Are the Rangers revealing a new offensive system this year?
Every season Alain Vigneault tinkers with his line combinations until he finds what he feels will work for the long term. From year to year though, AV alters how his team creates its offense. What will Alain Vigneault have the Rangers doing this season to create scoring chances? Will there be a combination of his first two seasons in New York or will he implement a whole different scheme?
AV’s systems over the last two seasons
The Blueshirts were a fairly straight ahead North/South hockey club up until 2012/13 under John Tortorella. They became a puck possession team under Alain Vigneault and eventually turned that into a Stanley Cup Final run in 2013/14, his first season. During that regular season the Rangers were 52.4% on ice Corsi for percentage of at even strength. The offense was then based on shot attempts and subsequent rebounds from those shots. The Rangers used a strong neutral zone forecheck to turn the puck the other way as well.
Vigneault’s Rangers’ used a fairly straight forward possession based offense. The Rangers would regroup as often as they had to in order to gain the offensive blue line with some momentum or speed. Once they gained the offensive zone the Rangers looked to establish some flow also known as a cycle.
Last season, his second in Manhattan, AV began to get the Rangers to create more offense off the rush from the defensive zone. This rush offense got the Rangers to third in the NHL in total offense and number one in goal differential thanks to defense becoming more aggressive. 50% of the Rangers offense last season was on the rush and as a result they took less low percentage shots than the season before and forced more high percentage shots.
Back in 13/14 the Rangers shooting percentage was right around NHL average at 6.7% due to the amount of shots they took. Last season with the rush offense, the Rangers shot 8.4% which is a substantial rise over an 82 game season.
AV’s new offense?
The Rangers create offense from defense by using quick breakout passes and puck support to beat opposing teams to their net. Against the Blackhawks, the Rangers wasted little time taking it to them. Their first goal of the season by Oscar Lindberg at 1:43 into the game happened after Patrick Kane and Artemi Panarin of the Hawks had a 2 on 1 and failed to execute. Viktor Stalberg made a nice quick outlet pass to J.T. Miller and the Rangers turned a scoring chance against into a goal for. That has been the Rangers bread and butter the last two plus seasons now.
The 15/16 Rangers look very much like a mix of 13/14 and 14/15 seasons in terms of how they create their offense. Combining the two in a sense could be a recipe for a dominant offensive Rangers team. If he can keep what worked last season in his aggressive defensive zone coverage and have a better possession team, we could see the Rangers reach full potential.
Keeping ahead of the pack
John Cooper, the coach of the Tampa Bay Lightning copied a lot of what the Rangers do in terms of speed. They have a faster overall roster in Tampa but they play a zone defense coverage which keeps his team from being able to breakout as fast as the Rangers do. Alain Vigneault is one of the most innovative coaches in the entire NHL and I have no doubt he will add something to the Rangers strategy this season.
Vigneault will want to keep the opposition from knowing what’s coming this year. And so when other coaches like John Cooper in Tampa and Mike Johnston in Pittsburgh attempt to copy his past systems. The Rangers are still a step ahead of them.
When AV was hired he stated that he would start the Rangers off slow in terms of the system he employed and got more complicated and indepth as the season went along. Just like he did in Vancouver in his seven seasons with the Canucks. Now, in an effort to get the Rangers to the promised land, he may be making a few more subtle changes to the offense.