Everything Else

 vs. 

RECORDS: Hawks 18-14-6   Rangers 21-13-5

PUCK DROP: 7pm

TV: NBCSN – It’s Rivalry Night, don’t ya know?

NEW YORK MIGHT BE THE WORST ST. VINCENT SONG EVER: Blueshirt Banter, @HockeyRodent

It’s not officially cold until it gets cold in New York, which it has been now, and you can hear their bitching about it from Oregon. Meanwhile this is par for the course for us, but who gives a shit when we’re here in the middle, busy sending all of our creative talent there to do the work they take credit for? Exactly. Anyway, it’s rivalry night apparently and I guess this counts because it’s two Original Six teams, though you’re forgiven if you forgot that the Rangers were an O6 teams because really… what’s Rangers tradition?

BUT THAT’S NOT WHY YOU CALLED.

The Hawks wrap up this weird six-game trip that’s bounced from Texas to the East Coast, to Western Canada, back to the East Coast, rippin’ and rompin’, North Cak-a-laka and Compton (not actually Compton). It wrapped around Christmas so the Hawks didn’t have to do it all in one, but it also makes it seem like it’s gone on forever. The fact that the Hawks piled up only one win during it, three terrible losses and one credible point I guess in Cal And Gary only made it seem longer. Which leaves us in this state of ennui we currently find ourselves.

As far as on the ice. there will be more changes. Because of course there will. Once again, Richard Panik goes from top line to pressbox in Q’s Rotation Of Confusion, with Vinnie Smalls getting a chance to do whatever it is he does with Toews and Saad. Patrick Sharp comes back from exile (handsome exile!) to be on the other side of David Kampf from Top Cat, forcing Top Cat back to the right side because whatever Baby Sharp wants Baby Sharp gets, I guess.

It spreads to the defense as well, where Gustav Forsling will slot back in to pair with Cody Franson, which won’t have the Rangers forwards giggling until they foam up at the mouth or anything. Personally, I can’t wait for Forsling to get horsed in the corner, the puck making its way to the slot and Franson kind of staring at it with a bemused expression as one might a squirrel dragging a too big piece of food up a tree. After starting the shift in their own end, of course.

Jeff Glass gets his third straight start, as horse-player Q thinks this is finally the Pick 3 he’s going to hit. This is simply asking for trouble, as the “spark” Q was looking for by starting this good story has not materialized, and has in fact has had his skaters playing terrified and panicked in their own zone as Glass spits up another rebound. It has the double effect of fucking with Anton Forsberg’s head, and with Corey Crawford nowhere on the horizon that seems a real problem. Glass is going to give up a touchdown somewhere around here, because he’s not Tim Thomas, and it’s going to be in a game the Hawks can’t really afford to just punt. Forsberg has had his spotty games for sure, but also has the better chance of holding a team below two which he’s done as well. But Q gets to play his hunches because fuck you.

To the Rangers, who are one of the weirder statistical teams you can find. They’ve fallen six points behind the division leading Caps, but have two games in hand. What’s bewildering about the Rangers is that they’re one of the worst possession teams in the league, and yet they create the best chances out of the limited attempts they take. They’re #1 in expected goals at evens per 60 minutes, even though you’d be hard pressed to find a genuine first-liner anywhere on this team. They give up a lot of attempts as well, but not that many great chances.

It also helps that Henrik Lundqvist went a bit bonkers in December, with a .936 SV%. So that talk of him being finished in October seems to have dried up a bit. That helped the Rags to a 7-3-3 record in the month, and they’ll be coming off a truly inspiring OT win in the Winter Classic against the modern day irresistible force that is the Buffalo Sabres.

The Rangers are a little beat up at the moment, as Chris “I Still Give Guys Swirlies” Kreider is out indefinitely with a blood clot in his arm, and so is Jesper Fast. The Rangers weren’t blessed with a huge amount of depth, so it’s kind of stripped their second line. Unless a troika of Buchnevich-Desharnais-Vesey scares you. The top unit of Alleged Wiener Tucker and The Two Z’s has been dynamite possession-wise but not a whole lot of end product yet. It’s the bottom six where the real threat lies, with Michael Grabner and 18 goals, Captain Stairwell, and J.T. Miller always possible to pop up with a goal. There are no big names–Nash really isn’t a top line player any more–but the foot soldiers have gotten enough done.

