Quick Hits: Fourth Line Players, First Line Play

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.

Say It With Less

A picture may be worth a thousand words, but sometimes fifteen or so suffice just fine. I present to you the New York Rangers’ 2017-18 season, perfectly encapsulated by a graph.

Carey-ing the Energy

What a season thus far for Paul Carey, the minor league veteran turned thirteenth forward turned fourth line staple. It’s hard to imagine the Rangers envisioned this kind of potential when they signed him this past summer. Far more likely he was penciled in to provide an overhauled Hartford Wolf Pack team a leadership presence, but he’s really earned his spot with the Rangers. If his production keeps up, a dozen or so goals and 20-plus points through 70 games are certainly possible.

Silver Linings Playbook

Let’s not mince words or bury the lede. Losing Chris Kreider—who was tied for second in goal scoring and third in points at the time of his injury—absolutely sucks. Especially for a Rangers team that will most certainly remain in the Wild Card hunt for a playoff spot this season. Given the timing, there may be a silver lining to this, though. By all accounts, Kreider is expected to miss at least two months recovering from this blood clot, which could actually align his return this season near the NHL’s trading deadline (February 26th, 2018). Whether the Rangers do any wheeling and dealing prior to or day of, or even if they don’t make a trade at all, getting Kreider back for a playoff push could give them a spark similar to one a rental might provide.

Vinni, Vidi, Vici

Speaking of Kreider, congratulations are in order for his call-up replacement, Vinni Lettieri, who scored his first NHL goal in his first NHL game (first Ranger to do so since Derek Stepan) against the Red Wings on Friday night. Make a habit of it, kid.

Lettieri’s shoot-first mentality has to be seen as a purely positive, especially for a Rangers team with plenty of pass-first types. If his skill set and AHL production (where he lead the Hartford Wolf Pack in goals this season) translates to the NHL level, it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to hope for a 2012 Carl Hagelin-like impact. Maybe even fill a scorers role for the Rangers as a high volume shooter, much like Viktor Arvidsson has for the Predators over the last few seasons.

Mr. 500

Also due a tip of the cap is team captain Ryan McDonagh, who played in his 500th NHL game in the Rangers’ 1-0 win over the Washington Capitals on Wednesday night.

They really do grow up so fast. Which is particularly scary, because while we’re not there just yet, there’s still a big question looming here — just how willing are the Rangers to pony up and pay the Minnesota native to play his next 500+ on Broadway? Because pony up they’ll need to. The odds of him signing another sweetheart deal like he did back in 2013 are nil. That $4.7M annual average value (AAV) has been an absolute steal for the Rangers. Come 2018, you can pretty much inverse the numbers to determine his AAV, whether any of us like it or not.

Growing Pains

For a league with global marketing aspirations (see Global Series games in Sweden, China, Winter Classic, etc.), the NHL sure does struggle with the small stuff as evidenced by this spectacular tweet fail sent on day one of the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship:

This, of course, is to say nothing of the Owners’ decision not to send players to the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang — a regional stone’s throw from the Chinese market they hope to break into in the coming years.

By the Numbers

  • The Rangers are again being carried by forward depth, with the fourth line really picking up the scoring of late. Jimmy Vesey has registered a point in four of his last five games, and in five of his last seven. Paul Carey also has two goals and an assist in the Blueshirts’ last five matches.
  • Over the last two weeks, David Desharnais was tied with Jimmy Vesey for the lead in points (four) and lead the team in assists with three.
    What a return to dominance Henrik Lundqvist has had, too. Over the last two weeks, he’s posted a .944 SV% and a 2.17 GA/A.
  • While we’re on goaltenders, Ondrej Pavelec picked up his first shutout of the season in the 1-0 shootout victory over the Capitals.
  • Despite only having one goal in his last five games, Michael Grabner is still tied for second in even-strength goals (17) alongside Anders Lee and Alex Ovechkin. Only Nikita Kucherov has more (21) this season.
  • Jeff Gorton has to be happy seeing his prized first-round picks Filip Chytil and Lias Andersson—the latter of whom is who is captaining his team—succeeding on the World Junior Championship stage. In three games each, Andersson has four goals and an assist for Sweden while Chytil has two goals and two assists for the Czech Republic.

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