It’s Go Time!

Rangers ( 22-15-5 ) vs Islanders ( 21-18-4 ). TV- MSG, MSG+

Both teams had a 5 day break called “bye” week. No idea why it should take 5 days to say goodbye to someone.

Game 7 for the Fishsticks, of course. Should be game 7 for our boys too. In fact all 3 games over the next 4 days should be game 7 since all three are against the Metropolitan Division opponents fighting for playoffs.

Since I’m writing this post on Friday and won’t be able to change it before the game I have no idea if there are any lineup changes. Kreider remains out long term, of course. From their afternoon practice it appears that Hayes might be back, and Smith and Carey ( replaced by Lettieri who was recalled back from Hartford ) are prucha’d. Kempfer is in.

Hank in net.

LGR!!!!!

Midseason Report Card by SN

Good morning, boneheads! Another great piece written by our own bonehead. SN with a report card! Thank you, SN!
No review of the team would be complete without a ‘Report Card’ to hand out individual grades.
Coaches:
AV: (C) trying to have it both ways, playing go-go style without talent to shoot puck, win puck battles and a D which struggles to move puck.  Round peg/Square Hole which reaps gains in Fall but wavers in Spring?
Arniel: (Inc.) only CCCP knows what he really does and he’s not telling us!
Ruff: (Inc.) – half season of more of the same from this group points to the issue not being the coach, at least, the defensive coach…
Allaire: (A+) the Goalie Whisperer is a gift from the gods.
Goalies:
Henrik: (A) early struggles brushed off, moved out of net, much more aggressive, seems quicker; still loses his stick and cannot effectively move puck but stopping ze puck he does well.  Emerging grey hairs in whiskers is cause for concern.
Pav: (A+) this guy was playing in a Prague Beer League (mmm….beer) or something like that when he was brought in with many questioning the move, but have no fear, the Goalie Whisperer is near…
Defense:
McD: (B-) too many WTF moments when compared to seasons’ past.  His advanced metrics are far above other D speaking to lack of quality partner as primary culprit.  Lingering groin issues?  SN said groin.
Holden: (C) bit of a high wire act that will play the body, join the rush and shoot the puck but has too many crisp passes to the tape of opponents in the slot and struggles moving puck. Forced to be playing way above his wage grade.
Shea: (C+) Up and down season for the young pup; tremendous skating but lousy positioning and, at times, a lack of basic hockey instincts.  Has played more physical and improved on wall.  Needs to get his shot through more.
Staal: (C+) found his home on 3rd pair and has provided some consistency to his game, albeit still challenged making passes to the tape and loses sight of puck in skates.  1 dimensional player providing zero offense; like none.
Shatty: (C+) looked like burnt toast in first 10 games, rounded into form and helped PP which then faltered with Zika’s absence.  Best passer on team, hands down. Not great in own zone, but that’s not his game; just ask Trots.
Smitty: (D-) looked like he was still on a bachelor party bender; plays physical, much better suited to second half hockey.  Has some decent mitts but tries to skate through 2 guys which usually ends up in a 2 on 1 the other way.
Kamper: (inc.) hasn’t played much but only righty D save for Shatty on roster so gets some game time.  Will play body and join the rush.  Can get squeezed on wall and not provide enough support in Dzone.
Offense:
Zika: (B) another injury, though not as severe as last year, with long term ramifications as its his 2nd or 3rd concussion.  Has an awesome shot and during first 20 games his line was the best at possession time and scoring chances.
Kreider: (B+) Beast on the forecheck who still has trouble moving puck on fly out of Dzone.  Great net front presence on PP which doesn’t show up in personal stats.  His injury will hurt this O big time.  Hope he mends well.
Butch: (B+) best mitts on team and showing a willingness to engage on the wall.  Future is bright, but effectiveness will decrease without Kreider fishing out pucks for him.  Breat 3rd round pick; has 25-30 potential.
Nash: (C-) just cannot lift puck in tight or he would have 25 goals.  Starts out strong in games but seems to fade in second half of game.  Solid on PK but need to pass more when drawing D and stay on his F’n skates.
Haze: (B+) poor guy was emerging as a 2nd line pivot when they moved him to checking center role.  Has performed well in that role.  Still bad habits on stick handling too much and refusing to shoot. Stats would be better if Nash could finish.
Grabby: (A+) this guy is just the gift that keeps on giving. 18 ES goals and must lead team in prime scoring chances, has been bounced around lineup, but produces and plays great PK. Upcoming UFA will generate interest if they don’t sign.
JT: (B) emerging as leader on team, been playing all over lineup which speaks to his versatility. Not enough 5v5 offense, solid on FOs and playing on 1st PP with Kreider out, one of very few to consistently win 1v1 wall battles.
Zucc (B-)  he compiles points but also will disappear for long stretches in games not for lack of long shifts…  Needs to shoot puck more as he has a great shot but always looking for pretty pass. 1G in last 12 games; 1 PPG on season.
VC (B+) has mostly played a bottom 6 role but somehow has 9 ES goals tied for 2nd on team; now getting PP time.  Nash probably blocking him from more prime TOI.  Playing a more complete game but still challenged in Dzone.
Dijonaise (B) many said who? when they signed him but has provided great work on the dot, nice set up ability and plenty of smart plays with puck.  On D he is a liability and the fear is his game is not suited for tight spaces in 2nd half.
Fast (A-) early swoon coincided with his absence.  Heart and soul player with good eye-hand for deflections and has showcased an ability to rifle puck when set up this season.  Wish he was 2″ and 25 lbs. bigger.  Fearless on wall.
Boo (B) has emerged as a solid bottom 6 pivot with a tremendous stride and willing to be physical.  Has some horrendous rookie moments with D coverage but has been effective in his role.
Carey (B+) has grown on me, initially thought he was too slow and coughing up the puck too much but his game has improved with more ice time and plays his role as forechecker well and always crashing net when he can.
Lettieri (inc) just called up so not enough to judge but willing to shoot, skates like a demon and willing to engage on wall.

