JGD 68: "And you know it's going to be good!"

Kevin McCartney
March 14 2014 04:17PM

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The new-look New York Rangers are in town tonight with all eyes on their smallest second smallest winger. 

Martin St Louis took a lot of public flak over his ego-driven decision to leave the Bolts, and so expectations are naturally high. How dare he do that and then score just one point in his first five games as a Ranger?! Thinks he's so good... 

Well, in fact, he is. He's the 4th best scorer in the entire league over the last 3 seasons (Malkin, Kessler, and Giroux ahead of him), and 7th best if we go by points per game (add in Crosby, Stamkos, and Tavares). He's ahead of Ovechkin and the Sedins and Thornton and Toews and Datsyuk and all the other stars that get talked about as 'elite.' He's also had a couple Selke votes for best defensive forward in the past five years and might have had more were he not playing in obscurity down south.

Coming into game 6 for the Rangers, his ice time is up, the verbal is good, and the chances are coming. If this were the Yakuza / Mafia fight from The Simpsons, Martin St Louis would be the tiny guy in the white suit. Don't turn away too soon, Jets fans.

Lines

Jets Forwards

  • Ladd - Little - Frolik
  • Kane - Jokinen - Setoguchi
  • Byfuglien - Slater - Wheeler
  • Thorburn - O'Dell - Peluso

This team misses Scheifele, of course, but even a better coach is getting caught in the same old trap of over-thinking these lines. O'Dell is a skill centre who can't get a regular shift ahead of the always frantic Jim Slater. It makes some sense, since that line has Byfuglien on it, who is worse at defence while playing forward than he ever was while playing defence. Wheeler's game has really come apart this season, as well, and he dropped his defence a few miles back. 

Jokinen and Kane are back together for lack of other obvious options, and it seems Tangradi is back in the press box for being harder to understand than the more pugilistic fourth liners. We can only wonder what the line of Buf/Jokinen/Seto would look like if Seto was on his good wing. Moreover, a Kane/Wheeler/O'Dell grouping might be a handful for the Rangers while Maurice controls the matchups. 

Oh, and Dustin Byfuglien is the league's third highest scoring defender since he took over that position. So there are yet a few more ways to edit a lineup that failed to get two points against a battered and defeated Canucks team and is 2-2-3 since the break.

Jets Defence

  • Enstrom - Bogosian
  • Stuart - Trouba
  • Pardy - Ellerby

  • Pavelec
  • Montoya
On the one hand, these pairings appear to be working. Enstrom and Bogosian are carrying the load and Pardy/Ellerby are better than the sum of their parts. Pavelec has a .913 sv % in March, which is a stunning improvement over his season total of .903. On the other hand, Pavelec also has a GAA above three this month and the team is giving up shots like it's a plan.

The Stuart/Trouba pairing continues to look exciting while mostly being out shot and out scored. Trouba carries the play (and his partner) visibly, but Mark Stuart is the team's worst defender not named "AHL Fodder" by every process metric we have. 

Interestingly, the team's corsi numbers are almost 1/10th (10%) worse with Pavelec in net than Montoya. Something, something, rebounds, something, something, Pavelec is a monster.

Rangers Forwards

  • Kreider - Stepan - Nash
  • Hagelin - Richards - St Louis
  • Pouliot - Brassard - Zuccarello
  • Boyle - Moore - Carcillo

This is a much deeper forward group than the Jets have, though they haven't scored as much as expected. On this road trip, the team has managed just two goals in two games. 

Richards, Stepan, and Zuccarello are all tied with a team leading 45 points each. Impressive considering the slow start Stepan had after missing training camp, the fact that Zuccarello had played just 67 games over 3 seasons prior to this year, and Brad Richards was nearly bought out for approximately a gajillion dollars just to keep him off the club. 

The addition of St Louis should boost their 11th ranked powerplay, but he doesn't have a true sniper to feed on this club and the adaptation is on-going. 

Worth watching on this club is the forecheck. The Canucks under Vigneault had a lot of team speed but not much size. They used a 1-2-2 weak side lock play that drove dumb teams crazy. They would flow away from the obvious pressure and right into the half-board pressure point on the weak side. The bigger and meaner Rangers want to turn the puck over a little deeper, and the Jets will have to get the puck off the boards quickly to break containment. 

Rangers Defence

  • Girardi - McDonagh
  • Staal - Stralman
  • Moore - Klein

  • Lundqvist
  • Talbot

Funny how these things go. A year ago, the Rangers wanted more scoring from the back end and someone to spell Lundqvist. Apparently those aren't priorities under the new coach.

Anton Stralman doesn't get much love. He was a victim of the Hitchcock Madness in Columbus, and was labeled an offensive blueliner with own-zone tribulations. This year, he's the best corsi defender on the Rangers while managing just 8 points. His skating is his strength, and he makes simple plays with the puck under Vigneault. 

John Moore and Kevin Klein play just 15 minutes a night, and this team leans very heavily on leading defensive scorer Ryan McDonagh (11 goals, 36 points) and Dan Girardi. 

The relatively big bodies of the Jets have a chance to wear down a thin defence group that is already frustrated and challenge Lundqvist on the breakdowns. It's about the best chance any team has to beat King Henrik, even during this off-year in which he has a mere .916 save rate. 

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Kevin is a regular contributor to Jets Nation. His work has been featured on Bleacher Report, The Sporting News, and around the Nations Network. An enthusiastic over-analyst, his background and interests are diverse, but you might notice he's obsessed with hockey. Track him down on twitter @kevinmccart
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