Down the middle analysis: The Rangers Four Centerman

Derick Brassard got the party started against Buffalo 1/3/15 (Photo: Jared Silber/Getty)

As we’ve spoken ad nauseam of late about how the New York Rangers have been running through the NHL with relative ease the last month of the season. Things haven’t been this good since 1994 when the Stanley Cup was raised by Mark Messier in June of that year.

Roster Turnover has been a hinderance to the Rangers lineup the last three seasons!

1994 Centerman Messier

Messier lifts the Cup high for all the Faithful to see (NHL)

Can this New York Ranger team compare to the one that won a seven game series against the Vancouver Canucks? Is this year’s team better than the one that made a run to the finals last season?

Hard to compare the two since there was so much roster turnover last summer. Benoit Pouliot, Brian Boyle, Derrick Dorsett, Ryan Callahan, Brad Richards, Daniel Carcillo, and Anton Stralman are all gone and playing for different teams. This started off slow due to the aforementioned roster turnover and lack of continuity between the replacements and the core Rangers.

Derick Brassard began the season as an unknown centerman in the lineup.

Derek Brassard as we mentioned before was signed to a five year contract that will pay him five million per season. After playing very well last season as the third pivot on a deep New York Rangers team, no one knew what Derick Brassard’s role would be this season. However, since the first month of the season Derick Brassard has cemented himself as the top centerman. Per NHLnumbers.com Derick Brassard is scoring 6.6 points per million on his cap charge for the 14/15 season. He has displayed some top line center production at a reasonable cap hit. A big win for Glen Sather and the New York Rangers.

Derick Brassard has settled in as the top Centerman and ran with the opportunity.

Playing alongside Rick Nash and Mats Zuccarello, Derick Brassard is on pace to break his single season record in points with a (73)seventy-three point pace. His highest single season goal total is the eighteen he scored last season as the third line pivot. He already has eleven goals in only thirty-nine games into the 14/15 season. I’d say Derick Brassard has been money well spent. He is also driving possession at a sustainable pace of 51% on ice Corsi for percentage of. This makes things easier for his linemmates team scoring leader Rick Nash and Mats Zuccarello. Both players have benefited from the stellar play of Derek Brassard.

Derek Stepan played as the Rangers top Centerman for two seasons!

2nd Line Centerman

Derek Stepan has been a different player than years past (Getty)

It took the Rangers until December to put it all together and for new linemates to learn to play together. Last season Derek Stepan played the middle between Chris Kreider and Rick Nash. This season Chris Kreider is still on his left side but instead of Rick Nash, Martin St. Louis is playing the right-wing on Derek Stepan’ second line. Derek Stepan has quietly put together a nice season with twenty-seven points in the same amount of games played.

Of course, we need to hold our breath after he was slashed last night by Matt Martin in the 2nd period and did not return. If he misses time, expect JT Miller to shift back to center.

This season Stepan is at 45.5% CF! A Career 51% for the Centerman

The only troubling thing is that Derek Stepan’s career On ice Corsi for percentage of is about 51.5%. This season Stepan is an abysmal 45% CF% and that is partially due to Martin St Louis (47% CF) and Chris Kreider not shooting the puck for two months.

The fact that Derek Stepan doesn’t have a pure shooter on his line anymore has hindered him from driving possession. Martin St. Louis is a 49% CF for his long career and he plays like another playmaker on that line. Derek Stepan (51.5 OZS%) Martin St. Louis (53.8 OZS%) and Chris Kreider (55.9 OZS%) are all starting most shifts (After a whistle) in the attacking zone. The point here is that with these types of minutes all three skaters should be able to drive possession better than they have. Still a small sample size, we will revisit after the regular season.

Not a Centerman but we wish he was

Kreider scores and he needs to do it more! (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, John Woods)

Part of Stepan’s drop in possession stats has been due to his linemates.

Chris Kreider went a long stretch where he lost confidence in his game. He had a death in the family and that seemed to coincide with his drop in production. Lately, Chris Kreider has been much more assertive and decisive in his game. Of the three players on that line, Chris Kreider has to be the sure fire shooter. There cannot be three playmakers looking to make a pass. Kreider has the size to bull his way into the slot and hold his own in the hit zone along the boards in the corner.

Since the loss in Dallas to the Stars, Chris Kreider is playing the way we all expect him to as the eye exam would show. The analytics have improved over the course of the five game winning streak and that should help get Derek Stepan back near his career average Corsi percentage of 51%.

The third center position held by Brassard last season now falls to Hayes!

3rd Centerman Hayes

Kevin Hayes (Getty)

The New York Rangers are not very big down the middle overall. This hurt in the Finals against the LA Kings who boast the largest group of pivots in the National Hockey League. Hence the acquisition of 6′ 5″ 230lb rookie Kevin Hayes.

Kevin Hayes played wing at Boston College but the Rangers signed him to play center with his size and soft hands. Since the third game of the season Kevin Hayes has played on the third line. His decision-making and timing need some work but that will come as he learns the pro game. He has worked with the coaching staff extensively since becoming a fixture in this lineup.

Kevin Hayes needs to improve in the faceoff circle and his aforementioned decision-making could use some work. However, the Rangers could have a real solid player by the end of the regular season with a little patience as Kevin Hayes learns on the job. His size is critical in today’s NHL where so many teams have big centerman and even bigger defenseman. Kevin Hayes will be a big time player come playoff time when it’s time to bull your way to the net or you don’t score.

4th Centerman Moore

Rangers center Dominic Moore #28 is all smiles (Photo by Anthony J. Causi)

The fourth centerman Dominic Moore plays the toughest minutes every game!

Early on, Dominic Moore and the fourth line were not much of an impact. The Rangers needed to find linemates for him that could help him and that line drive possession. He alone has a 50.7% Corsi for while only starting 26.6% of his shifts in the offensive end. That is what it means to play tough minutes. He’s also the only New York Ranger over 50% in the face-off circle with a 55.7% success rate.

Dominic Moore’s draws are mostly in the defensive end making it hard for him to go 200 feet and get shot attempts or Corsi events. Night in and night out Dom Moore is there to help get the puck out of trouble for his team. Defensive centerman with offensive potential like him are hard to find.

Centerman

JT Miller(Getty)

The Rangers have a good group of centerman from line one through four. They have trouble as a team winning face-offs but as we’ve seen the last 4-5 games, the wingers have helped out by either winning the draw or stealing the puck after a loss. Come trade deadline common sense would say that Glen Sather has a good face-off man on his list. I personally don’t think the Rangers really need all that much. They can win games without winning face-offs like we’ve seen with this streak of late.

Today’s professional game is won up the middle. The middle of the ice and the middle of your lineup. For the moment the New York Rangers have a good group of centerman from Derick Brassard to Dominic Moore.

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