Film Room: Lazy analysis and why it’s flawed

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Immediately following the Rangers loss to Florida on Tuesday, our twitter timeline was flooded with Blame Holden and Fire AV talk. More Blame Holden though. Just like everyone who had a reaction to the Panthers game-winning goal, I too saw what they saw as in the play.

Here’s where it’s flawed. Holden did screen Pavelec on the play, that’s a fact, but it is lazy pinning it all on Holden. For starters, he barely screens Pavelec, who was able to see the puck come off the shooter’s stick. Holden also did the right thing knowing that with Smith down, the slot empty and a Panthers player sitting in front of the net, he had to disrupt any chance of a redirect on the shot, something which he did.

His timing was late on the blocked shot attempt, but when I went back to look at the play, I noticed a fair amount of things that went wrong. The first thing that I saw that went wrong was a poor decision with the puck by Pavel Buchnevich in the offensive zone. With his line already on the ice for 40 seconds, the player needs to be aware of this and needs to manage the play accordingly.

From the corner, where the Rangers forward group was clearly looking to possess the puck in order to get fresh bodies on the ice, he had the choice of moving the puck to either Chris Kreider behind the net (which would’ve gotten Desharnais off the ice or both if Kreider is able to tie up the puck along the boards long enough) or to the hash marks to David Desharnais.

The bottom line is when you’re possessing the puck in the offensive zone, you want to keep it there. At the same time, you know that with two minutes to go, fresh legs are important and shifts longer than 40 seconds are detrimental. Buchnevich then attempts a cross-ice feed past four Panthers players to Brendan Smith, who comes streaking into the zone. Smith streaking, could’ve served as the second man in for Kreider behind the net as well.

The puck never gets to Smith’s stick and the puck leaves the offensive zone where the Rangers then have to change forwards up from the neutral zone, allowing the Panthers to then pressure Smith into a turnover and then, as the forwards are still changing, pressure Holden into a turnover. I use the term “pressure” because in both cases, the puck carrier (Smith and Holden) actually made the only play they had to make.

All in all, it’s very easy to point a quick finger and blame one player. However, in reality, I guarantee you not one Ranger came off the ice after that game and pointed the finger at Nick Holden. I can also guarantee you that when they review the tape on that shift, Holden’s screen is probably the seventh or eighth thing they point out on the play.

I’ve said this time and time again. Pavel Buchnevich is an elite offensive talent. He contributed to the game offensively with a goal and two assists. The downside is he doesn’t see the game to an awareness point that would make one comfortable playing him in all situations. Which is what I believe is exactly why Vigneault reigned in his ice time a bit in the third period.

Decision making is rarely quantified statistically.

I applaud Buchnevich for making the high risk/high reward decision to try to feed Smith; and if it works out, he looks brilliant. However, 40 seconds into your shift with 2 trips back and forth up the ice late in the game warrants a change. And being able to change in the offensive zone is more controllable with fewer unknowns, as compared to the neutral or defensive zones.

The blame doesn’t lay with Buchnevich, nor does it sit with Smith, Holden or Alain Vigneault. The fact is that the team went down 0-3 in the first period and battled their way back into the game. At 4-4 you want to ensure the point. That ties into preparation as the Rangers shouldn’t have been down 0-3 in the first place.

I encourage you, as a fan, to not be “lazy” in your analysis and to judge things fairly. There are a lot more positives than negatives to take away from that game. But just like offense starts in the defensive zone, sometimes defense starts in the offensive zone.

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