Quick Hits: Rangers Have a First-Rate Fourth Line

Phil Kocher
@ me

Phil Kocher

Managing Editor & Cofounder at ClearedForContact.com
I believe in Nate Silver, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Christopher Hitchens, the Oxford comma, and the value of white space.
Phil Kocher
@ me

Welcome to a new feature (well, an old feature made new again) here at ClearedForContact: Quick Hits. Each Sunday, we’ll cover some of the recent happenings, statistics, and anecdotes from the previous week’s games, as well as touch on important goings-on around the NHL as a whole to cap off the week and to get your Monday mornings started.

Quickie Hits

With three goals in his last three games and six in his last eight, who on the Rangers is hotter than Jesper Fast right now? We shouldn’t expect this pace to continue for long, but there’s no reason to expect his game-to-game work ethic to subside any time soon.


Carey-ing the Fourth Line

Speaking of the fourth line, can we take a minute to appreciate the groove Paul Carey—training camp to main roster surprise of 2017—has carved for himself playing alongside Boo Nieves and Jesper Fast? Since the start of December, the trio have combined for 11 points across four games. Anytime a team can get that kind of production out of their fourth line, something is going really right.


Shit-on-kirk

So, after the backlash that was directed at Washington Capitals’ head coach Barry Trotz after his comments regarding Kevin Shattenkirk’s play with the Caps last Spring, has everyone had a moment to calm down and realize that he was actually right?

Shattenkirk is an incredible offensive player, but as ClearedForContact’s own Mike Valvano has pointed out on more than one occasion over the course of this season, dating back to the weeks before he was signed, his game lacks the full 200 feet required to rank him among the game’s greats. There’s simply no squaring the fact that none of his NHL coaches have ever played him with a defensive zone start percentage higher than 45%. That fact can’t just be swept under the rug because of his elite power play numbers.

He’s still worth every penny to the Rangers, but there’s a reason he’s played the majority of this season not on the Rangers’ top defensive pairing. It’s the same one Trotz recognized pretty quickly after his arrival in Washington.


Piloting to Seattle

Whether things in Houston work out or not, it sure looks like Seattle will be getting an NHL team – one they’ve deserved for years. While the NHL does have additional suitors—Québec City at the top of that list—the desire to balance the number of the teams in the West has to be a strong one. Not to mention the cash cow that would result of the Vancouver-Seattle geographic rivalry and a strong foothold in Silicon Valley. I, for one, can hardly wait for grunge night at KeyArena. Here we are now, entertain us!


Trigger Unhappy

For the most part, the Rangers are holding ground despite the abrupt loss of first-line center and power play triggerman Mika Zibanejad to concussion symptoms. In the five games he’s missed, the Blueshirts have gone 3-2-0, scoring 20 goals, and posting a +5 goal differential in that span. However, the power play in particular has really missed his presence in the proverbial “Ovi Spot”—the top of the left circle—where the threat of his blistering one-timer has made life extremely difficult for opposing penalty killers. In those same five games, the team has gone just 2-for-18 (11.1%), with both goals coming in the same game against the Hurricanes on December 1st. Prior to that, the Rangers’ power play was operating at 22.2%, good for 11th in the league.

There’s no reason to think this will sink the Rangers, but the sooner Zib gets back into the lineup, the better.


By the Numbers

  • Again, what a week for the Rangers’ fourth line. In the three games the Rangers played this week, their scoring was largely lead by that trio. Paul Carey went 0-3-3, Jesper Fast went 3-1-4, and Boo Nieves went 1-1-2.
  • After returning from an abdominal strain against the Hurricanes, Ryan McDonagh immediately retook his throne as Rangers’ minute king, averaging 24:58 TOI/G this week.
  • Another week of games, another week outshot. This time 112-97. Saturday night’s victory over the New Jersey Devils did see a much nicer result, however, with the Rangers dominating much of the game, including the shot totals 39 to 28.
  • Another goose egg on the man advantage, too. This week going 0-for-8 after going 2-for-12 (16.7%) last week.

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Discussion
  1. I haven't seen the ice time figures, but I think the 4th line is playing as much as the others, making it not really a 4th line at all. Nieves's line's play has allowed them to move Fast up. I've long been of the opinion that given the right line mates, Fast has enough offensive ability to play in a top nine capacity (I remember thinking, as Fast was sprung on a breakaway in the 2015 playoffs at TB, that I was glad it was Fast and not Nash. He scored). As for Nieves, you couldn't ask more of a guy with about 10 games in the NHL under his belt right now.
    Future
    A lot of people on Twitter think Shatty is a #1 because Corsi.
    I'm not even kidding.

    A lot of people here say/said the same thing.
    Shane Falco
    I know. I was just reinforcing your statement. A lot of people on social media (twitter in particular) were complaining about Trotz comments. It was pretty comical actually. Especially considering Shattenkirk barely lasted a week on the top pair with McDonagh.
    As for Carey, that explains why I never heard of the guy. I’m really happy the found him though. He’s been a great fourth liner. Always seems to be working hard out there.

    A lot of people on Twitter think Shatty is a #1 because Corsi.
    I'm not even kidding.
    Phil in Absentia
    I'm not sure anyone saw Carey play. He barely saw any playing time prior to this. His longest stretch was 12 games with the Avs in 2013-14.
    Agreed on Shattenkirk, too. I also don't mind that he's not actually a first-pairing D. I'm just trying to point out that the backlash Trotz' comments created was unwarranted. Nothing he said was wrong.

    I know. I was just reinforcing your statement. A lot of people on social media (twitter in particular) were complaining about Trotz comments. It was pretty comical actually. Especially considering Shattenkirk barely lasted a week on the top pair with McDonagh.
    As for Carey, that explains why I never heard of the guy. I’m really happy the found him though. He’s been a great fourth liner. Always seems to be working hard out there.
    I'm not sure anyone saw Carey play. He barely saw any playing time prior to this. His longest stretch was 12 games with the Avs in 2013-14.
    Agreed on Shattenkirk, too. I also don't mind that he's not actually a first-pairing D. I'm just trying to point out that the backlash Trotz' comments created was unwarranted. Nothing he said was wrong.
    Yeaaaa
    Rangers 4th line is definitely deserving of all the praise. I’ve always been a huge Jesper Fast fan so I’m ecstatic with the way he’s playing.
    As for Paul Carey, prior to this season I had never seen him play and I must say he has been a welcomed surprise. Hard working checking forward who’s just doing all that’s been asked of him. I still don’t even know where he came from lol
    As for Shattenkirk, I can understand fans coming to his defense but anyone not wearing blinders can see Trotz is right. He’s not a top pairing defensemen. Never was, even in his St Louis days. I honestly don’t care though because he’s producing very well offensively and the team needed that.
    Solid point on the Rangers missing Zib. The first line is also suffering from his absence. While Kreider and Buch do have chemistry, they are in need of Zibanejad to bring it all together.
    Last I saw he was riding the bike but I haven’t seen any other updates since then.