They’ve had problems getting Kirk ShattenKevin to fit in all season, and he’s currently on a third-pairing with worst player in the world Brendan Smith. Most of their push comes from Chance-Made-Me-Famous Brady Skjei (and the funny thing about that sketch is that Skjei is American). McDonagh and Holden take the human shield assignments, and expect Schmaltz and Kane to see them every shift.

Feels like every time I show up here and say the Hawks need to kick it into gear and blah blah blah, Kesha. Perhaps it’s just not going to happen and this is what they are. The Hawks are going to pack in the games now before their bye week, with seven games in the next 12 days. It is likely that when we get to the end of that stretch, we’ll know if the rest of the season is worth any give-a-shit or not.

 

Game #39 Preview

Preview

Spotlight

Q&A

Douchebag Du Jour

I Make A Lot Of Graphs

Lineups & How Teams Were Built

Everything Else

Beth is our Rangers correspondent, and she’s just about thawed out from the Winter Classic. But dying of frostbite is still better than watching the Mets there. Follow her @bethmachlan.

The Rangers are kind of weird. In the past few weeks they’ve managed to beat the Kings and Bruins while also losing to the Senators and Red Wings. They seem to go to OT/SO a lot. Are they just a middling team and this is what it looks like or is it something more?
Here’s the thing about the Rangers. They can beat anyone; they can also lose to anyone. And this isn’t just the unpredictability of hockey. It’s something about the team’s core psyche, if such a thing exists. They often come out for sequential periods looking like completely different teams. I would love to know what goes on in that room, I really would. But even the team that went to the SCF was like this. I call it “Going to the Bad Place.” As for the going to OT/SO … often, it’s that they’re not generating enough shots, and they’re relying on goaltending, not defensive strategy, to stop shots on them. Watch them; they often seem to wait for the perfect chance instead of just bashing the puck at the net, and I’d argue that you have to do both to win hockey games.
It seems like Rangers fans have been bitching about the use of Pavel Buchnevich for a while. But he’s spent most of the season with Kreider and Zibanejad, and he’s third on the team in scoring. What’s the problem here?
The Buchnevich problem is a Vigneault problem. He’s not a 4th line winger, and he seems to pay a higher price for mistakes (demotion, significantly reduced TOI) than, say, Jimmy Vesey. He plays beautifully on the KZB line, but unfortunately that’s kaput now without Kreider. And AV won’t let him get comfortable or develop chemistry anywhere else. It’s irritating, because when he’s confident and in the right place, he is so much fun to watch.
Meanwhile, Michael Grabner, who plays on the bottom six most of the time, is on pace for another 25+ goal season. How does this work?
I said Grabner wasn’t going to cool off, and he didn’t. Who knows why. And this is with him also MISSING some of the most perfect setups I’ve ever seen. That said, yesterday was his first goal in 2-3 games I think, so maybe the run is ending? But no question he ends with 25+.
The Rangers only have one player on course for even 60 points. Do they need to find a way to get a primetime scorer like…oh we don’t know, Max Pacioretty?
I honestly don’t think it’s that they need a goal scorer. I think it’s a system issue. First of all, and I think I said this before … Rick Nash is the unluckiest man in hockey. If his shot can be stopped by a post or a stick knob or a dirty look or a passing pigeon, it will happen. I think the guys they have need to stop with the fancy setups and put more pucks on net. Kevin Hayes is a beast with possession but where are the goals? Rookie Vinni Lettieri scored on a one-timer against Detroit and I swear it was the first one-timer I’ve seen from this team in I don’t know how long. SHOOT THE PUCK. Frankly, I’m more worried about the effect of losing Kreider’s perfect screen.

