- Yesterday, when Alain Vigneault announced that David Desharnais would be starting over Boo Nieves I had this to say:
I'm all for Desharnais being in the lineup, I think he adds skill that most depth players don't have. But in a fourth-line or even bottom six role? Nieves is the better option -- and has more of a long term future. https://t.co/hflRXaxjff— Joe Fortunato (@JoeFortunatoBSB) December 18, 2017
Which, I still stand by. Don’t worry, I got endless amounts of crap for stating that opinion, but I still stand by it. Nieves is the better fourth line center. HOWEVER, had I been pressed for more details I would have told you that Desharnais should be in for Paul Carey (which would have aged really well). But my point still stands, and I elaborated on it mid-game:
Also, Desharnais with two primary apples on the fourth. Nieves — who I wanted in the lineup — probably doesn’t make either of those two passes— Joe Fortunato (@JoeFortunatoBSB) December 20, 2017
There really is no “bad” choice for the fourth line anymore. With Tanner Glass out west, there’s no anchor that drags down everyone’s metrics. There’s tiebreakers in my mind; for example: Nieves has a bigger long-term impact on the team than Carey and Desharnais, but then again, Desharnais adds more skill and offense, which would leave Carey as the odd man out.
- Still, that fourth line (regardless of which one has been on it) has made a big difference for this team. They forecheck hard, cycle well, and add a surprising pop of offense. Carey walked away with two goals and the Broadway Hat. Desharnais is on pace for 40ish points. Jimmy Vesey helps push offense on the fourth line despite some of his defensive issues. It’s all full circle -- which is vital for a team that has one line of consistent offense in KZB.
- Speaking of the top line, Mika Zibanejad made his grand return, and it was glorious. It’s amazing how much of an impact one player can have, but he helps make both that line and the power play so much more dangerous. That line is still being played like a third line for reasons I’ll never understand (for reference, none of KZB played for even 14 minutes) but the Rangers won so everyone can ignore that.
- Speaking of ignoring: The Rangers continue to not be that much different than the team that crapped the bed earlier in the year. The Ducks controlled possession for most of the night, and Henrik Lundqvist needed to be spectacular to keep the Rangers in it. Again, these things are often overlooked when the team is winning hockey games, but sustainable wins are more important down the stretch than wins Lundqvist generates out of thin air.
- That being said, the Rangers did control the actual chances. Anaheim had big edge in possession, but the Rangers had a 3.03 xGF against Anaheim’s 2.25 at evens. So you can make the case that it wasn’t as bad as is looked, and you wouldn’t be wrong.
- Kevin Hayes with a rocket of rockets for his goal. He needs to shoot the puck more, because sometimes he releases these lethal shots that literally no one can stop.
- Michael Grabner with his 17th!!!!!!!!!!!!!! goal of the year to put the nail in the coffin. Seriously, could he be proving me wrong any more? (Keep doing it, Grabs!)
- I was sitting with two fans of the site (sup, Jon and Anthony!) last night and we were discussing how Nick Holden had a ton of bad turnovers on one shift. Then, moments later, Holden released Desharnais on a perfect feed to spring him for the first Carey goal. In the celebration I turned to Anthony and said, “that’s the thing about Holden in New York, he’ll do something bad, then he’ll do something amazing.” As Mike says on the podcast all the time: We don’t know what a Nick Holden is yet.
- The Rangers are a very strange team. Their possession numbers aren’t amazing. Some of their underlying numbers are awful. They also, somehow, lead the Metro in goal differential and are in third place in the bloodbath that is the Metro. Sure, recency bias about the team’s struggles can be pinpointed at the loss of Zibanejad, but this team is missing something. You can make arguments that it’s another center, a scoring winger, a new coach, etc, but it’s something. Then again, Lundqvist could be the great divide. As can the power play (if it heats up again to white-hot levels because of Zibanejad’s return). So we’ll see.