Midseason review by SN

Summary: The Blueshirts have reached the halfway point slotted into the first Wild Card spot, an encouraging turn of events from the disastrous start which featured only 2 regulation wins in their first 10 games. Overall team play has been a bit of a mixed bag as this ‘sum of its parts’ lacks individual star power, save for our sexy goalie.
Team Grade: B-

Coaching Staff: AV has emerged as a polarizing figure among a segment of the fanbase growing frustrated by his playing time decisions around who plays, how much they play and where they play; you know, just like every coach in NHL history. Facts are he gets solid results and has been a winning coach in his tenure here. With a lack of top line players, he uses a top 9 (and sometimes top 12) hoping to create mismatches and create scoring chances with 2nd or 3rd line players. His steady sidekick, Scott Arniel has a defined role, Associate Head Coach, though some question what tasks are involved. New arrival, D Coach Lindsey Ruff is determined to hide in the shadows and not face the fate of his predecessors. Most importantly, the Goalie Whisperer, Benoit Allaire, has proven his tremendous value once again.
Coach Grade: B-

Goalie: After a rough early start, King Henrik has proven he can adapt and hold off Father Time with a new more aggressive approach, lighter pads, a slimmer waist and new conditioner to keep the sheen on his shining coif. He is the highest paid player, the face of the franchise, and seemingly determined to maintain his high standard of excellence. After the early bad stretch, he has played his best hockey over the past 3 regular seasons. The emergence of Pavalec as a reliable back up reinforces the stature of the Goalie Whisperer.
Goalie Grade: A

Defense: Oy, where to begin? I guess, with Capt McD, who has sat out 4 games with a (lingering?) groin injury and has made enough gaffes for many to question if he is worth a top 10 D-man deal when his current pact ends in ’19. One can only ponder how this unit performs without their only legit top 2 two-way Dman. The same faces are trotted out every game and rather than parse through each players performance, let’s just say, there have to be better alternatives inside or outside the org. The structure used does not provide much support for a D unable to win 1v1 board battles so the puck stays in the zone and scoring chances abound. Continually wonder if a more traditional D structure would offer a more support for this level of D talent. Some good news is 6th in SH situations and 9th overall.
Defense Grade: C-

Offense: AV’s top 9 lineup approach has featured players being moved up and down the line-up with mixed results along with the emergence of a bottom 3/4th line to provide tertiary scoring, needed physicality, and valuable O-zone time. Mika Z was injured again, but the team held strong and performed well (thanks to goalie play), but also the early effectiveness of the PP tailed off in his absence. Now with Kreider hurt, the lack of depth and top line scoring along with limited puck possession time, points to a challenging second half. At 5v5, they rank 29th in CF%, 26th in Fenwick %; not good possession metrics. A lack of ‘good looks’ and a propensity to pass up open shots has resulted in being 14th in Goals Scored, and 16th in PP goals. The lack of two-way players leaves a mix of offensively focused forwards who get trapped in D-zone and have trouble controlling play in the O-zone. There is talent but the mix of players, especially in the middle, is less than ideal.
Offense Grade: B-

