In The Crease With Kappy: Standings watch, Skjei’s going to get paid, Wilson scares me, Power Play struggles and how Shatty will own the Caps
As the New York Rangers head to the nation’s capitol to face the Washington Capitals, they enter an all important back to back the next two days. They’ll return home tomorrow to face the New Jersey Devils. This is point getting season right now and without sounding the alarm, it’s not a good time for the Rangers to leave any of these 4 points up for grabs the next two nights on the table.
Ughh (puke face emoji). The player in me hates to be watching the standings even at this time of the season. The reality is the New York Rangers still sit in 6th place in the Metropolitan Division. Four points back of 1st place, and 3 points back of Washington for the 1st Wild Card spot. Advantage Rangers in the race for the wild card because of Games Played. However, New Jersey and Columbus are slowly beginning to pull away from the pack. Double puke, the Islanders are too. If you missed it, we spoke about the standings on the most recent episode of Tilted Ice Podcast. You can catch it here on iTunes. If you haven’t subscribed yet, shame on you.
Here’s the deal though
Two losses this weekend sets the Rangers pretty far back of 1st place and that does matter for a few reasons. Most importantly though is if the Rangers find themselves in contention for a top spot in the Metropolitan then Jeff Gorton is forced to dip into Dolan’s checkbook and add pieces to this team down the stretch run.
However, if they’re battling for a Wild Card spot, he may very well likely air on the side of caution and cash in some of his chips for future pieces. We’re talking about guys like Rick Nash, Michael Grabner, shoot even Mats Zuccarello. Even with the NHL salary cap about to rise (Thanks Vegas!) there’s still some major decisions this team is going to have to make about it’s long term future in the coming 18 months that very well depend on what type of team this “core group” really is. Rick Nash and Michael Grabner are both UFA’s after this season and while Nash can be brought back at a lesser amount, you should believe we’ll see a Hagelin situation with Grabner where he’s a tougher player to quantify paying his true worth to, but I assure you his speed and defensive play are tough to replicate. He’s not coming back at the same $1.5m per year we have him on that’s for sure. Can you pay a bottom six player $4 million? Problem is, last time we didn’t, it really hurt us in the long run.
Then there are the RFA’s; J.T. Miller, Kevin Hayes will surely command some nice raises from the $2.6-$2.7m they’re currently making and are entering bridge contract territory (see Zibanejad’s contract negotiation.) Gorton is going to have to decide if these two are his guys up the middle, at which case he’ll have to give them some term and some coin. If they’re not, he’ll have to move them and get return worthy of doing so. If the team is forcing his hand, contending for the Metropolitan, then that bodes well for these two in blue for years to come. If not, they may become trade bait. Then there’s Brady Skjei who’s entering RFAville but in that part of town that he’s coming off his rookie contract. Brady Skjei is a cornerstone building block piece. So you can give him a 3-4 year deal at $4 million per, but in reality you do not want him coming close to UFA at 27 years of age. He is an eventual Norris Trophy Candidate and really the prized possession of the organization’s youth. If i’m Gorton, i’m looking at what it’ll cost to lock him up for 8 years at a team friendly cost, even if it means over paying him.
Offseason talk aside
The importance of these coming games truly does reflect on if these are going to be talking points going forward or not. If the Rangers drop the next two, they can find themselves 6-8 points out of contention for a spot in the Metro Three. They’ve been stuck at 4-5 points back for weeks now despite all the winning they’ve been doing so this is not a time for a step back, however a great time for a step forward and to make up some well deserved ground. The Rangers could find themselves tied for 1st place in the Metropolitan Division Sunday morning or they can find themselves 7 points out of 3rd place.
I’m a bit nervous
Ovechkin vs. Lundqvist is a great rivalry. You have the best goal scorer of the generation going up against the best goal stopper of the generation and they’ve both gotten their shots in. It’s actually a lot of fun when you remove the emotion of being a fan. What makes me nervous though is Barry Trotz’s move to insert Tom Wilson on the Capitals top line on Ovechkin’s off wing.
