Latest posts by Mike Valvano (see all)
- For Duchene, Brady Skjei Was Rightfully a Non-Starter - 11/09/2017
- How Bold is Too Bold to Fix the Rangers' D? - 11/02/2017
- Picking Spots for The King to Rest His Crown - 10/18/2017
Scene One: The Rangers lead the Pittsburgh Penguins 2-1 with 50 seconds left and a defensive-zone faceoff coming. Pittsburgh has pulled the goalie and Crosby, Malkin and Kessel are all on the ice.
Q: What two defensemen are you putting on the ice?
A: It’s complicated.
Obviously, Ryan McDonagh is on the ice for as long as he has wind in his lungs. But, after being the obvious choice on the right side for the better part of a decade, Dan Girardi has been jettisoned off to the Land of Buyout Toys, and there’s not a clear answer as to who will be out there in his place.
The first shot, obviously, is going to Kevin Shattenkirk. While I questioned signing him in part because I don’t believe he’s a fit for this type of role, there’s plenty of value at his price. But it’s really difficult to trust the idea that he’ll be as successful with heavy, defense-first responsibilities.
Unfortunately, he’s never been consistently used in this type of shutdown role. He’s only had a defensive-zone start rate of 45% or better twice in his career. For comparison, McDonagh and Girardi have a total of three seasons below 52%. Two of which came when they were rookies with the other coming in Girardi’s second season.
Not to mention, recency bias aside, his own-zone performance in the playoffs was, generously, lackluster.
There was a litany of things that went wrong in this play, but the image of that soft backhander is haunting, especially since it was Shattenkirk’s second attempt to move the puck. This is the exact type of play that ended Girardi’s career as a Blueshirt and makes it hard to trust Shattenkirk in critical situations. He’ll get the opportunity to earn AV’s trust, but, based on his career to this point, it’s not a given.
If Shattenkirk isn’t the guy you deploy late, then the natural next choice has to be Brendan Smith, who was acquired at last year’s deadline and gave the Rangers some much-needed chutzpah down the stretch. He doesn’t boast Shattenkirk’s puck-moving skills (though he’s a bit underrated in this regard), but he’s strong in every sense of the word. That, combined with the Grit™ needed to win puck battles and compete in front of the net makes him a good fit for a lead-protecting role late, regardless of who else is on the roster.
Side note: it sucks that there aren’t extensive highlights of every NHL player in puck battles on YouTube because a Smith fight clip doesn’t do his game justice.
But, should Shattenkirk not be fit for the role and you move Smith up from his presumed role on the second pair with Brady Skjei, the Rangers will run into depth issues. In the same way that it’s tough to project Mac’s partner, it’s tough to know who will play with Skjei. Even if the youngster earns tough minutes next year (he will), it’s a big ask to compensate for any of Shattenkirk’s D-zone flaws. And, while this is partially just personal preference, two puck-movers on the ice protecting a lead is risky. With Smith manning the top unit, there’s limited options.
Assuming Vigneault does not go to three defensemen late, the options for Skjei’s late-game partner are—pending any unforeseen developments—Marc Staal, Nick Holden, Anthony DeAngelo, and, probably, Alexei Bereglazov. That’s not a calming list.
Conventional wisdom says that Vigneault is not going to trust either DeAngelo or Bereglazov for the same reasons he didn’t trust Skjei last season, which leaves us with—gulp—Staal, and Holden to choose from. They already made Kevin DeLury cry:
Your rap name is young + the reason you cried last
— Kev 🎈 (@mixtapekevin) August 9, 2017
Young Rangers lose playoff series to Ottawa because AV played Staal/Holden over Skjei/Smith. https://t.co/NZ77pf9W2Y
— TheNYRBlog (@kevindelury) August 10, 2017
While they’ve probably been given too much blame for late-game struggles in the playoffs, neither is ideal. Based on his style of play and, bluntly, coach’s favor, Staal probably gets the nod. He’s got the same playing style as Smith and, in that sense, is a nice compliment to Skjei. In a limited capacity, he can still be effective as a lead protector. Staal is dreary coming out of his own zone, but he does not get nearly the credit he deserves for his effectiveness with his stick, his ability to win board battles, or his body positioning. When you need to hold on for 20-30 seconds, those are good qualities to have.
Should one of the young guys step up, this discussion is a bit different. Bereglazov probably makes the most sense in this role, and, potentially, could push Staal out of the lineup entirely. As BlueseatBlogs.com contributor Josh Khalfin mentioned back before he was signed, “He is a big, physical, defensive defenseman who uses his size and brains to his advantage in the zone. His positioning is very good as well.”
Khalfin’s also made mention of Bereglazov’s playmaking potential but, in this context, that’s less important. Of course, nobody has seen the young Russian play in North America, but he’s got a playing style that can be valuable in a lead-protecting role.
