With minimal practice time to get used to coach Alain Vigneault’s system, it’s no huge surprise the Rangers have struggled to start the season. A new coach typically means an adjustment period for the team.
Now, granted, the extent of their struggles is surprising — when an NHL team loses the way New York has lost, there’s more than just one thing going wrong — but according to veteran forward Brad Richards, one notable difference between Vigneault’s system and the one the Rangers played under former bench boss John Tortorella occurs in the neutral zone when the opposition has the puck.
“Basically, there’s a difference in when we pressure the puck in the neutral zone,” Richards said, per the New York Post. “With Torts, the forwards went to the puck right away and the defense read off that.
“Now, it’s more that we want to push the puck into the middle and form a triangle where we push out and read off that. There’s an adjustment there, and if there’s a delay in reacting and the difference because of that is four or five feet, it may not sound like a lot, but it is.”
Again, learning a new system can’t explain how badly the Rangers have lost games, like 9-2 in San Jose and 6-0 two nights later in Anaheim. As Richards says, “The overall message that we have to embrace is that ‘Hockey is hockey.'”
But certainly the Rangers’ neutral-zone defending will be worth watching tonight in Washington against the likes of Alex Ovechkin, a player they really won’t want to let fly through the middle of the ice like this…
The Boston Bruins rolled through much of the regular season despite injuries, even to key players like Patrice Bergeron. The fact that they’re unfortunately experienced playing without Bergeron is probably the only silver lining regarding his late scratch heading into Game 4.
Drew Doughty of the Los Angeles Kings, Victor Hedman of the Tampa Bay Lightning and P.K. Subban of the Nashville Predators have been named finalists for the 2018 Norris Trophy. The award, voted on by the Professional Hockey Writers Assocation, is given “to the defense player who demonstrates throughout the season the greatest all-round ability in the position,” will be handed out during the NHL Awards show June 20 in Las Vegas.
This is the fourth time Doughty has been name a finalist. He won the award in 2016 after finishing second the year before. Hedman finished third in the voting last season and this is the second time he’s finished in the top three. Subban, like Doughty, has a Norris Trophy on his resume (2013). This is the third time he’s been up for the award.
The Case for Drew Doughty: The Kings blue liner finished sixth in scoring among defensemen with 60 points, which included 10 goals. He also led all NHL players in total ice time with 2,200:31, finishing with an average of 26:50 per game. He had a strong possession game with a 53 percent Corsi and a 4.39 Relative Corsi, meaning LA fired nearly five shots more per 60 minutes when Doughty was on the ice.
“I’m not starting the season, thinking ‘oh I got to get the most points I can, so I can win the Norris,’” he told The Athletic last month. “I’m starting the season, thinking, ‘I’ve got to get my defensive game even better, because that’s where my team needs me the most – to lead the charge in that area. It’s a team game and it’s about winning championships.”
The Case for Victor Hedman: Hedman finished tied for first among defensemen in goals scored with 17 and finished fourth in points with 63. He set a career high in ice time with 1,990:30 total minutes, averaging 25:51 per night. The possession stats for the Lightning defenseman were solid as well, with a 52 percent Corsi and a 0.38 Relative Corsi.
“I’m fortunate to be on an unbelievable team that helped me out through my first decade in the league, to help me grow into the player I want to be,” he told Sports Illustrated in February. “Still got stuff to work on and get better at, but obviously winning the Norris would be something that I want to do. I want to be at the top of my game. I want to play my best every night.”
The Case for P.K. Subban: Subban was right behind Hedman in goals scored (16) and right behind Doughty in total points (59). He logged 1,977:24 of ice time, playing in all 82 games for the Predators this season. As you’d expect from a Norris finalist, his possession stats were good, as he finished with a 52 percent Corsi and a 0.3 Relative Corsi.
Earlier this season, Subban told the Tennessean he felt his defensive game was overlooked. “The offensive part of my game has always been there,” he said. “The defensive part has always been there as well, but for whatever reason, I don’t seem to get the credit for what I do in my (defensive) zone and how I contribute defensively for our hockey club.”
When the Nashville Predators attempt to close out their series against the Colorado Avalanche on Friday night they will be without forward Ryan Hartman.
The NHL’s Department of Player Safety announced on Thursday afternoon that Hartman has been suspended one game for an illegal check to the head of Avalanche forward Carl Soderberg during the Predators’ 3-2 win in Game 4 on Wednesday.
Here is the NHL’s explanation for the suspension.
He was given a two-minute minor penalty for charging on the play. It happened early in the third period.
It turned out to be a pretty eventful night for Hartman as he was also penalized in the second period for roughing and holding the stick during a sequence that saw him get speared by Avalanche forward Sven Andrighetto.
Andrighetto was given a roughing penalty during the sequence, but to this point has not received any supplemental discipline for the spearing incident.
There was only one suspension during the entire 2017 playoffs.
The Predators acquired Hartman at the trade deadline from the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for Victor Ejdsell, a first-round pick, and a fourth-round pick. In 78 games this season between the two teams he scored 11 goals to go with 20 assists. Three of those goals game as a member of the Predators. So far in the first-round series against Colorado he has scored one goal for the Predators.