The guy can punch, he can hit, he can be a pest and guess what? He can score as well. The top duo of Buchnevich and Kreider will not see the ice against the Capitals top line if AV has any say in the matter. So it’s going to be on Hayes and Miller to play this line physical and smart.
Power Play, Power Play, Power Play, Power Play.
Let me be blunt, the Power Play has been struggling lately against teams not named the Carolina Hurricanes. I don’t even need an exact stat for you to prove it, it just hasn’t. Since Columbus teams are now playing the the man-advantage differently and although the Rangers only had 1 1/2 power plays against Pittsburgh, there were some good things to take away, but also some concerning things to take away. We dove deep into it here in this scouting video. I highly recommend you watch it.
The important factor for the Rangers is going to be establishing a cycle down low as a counter measure to the way teams have been playing their points and puck carriers. In a game like tonight’s and also tomorrow’s, the special teams are going to make a huge difference and you really want to see the Rangers power play break out of it’s slumber. The point shot isn’t there, the cross ice pass isn’t there. Teams are daring them to carry the puck into the corners and distribute from there. Teams are daring them to take the low shot and cash in on the rebound. They have to take that dare and cash in on it. Then and only then will that point shot open back up. We discussed it on the podcast and we’ve looked at the power play multiple times before. What i’m seeing here and what Pittsburgh did is very important and something many are missing.
I personally really respect the heck out of Barry Trotz as a person. He does so much for the community and is a family first kind of guy he’s really all class, all the way. However, he grossly overlooked and screwed the pooch when it came down to his assessment of Kevin Shattenkirk. Here’s what he had to say (courtesy of The Sporting News).
“I think everybody thought of him as a 1-2 (defenseman), and he wasn’t,” said Trotz. “He was a little lower.” Trotz did also say that the trade with the Blues “worked in areas that we wanted. (Shattenkirk) helped our power play. He made it more dangerous and that. “I think it worked out OK. I think overall he was fine.” “I think he had a patch in the one series where it wasn’t really good,” Trotz said of Shattenkirk’s postseason play. “I think he regained it and scored a big goal for us in Pitt. “I just think, yeah, the first series wasn’t…that’s what you remember. It sticks out.”
G*d D*mn it Barry, are you really a hockey coach? Your teams are good, you win a lot of games, by golly you suck in the playoffs but you’re a good coach and a good evaluator. What in your right mind when your GM called you and said “we’re going to make a move for Kevin Shattenkirk” told you that he was a 1-2? Did you not watch any game film? Did you expect him to be Chris Pronger on the backend? He is an offensive defenseman. He’s a power play specialist with extraordinary puck handling skills and a heck of a shot. If you for one second thought, he was capable of defending guys the likes of Auston Mathews and Sidney Crosby and shutting them down, get back in the film room buddy. That’s not who he is.
I give a huge Dilly Dilly to Shattenkirk’s response. Honest, true and genuine. Shattenkirk knows what he is and knows what he has to work on. Somewhere I have a feeling he’s going to have a multi point night tonight, and I’m going to give a standing ovation when he somehow puts Ovechkin down in the defensive zone miraculously.
If you follow us on Twitter @TheTiltedIce , you know we give out Lollipop’s on top of each games 3 stars. We do that to give a little spotlight and recognition to the guys who played a really good game but might not have effected it on the score sheet or the spread sheet. However the eye’s showed us otherwise. Jesper Fast, Boo Nieves and Paul Carey are so deserving of Lollipop’s with their recent play. For Fast, it’s shown up on the scoresheet. For Boo, it’s actually shown up on the spreadsheet from what i’ve heard and for Carey, it’s shown on the game film. These are the nitty gritty guys who do everything well away from the puck. Their play is “intangible.” They will be big factors as they allow Vigneault to spread out the lineup, even with his top center out with a concussion and roll four lines. The ability to roll four lines will be the difference maker against top heavy teams like Washington and Pittsburgh.
Whacky and Weird
The New York Rangers are the only team without a Shorthanded Goal yet this season. Just making a prediction here but that’s going to change this weekend. Michael Grabner or Kevin Hayes will score a shorthanded goal, the play warrants one.