Scene Two: The Rangers are trailing the Penguins 2-1 with 50 seconds left and an offensive zone faceoff coming. Vigneault has pulled the goalie and chosen to deploy five forwards.
Q: Which defenseman are you putting on the ice?
A: Shatty Deuces.
Regardless of what Shattenkirk does or doesn’t prove on the defensive end, his value will be defined by the offensive punch he can add. While Skjei and DeAngelo will get their share of favorable offensive deployments, there’s no better opportunity for Shattenkirk to prove his worth than in the O-zone. He has the skillset to be lethal there.
Given that, the decision when the Rangers need a goal won’t be a tough one, but when they need to stop one, things are much less clear.
- Thx for sharing your thoughts guys. Ice surface is a challenge and certainly worthy of being responsible for a disastrous result. That said, in all other cases a pro goalie should be able to handle the pass and make one. (Lundy is the exception of course 'cause we love him.) I was always hoping Talbot would become that innovator for us. Anyway, I'm done with this idea. LGR!Smith, Holtby, Price and Emery take passes.
Lundqvist should never try to play the puck.
In soccer, the distances and speed are signficantly different as far as most balls played back towards the goalie. A soccer goalie has more tools available. He can throw it out or kick it over and well past any attacking forwards. He can play it out of bounds if need be.To the thread Q: Our D-ployment all depends on the kind of gum AV is chewing at the moment.
Been watching soccer closely for the past couple of seasons at Red Bulls Arena and I began wondering about why the NHL doesn't use the goalie more as a passing piece to relieve pressure on the D? I know the risks, but moving the puck via passing is a heck of a lot faster than by a tired defenseman skating. My point is, some coach somewhere is going to adapt this into their team's game plan and it will force the opposing team to run around a bit more chasing the puck. Chasing = tired legs.
What do you think?Thank you for a good explanation. Didn't think of the fact that if it doesn't go through, you're short handed with it going the other way.
Why isn't there a thing like resetting? Like an intentional give away, but out of the zone just to gather themselves and get set better? Just not enough time to get their shit together?
No, that's not a regroup. Regroups occur in the nz. Holtby is an asshole for giving the puck up there in the first place. You regroup when you're in control. Yes, they had the puck, but they weren't in "control". Too many guys out of position, and they were being pressured deep in their own end. Regroup when you're in control, with time. That's when you settle down, regroup, and start on the attack again.
Are they not kinda coming off a regroup on the example play? They are breaking out from behind the net with the opposition in their zone already. The goalie started the play instead of covering it, he passes it to Shatty, and then they regroup. No? What is that called then?
I'm honestly not trying to argue. I'm just not getting the logic or the reasoning behind the logic. I understand you want the puck, but on such a play your risking not having the puck much longer and having the opponent have a shorter distance to capitalize on what can easily be screwed up.
Please don't take this as me talking like I know anything about coaching. I'm really just trying to pick your or others brain on why it's thought of a a good idea.
Why would Ovi be flying up the boards when the other team is on the forecheck, and has a defender holding the line? He can't fly the zone in that spot, it would be a bad read.
Stretch passes are made when you're coming off a regroup, and going on the attack. You're in control of the puck, and your D is skating backwards. A stretch pass doesn't have to be 90', it could be between the red and blue lines, which is 25' or shorter. That play was designed to get out of the zone on a breakout. They weren't regrouping there.Personally I ask myself what would I prefer to have seen in this case — regardless of whatever doctrine is being taught or believed to be taught in some places* — what would I prefer to have seen that makes sense in that situation. I would prefer a defenseman to instinctively clear the zone a good measure more firmly than that weak tip in Prima-don't-hit-me-Ovie's direction. Especially if the defending team is going to be the crack-under-sustained pressure Rangers.
Even tho it was not our error we see to much of this kind of calamity when NYR doesn't get the puck out of the zone under pressure. I hope it is something the Vig-no and D coach addresses in preseason/early season, or we're gonna get more of the same.
*I'm not convinced of that either in situations where the team is under extreme duress, back on its heels, is a passive flip really the way to go?
"If" is the strategy on the play that happened. Play works if the winger is in the right position.
I don't think Shattenkirk sucks, just the idea of that play, and why it's considered better, as it seems the Rangers rely on that play no matter who their D men are. That play was typical of Girardii over the years. Everyone shit on him. If a true puck moving or puck possession D man like Shattenkirk is going to do the same thing, why think things will improve? Looks more like a forward problem for the Rangers if this is really what teams want. Because this play happened on the daily for this team.
Chipping it out of the zone isn't a breakout play, but a possible break out if the player in Ovis position is skating hard up the boards into the NZ to follow the puck. The same play that happened, only harder and out of the zone... How's it NOT a stretch pass? Long leading pass with momentum going that way. Maybe I'm using the wrong terminology?