What Will the Rangers' Late Game 'D-ployment' Look Like

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:

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.

Discussion





  1. Quote Originally Posted by AmericanJesus
    View Post

    They take passes in certain unique situations, but not like in soccer. A soccer equivalent to hockey would be the neutral zone is clogged and there is a loose puck. A player on team A recovers the puck and sends it back to their goalie to regroup. This isn't something that happens with any real frequency in the NHL. The times where a goalie is passed to is usually only when there is a play in the defensive zone where there is a single attacker pressing a player who just gained possession and a quick pass over to a goaltender relieves that pressure with very little risk.



    Brodeur was pretty involved prior to the trapezoid . Now, the risk of the penalty discourages that play.
    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!





    Quote Originally Posted by josh
    View Post

    Smith, Holtby, Price and Emery take passes.

    Lundqvist should never try to play the puck.



    They take passes in certain unique situations, but not like in soccer. A soccer equivalent to hockey would be the neutral zone is clogged and there is a loose puck. A player on team A recovers the puck and sends it back to their goalie to regroup. This isn't something that happens with any real frequency in the NHL. The times where a goalie is passed to is usually only when there is a play in the defensive zone where there is a single attacker pressing a player who just gained possession and a quick pass over to a goaltender relieves that pressure with very little risk.





    Quote Originally Posted by CCCP
    View Post

    it has happened. the devils passed back to brodeur all the time



    Huge difference between being at your blueline and passing it to the goalie, and having a forechecker in your face and passing it to the goalie.





    Quote Originally Posted by 4EverRangerFrank
    View Post

    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?



    A few teams have done a little bit of this in the past, most notably the Devils when Brodeur was there. There are a few issues with this, though. The biggest is that ice can be an unpredictable surface, specifically around the crease. A puck passed back to the goalie that hits some snow and changes direction to sail into the net by his stick is a nightmare. A fanned pass back to the goalie can lead to a breakaway. A goalie mishandling the puck with pressure can turn into a quick chance against.

    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.





    Quote Originally Posted by 4EverRangerFrank
    View Post

    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?



    Will never happen.
    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?





    Quote Originally Posted by Mikey37
    View Post

    Pucks get chipped out all the time. At ES you're either changing, or someone is pressuring the puck after the opponent gains control. Why chip it out and allow the other team to regroup or possibly catch you in a change or out of position while your just watching them ? Chip outs, regroups, and breakouts happen 100 times during a game. Hockey is a constant flow, everyone must do their job every shift on a read and react basis.



    101 times in this game prevents a goal against.





    Quote Originally Posted by The Dude
    View Post

    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?



    Pucks get chipped out all the time. At ES you're either changing, or someone is pressuring the puck after the opponent gains control. Why chip it out and allow the other team to regroup or possibly catch you in a change or out of position while your just watching them ? Chip outs, regroups, and breakouts happen 100 times during a game. Hockey is a constant flow, everyone must do their job every shift on a read and react basis.
    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?





    Quote Originally Posted by The Dude
    View Post

    But with the Rangers, the winger isn't there or is late. Kinda like how on the example play Ovi was a bit late or lazy on the puck. I'm not getting how that is a safer play than what I'm suggesting. What's the difference if he's on boards there or past the blue line? Difference to me is the opposition is already in attacking position and have the zone. The way I'm suggesting is the puck is out and your team can change or RESET (not rest I never said that) or you have a guy flying up the ice. They're already in your zone. Get it past them and do what you can.

    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.



    The difference of him being on the boards instead of flying the zone is because the puck is still in the zone and he's on the strong side. If the puck doesn't get out, you're short handed. The weak side guy could fly if the opportunity is there. It's a read. There's no reseting either. I'd rather ice the puck than turn it over on my side of the nz. I don't want my guys scrambling around during a pressured shift.

    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.





    Quote Originally Posted by Mikey37
    View Post

    No, there is no "if the winger is there". It's "the winger has to be there". That's the play. The idea of using that breakout is not to give the puck back to the other team. I like it because I want the puck, I want all 5 of my guys with their feet going in the right direction, and force the other team to skate backwards. Pressure and owning the puck equal better opportunity. There is no such thing as resting. If you're resting, your feet aren't moving. If your feet aren't moving, you're not trying, so get the fuck off the ice.

    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.



    But with the Rangers, the winger isn't there or is late. Kinda like how on the example play Ovi was a bit late or lazy on the puck. I'm not getting how that is a safer play than what I'm suggesting. What's the difference if he's on boards there or past the blue line? Difference to me is the opposition is already in attacking position and have the zone. The way I'm suggesting is the puck is out and your team can change or RESET (not rest I never said that) or you have a guy flying up the ice. They're already in your zone. Get it past them and do what you can.

    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.





    Quote Originally Posted by Mikey37
    View Post

    In addition, I love this discussion. This is what I come here for. Thank you.

    Gotta spread it around.



    I actually read this back and forth and as someone that's never played or coached, it was really awesome to read.





    Quote Originally Posted by The Dude
    View Post

    Yes "if" . If there is, then you reset and defend. If not you change. I'm not trying to be a dick here, I'm trying to figure out the logic behind what you are saying is being taught. I'm not saying it's your idea. I'm just trying to understand why this way is considered better by you, or if you even think it's better and if so why?

    "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?



    No, there is no "if the winger is there". It's "the winger has to be there". That's the play. The idea of using that breakout is not to give the puck back to the other team. I like it because I want the puck, I want all 5 of my guys with their feet going in the right direction, and force the other team to skate backwards. Pressure and owning the puck equal better opportunity. There is no such thing as resting. If you're resting, your feet aren't moving. If your feet aren't moving, you're not trying, so get the fuck off the ice.

    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?





    Quote Originally Posted by Mikey37
    View Post

    If ? Hope is not a strategy.

    How is chipping it out of the zone considered a break out play or a stretch pass?

    Again, I don't mind a clearing attempt in that spot. I'm also not their coach. I'm explaining the reasoning behind Shatty's and the Caps play. As Puckhead said, that's the way the game is played now. Everyone bitches and moans about puck moving defensemen and puck possession, but 1 play goes wrong because of bad execution and everyone sucks all of a sudden.



    Yes "if" . If there is, then you reset and defend. If not you change. I'm not trying to be a dick here, I'm trying to figure out the logic behind what you are saying is being taught. I'm not saying it's your idea. I'm just trying to understand why this way is considered better by you, or if you even think it's better and if so why?

    "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?

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