Outlook: The second half features a lopsided road slate with three West Coast trips to test their ‘Road Warriors’ mantle of recent seasons, and up to date they have performed poorly away from MSG (7-10-0). They are 13th in total points in the NHL and 7th in points in the Eastern Conf. This is a ‘middle of the road’ team that was able to crawl out of an early hole in part due to outstanding goalie play, an effective PP and a favorable schedule. There is a fan’s hope for the best, but this group seems ready to disappoint unless they are able to control 5v5 play through Ozone possession time and begin winning more 1v1 battles on the wall. While there are no ‘great’ teams, there are plenty of lineups that have star power and a better mix that seem better structured for a deep PO run. As the ice gets smaller and the need to buckle down to win the 5v5 game, this group will need to step up their play to be considered contenders, and not pretenders

Out into the cool of the evening
Strolls the pretender
He knows that all his hopes and dreams
Begin and end there

Second Half Prediction: Just make POs as #2 WC, get smoked by Tampa in Round 1 with no deadline deals moving upcoming UFAs leaves this middling group caught in mediocrity.

Yes, I’m stuck in the middle with you,
And I’m wondering what it is I should do
It’s so hard to keep this smile from my face,
Losing control, and I’m all over the place
Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right,
Here I am, stuck in the middle with you

Salary Cap projection for 2018-2019 season and what this means for Rangers

Good morning, boneheads!

The other one was getting too long so I just tried and put something together.

At the board of governors meetings in December, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman announced the league salary cap would rise next season from $75 million US to between $78 and $82 million. The projected salary cap increase of at least $3 million would mark the biggest jump since it went from $64.3 million in 2013-14 to $69 million in 2014-15. If the cap rises to $82 million, it will be the largest increase in league history, more than  the $6.4-million bump from 2007-08 to 2008-09.

Bettman said hockey-related revenue will be around $4.54 billion this season, an 8.2% increase. The number can be attributed to a few factors. Las Vegas expansion team unexpectedly provided a big boost to the league financially. There are a couple of new arenas, plus the improvement in the value of Canadian dollar this year.

The $78-$82 million range depends on whether the NHLPA ( and the league ) agree on the “growth factor”, aka “salary cap escalator” or “inflator”.

In brief, the escalator could be somewhere between 0% and 5%, has to be agreed by both parties. Traditionally, the players opt to go for the full 5% so that their pool of players can use more money for their contracts. That, on the other hand, increases the escrow ( % of their salaries withheld from each paycheck to assure that the split remains 50/50 by the end of the year.) Generally, the players only get a small percentage of that escrow returned next year.

For this season, the players opted for a very conservative inflator of 1.6% to keep their escrow as low as possible. It’s quite possible that the players will choose to increase it next year. Again, it gives more money to sign players, but also they may not be worried about escrow as much next year. That is because of continues growth of the HRR, and also because a lot of front loaded contracts signed at the beginning of this CBA are winding down. Remember, the escrow is calculated based on the actual salaries paid out and not on the cap hit.

In any event, the numbers projected for 2018-2019 are

$78M ( no inflator )

$79.2M ( 1.6% inflator)

$80M    ( 2% inflator)

$82M   ( 5% inflator)

Now, the Rangers.

According to CapFriendly, the Rangers will have 11 players under contract with the Cap Hit of $51,411M ( the number includes Girardi buyout). They will have to decide on 5 RFAs ( all arbitration eligible ): Miller, Hayes, Vesey, Nieves, Skjei.

Would that bump in salary cap help this team? And would that be enough to improve their roster?

Rangers-1, Golden Knights-2

Good morning, boneheads!

Las Vegas team is an interesting phenomena this year. It’s a different type of an expansion team created by mr. Bettman ( and $500M expansion fee ) and well constructed by former Ranger George McPhee. As in the past most of the players feel like they were exposed by their respective teams, were deemed expandable and fell like afterthoughts. They play with a chip on their shoulder making their coach’s life easier. Except this time the money could buy you a real team.

