out the puck into the back of the net. Teams past have had a bottom six that's sat back and hoped to survive the shift, but not this year. This year's group comes and comes and comes and comes and eventually other teams can't keep bending and they break. And when they do the Rangers are explosive enough to dive in and blow the doors off.
  • The question will continue to be whether or not the offense is going to be able to sustain doing THIS much heavy lifting. Right now I'd estimate about 70% of all breakouts are happening offense to offense, which has to be taxing. The Rangers have enough firepower that they've been able to sustain having other guys jump in to do some work -- for example some night's Brandon Pirri is the hero, or Kevin Hayes, or J.T. Miller or Jimmy Vesey, you get what I'm saying -- but I don't know how sustainable this will be because I've never seen this before.
  • It's the speed that makes the biggest difference. There's no opportunity for other teams to sit back. When the Rangers get a lead and other teams start pressing the Rangers counterattack is positively lethal because of their speed. Even the third line (featuring Michael Grabner) can fly past you for an odd man rush. And when you're done with them you get Pirri, Pavel Buchnevich and Jesper Fast. Not much of a rest.
  • The Rangers didn’t dominate the possession game (they got out-attempted 55 to 36) but on nights where the Rangers don’t dominate in possession they still hang with other teams in terms of creating chances. Expected goals was 2.22 for the Rangers against 2.28 for the Blues. Not a whole lot of space there. I also think the Rangers basically parked the bus after they went up big. Not a great strategy but up by five you don’t have to kill yourself.
  • The hero last night? Well, there was a lot of them but you have to be in awe of the steps Vesey has taken this year. He has six goals (tied for the league lead) and nine points in 10 games. I'm not sure anyone expected him to be much more than solid this early, but he's been a downright game-changer. His goal was the product of his great puck movement and his knack for getting into soft areas of the ice. Oh, and the kid can finish, too.
  • Here's the thing about Vesey: He's shooting at an absurdly high 30+ percent. That figure isn't going to stay that high. However, neither is his plethora of setups that go unfinished. Last night the latter started evening itself out, with Vesey notching a goal and two assists. His first three-point night of his career.
  • Poor Buchnevich. For as hot as Vesey has been shooting Buchnevich has been cold. Buchnevich can't buy a goal right now, although he's doing so many things right. He'll score one and the floodgates will open. Trust me on this. He had another set of glorious chances Tuesday, and he has a rifle of a shot. Alain Vigneault was true to his word about Buchnevich, by the way. Even being on the fourth line he still played plenty of even strength minutes (not his best possession night, though; which is the first time I can remember saying that).
  • Rick Nash scored another goal because he sucks. Wait, what?
  • Lazy Kevin Hayes keeps doing really lazy things. Like drawing power plays, scoring, being strong on the puck and setting up scoring chances. I mean, look at how lazy this goal was.
  • Chris Kreider had two assists (he's become a hell of a passer) to give him nine points in six games. Dominant.
  • Here's the list of Rangers who have nine or more points in the 10 games: Miller, Kreider, McDonagh and Mika Zibanejad (who is also snakebitten). Nash and Mats Zuccarello have eight points. Hayes has seven. Just wow with this offense.
  • The score line might not make it clear, but the Rangers did need Henrik Lundqvist a lot early.
  • On the podcast last week (remember we're live tonight at 8) I mentioned that the Rangers defense was being held together with scotch tape and glue sticks. When Ryan McDonagh went down with a (really) scary eye injury not only did everyone have flashbacks to the Staal incident first and foremost but they also had a panic attack over the current state of the defense. The Rangers can't handle an injury to McDonagh right now, not with what they have behind him and not with how well he's been playing.
  • There was a running joke that the only way to stop McDonagh would be to hospitalize him. That's because McDonagh has an eight-game point scoring streak (all assists) and has been dominant night in and night out.
  • Here's an example of memory bias: Dan Girardi scores the opening goal of the first, so he must have had a great period, right? He actually had a 0% corsi through the first 20 minutes at even strength (his goal was 4v4). But he scored so stats are stupid.
  • That's not to say Girardi hasn't shown improvement from last year. He certainly has shown some improvement -- it would be hard not to, honestly -- but his reduced minutes have helped serve him well. I'm skeptical on whether or not this will continue to last, but the Rangers should be happy it's happened at all. Girardi was a -7 with a 41% corsi. Not exactly a banner night, although it would have been much worse.
  • Same goes for Marc Staal, who has actually shown much bigger improvement. He's been really solid for the Rangers in the top four more often than not. That's a good thing.
  • Nick Holden was Nick Holden. So, yeah.
  • Brady Skjei got smacked around in terms of possession (team worst -15 in shots) but he’s becoming quite the little playmaker. These past three games he’s made ridiculously good passes that had led to goals. He’s not Keith Yandle, but it’s good to see.