Quick Hits: Things Are Looking Up for Rangers

Phil Kocher
@ me

Phil Kocher

Managing Editor at Cleared for Contact
I believe in Nate Silver, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Christopher Hitchens, and hockey analytics.
Blogging between diaper changes.
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.

Trending Up

7-3-0 in their last ten games, the Rangers have dramatically improved from their nearly season-crashing poor start. They have 35 goals for and a plus-11 goal differential in that span. There’s still work to do, but through 26 games this season, if we’ve learned nothing else we know that there’s no game scenario they can’t compete in.


Shooting Gallery

Three goals on six shots—including a dagger given up to nine-games-a-Ranger Micheal Haley—was all it took to earn Lundqvist an embarrassing yank in the first period against the Panthers on Tuesday night. No doubt, it was an off night for The King. If John Tortorella were still coaching, perhaps there’d even have been some scurrilous talk of the “50-percent rule”? On that night, a spade was definitely a spade.


The Devil You Know

While the 15-7-4 New Jersey Devils, currently second in the Metropolitan division, continue to surprise the league through the first quarter of the season, one thing that shouldn’t be surprising is the level of support now Devil Brian Boyle has received from his old teammates. As the NHL concluded it’s Hockey Fights Cancer initiative for the month of November, Boyle, who this summer was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukemia (CML)—a treatable type of cancer—has rightfully been praised by players like Marc Staal and Ryan McDonagh for his efforts in fighting through it to return to play this season.

Speaking to the New York Post last Tuesday, Staal had this to say on the subject:

“Just as soon as I found out, your stomach just drops. Just feel sick. Then the next reaction is how can you help, if you can do anything. Just reach out and tell him that you’re there for him. He handled it in typical Brian way, with positivity. It’s great to see him, and what’s gone on the last couple weeks for him, it’s pretty special. Obviously considering the circumstances, it’s pretty unreal.”

Once a Ranger, always a Ranger, even if he is a Devil right now.


Dor-sun-sett

Speaking of former Rangers, the news that Derek Dorsett has been forced into early retirement due to spinal issues is pretty shitty. Dorsett wasn’t a Ranger for long. He played in just 51 games after being acquired as part of the Marian Gaborik deal that also brought Derek Brassard to New York in 2013, but he played the kind of game in, game out intensity that quickly endeared him to the Garden crowd. Plus, he’ll always be fondly remembered for hilariously mocking then Islanders forward Kyle Okposo.


A Bump for Buch?

Is anyone else just a bit perplexed by the ice time Pavel Buchnevich—four points in his last five games, and eight in his last ten—is averaging of late? In his last ten games, he’s yet to play more than 18 minutes in a single game. Inarguably one of the team’s top scoring forwards this season, he’s averaged just 14:14 over the same span. At some point that has to increase given how important his line with team-leading scorer Mika Zibanejad and third-highest goal-scorer Chris Kreider is, no?


Center Depth Dearth

Speaking of Zibanejad, if the 24-year old, suffering from concussion symptoms after taking what seemed like a run-of-the-mill body check from the Red Wings’ Darren Helm on November 24th, is going to be out more than a couple of games, how soon before the Rangers recall the recently acquired 26-year-old Peter Holland? The team’s middle depth was already precarious before the injury, so what harm is there in an insurance policy of his caliber? With 81 points in 243 NHL games, he clearly has the chops to handle big league duties. He may even be an ideal fourth-line center or thirteenth forward.


#MakeHockeyGreatAgain

One day the false dichotomy that there are only two schools of thought to analyzing hockey as a sport—analytics or eyeballs—will finally end as folks realize they’re just two sides to the same coin. Just don’t expect that to happen anytime soon. Especially in the wake of Todd McLellan’s staunch defense of Kris Russell—an analytics punching bag of sorts—that’s allowed the two camps to dig their respective trenches even deeper. The hypocrisy here is rife, however, given that McLellan’s words appeared fueled by the mischaracterization that the analytics community are sensitive snowflakes who bristle at the immeasurable and incalculable contributions of players like Russell. That’s a rich denouncement coming from a member of the same group who spent last week chastising Jordan Eberle for being unable to handle criticism.


By the Numbers

• It was quite the week for Michael Grabner (four goals) and David Desharnais (four points) who co-lead the team in points this week.

• To the surprise of no one, Brady Skjei lead all Rangers skaters in average ice time this week (23:46) in lieu of injured team captain Ryan McDonagh, who returned against the Hurricanes on Friday night after missing the previous four games with an abdominal strain.

• After being outshot 85-64 in games against the Blackhawks and Blue Jackets last week, the Rangers improved this week. Though they were still collectively outshot, it was only by a differential of five shots, 90-85 across three games played against the Canucks, Panthers, and Hurricanes.

• The power play rebounded nicely as well, going 2-for-12 (16.7%) after dropping an 0-for-6 goose egg the previous week.

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