  1. And that starts with goaltending. MAF is a legitimate high tier NHL goalie who is still in his prime and has 3 Stanley Cups under his belt. He made a few spectacular saves during the first period, and especially in the third.
  2. The Knights have something common throughout the lineup. They all can skate. From their defense on. They also have skill, grit, and all other attributes to be successful. They are legit. At the very least they will be a very tough out during playoffs, especially in their building.
  3. I thought the Rangers came out ready and showed a lot of jump in their game. In fact, both teams did. Was an entertaining period with very little time spent in the neutral zone. Back and forth, both goalies had to make some good saves. MAF had to deal with more dangerous shots than Pavelec did, imo. But both were good.
  4. Mika Zibanejad apparently shorten the length of his stick so he can shoot better. If that what it takes I’d ask him to cut it in half. Because the goal he scored off of Grabner pass was a wrister that no goalie could stop.Wow! Shoot the puck, Mika. Shoot the puck!
  5. And then they paid for a turnover. All 5 Rangers were inside of their zone. McDonagh with a tough pass to Carey ( right into his feet ), who coughs it up under pressure. Both Zucc and Hayes with pock-checking in the air. Neal can shoot it too. Not sure Pavelec could’ve stopped it. I think he started to move forward to cut the angles a bit late, but that’s nitpicking. Great shot. 1-1.
  6. Pavelec was excellent overall. Especially in the second period where NY couldn’t generate much flow and gave up a few dangerous shots. Great to see. Not sure how much he will play going forward, but looks like they have another legitimate back up. Looks like the Rangers get lucky every time they sign a back up. Lucky? Doubt that. They all have one common denominator. Benoit Allaire.
  7. The third period was one of the better periods NY played in awhile. Except with a  shortened bench ( not an excuse, but still ), continues pressure, and a few defensive mistakes, it was bound to happen. Both Nieves and Skjei with boneheaded play leaving Karlsson wide open ( uncontested ) on the R wing. Pavelec had no shot.
  8. The Rangers made a good push after that, but it wasn’t good enough. I was impressed by Las Vegas and their ability to shut down and protect the lead. Again, they are legit.
  9. You have to worry about Kevin Hayes. He took up on an important role this year. He is their shut down center. And he’s done very well so far. If he has to miss some time, it could be a real issue going forward. At some point you have to be concerned about missing 2 out of your top 6. Let’s hope it’s not anything long term.
  10. You have to like what you see in Vinny Lettieri. We knew he could shoot and skate, but he’s shown that he can play with a little snarl, and isn’t afraid to go in dirty areas. They don’t have enough players like that. I think he deserves more time in NY.

We will have the entire week without any games. We will definitely have new posts as necessary. And if time permits, I’ll post something about next year’s projected salary cap and what it means for the Rangers and for the rest of the league. Otherwise, if someone else wants to do a guest blog to discuss whatever you want you can email me at ilbster@yahoo.com , or Doodie at rangersreport2@gmail.com

It’s Go Time!

Rangers ( 22-14-5 ) vs Golden Knights ( 28-10-2 ). TV- MSG+

Last time these two met ( Halloween night ), Las Vegas blew a 4-2 lead going into third period. That win also jump started an impressive run by our boys. But after the game Gallant said this about his team:“Until Perron’s penalty, we were in control of the game and playing well. The rest of the period we looked like an expansion team.” Something tells me it hasn’t been forgotten.

$500M expansion fee can buy you a competitive team. Apparently. But who would’ve thought Las Vegas Golden Knights were going to be leading the Western Conference at this point of the season?

Game 41. Half of the season is gone. After tonight our boys will enter the mandatory bye week. They haven’t been playing great lately, but keep getting the points. Let’s hope they leave everything on the ice tonight because there are no games to play for the next few days. And because it will probably take exactly that to beat Las Vegas.

Pavelec is scheduled to start. Zucc “fell ill” yesterday, and will be a game-time decision. Kampfer is surely prucha’d. Lettieri maybe too, depending on whether Zucc is ready to go or not.

LGR!!!!!

UPDATE: Brendan Smith ( who really struggled against his brother  last time these two teams met ) is prucha’d. Steve Kampfer is in. Pavel Buchnevich, whose game really took a nose dive lately is also prucha’d. So Vincent Lettieri remains in the lineup. Zucc returns after his short illness.

Rangers-Coyotes in Review

We have a guest review from Scotsdale Ranger. Sorry for missing the go time thread. Of course, that means I missed the game, but reading over the review, it doesn’t sound like I missed much. Oh well. HAV. Now, the review:

Greetings from the desert! It’s a pleasure to do the game review for our boys’ annual trip into Glendale for the second straight year. This year I attended with my dad (long suffering Rangers fan), my friend Dan, and my cousins who live in Idaho now (originally from NY) and are getting on a plane Sunday morning to see the Vegas game Sunday night. Quite the weekend for them! Hopefully it’ll be a 4 point weekend!

Continue reading “Rangers-Coyotes in Review”