 

 

 

 

Game #39 Preview

Preview

Spotlight

Q&A

Douchebag Du Jour

I Make A Lot Of Graphs

Lineups & How Teams Were Built

Everything Else

We could have written the same preview for the New  York Rangers for at least the last three years, probably the last five, maybe the last ten. They’ll get more TV and press time due to their locale and Original Six status, but this is the same collection of small, quick, faceless forwards who don’t quite do enough in front of a top-heavy blue line that’s slightly better than it was but the bottom sucks so hard so who cares and all in front of an aging Henrik Lundqvist who will remain handsome but not able to bring this team through. The most interesting thing about the Rangers was that run-on sentence I just produced. And we do this every year. One day, maybe the Rangers will have a center. I’m just sure I’ll be incontinent by the time it happens.

New York Rangers

’16-’17 Record: 48-28-6  102 points (4th in Metro, lost to Ottawa in 2nd round after beating Montreal)

Team Stats 5v5: 47.9 CF% (25th)  48.6 SF% (24th)  48.4 SCF% (23rd) 8.8 SH% (4th)  .923 SV% (18th)

Special Teams: 20.2 PP% (11th)  79.8 PK% (18th)

Everything Else

 vs 

Game Time: 7:30PM CST
TV/Radio: CSN, NHLN (US), WGN-AM 720
Buggin Out: Blueshirt Banter

While this is supposed to a premiere matchup on the league’s calendar as far as regular season games in December go, and on paper it still is with one conference leader hosting the 2nd best of the other on a weekend night, the actual composition of the rosters on both sides still lacks the punch that it should have, no matter how many times the words “potential matchup in June” are uttered during the broadcast.

Everything Else

A few years ago, 2013 to be exact, those of us who pay attention to possession numbers couldn’t wait to tell Toronto Maple Leafs fans, and their coach really, that their record was something of a mirage. The small sample size of that particular schedule and some excellent play from James Reimer had masked what really wasn’t a very good team, and their Corsi number showed it. The counter that came from the organization itself and a good portion of their fanbase was that they quality of shots they gave up and that they engineered made up the difference. We all laughed and laughed at this notion, even though one day someone was going to actually do that.

Maybe it’s this year’s Rangers?

Everything Else

RangerSmith vs evil empire

Game Time: 7:00PM Central
TV/Radio: NBCSN, WGN-AM 720
Sam Rosen’s Podiatrist: Blueshirt Banter

They told everyone the entire back half of the summer that they were only about the business of hockey. That getting back on the ice was the most important thing, and once they were able to do that, not much else mattered. And as criminal justice proceedings have dragged on and been obfuscated, that’s exactly where the defending champion Blackhawks stand tonight, with their star forward who has still yet to be cleared of a sexual assault investigation in uniform with at very least the implicit support of the entire organization.

So during the the effusive and interminable ceremony wherein Rocky Wirtz, John McDonough, and whatever host take self congratulatory tone-deafedness to astonishing new heights, remember that every ass in a seat, every applauding set of hands, is exactly what they banked on happening during this catastrophic off-season. Winning at sports is always a better brand strategy than being under investigation for sexual assault. And their cynical bet will be proved 110% correct when Patrick Kane receives thunderous applause all night long.

Everything Else

RangerSmithvs oldschool

Game Time: 6:30PM Central
TV/Radio: NBCSN, WGN-AM 720
The Producers: Blueshirt Banter

For the first time since the trade deadline, the Hawks will get a lot at their new acquisitions against a non-garbage opponent, the New York Rangers. Though NBC surely didn’t plan on having neither Patrick Kane or Henrik Lundqvist available for the proceedings, this is still a solid matchup based on the standings. And considering how the Hawks looked on Friday night against the abject trash on ice that the Edmonton Oilers have been, the national TV audience had better brace itself.

Everything Else

RangerSmithvs oldschool

Game Time: 6:30PM Central
TV/Radio: NBCSN, WGN-AM 720
The Producers: Blueshirt Banter

For the first time since the trade deadline, the Hawks will get a lot at their new acquisitions against a non-garbage opponent, the New York Rangers. Though NBC surely didn’t plan on having neither Patrick Kane or Henrik Lundqvist available for the proceedings, this is still a solid matchup based on the standings. And considering how the Hawks looked on Friday night against the abject trash on ice that the Edmonton Oilers have been, the national TV audience had better brace itself.