Craig Morgan tackled a variety of topics today in his latest “Craig’s List” column on Today’s Slapshots. Among them, Morgan questions whether the New York Rangers’ hot start is sustainable. He cites the home-heavy early schedule that has seen the Rangers play eight of their first 12 games at MSG as one reason to doubt that the Blueshirts can maintain their level of play.
Additionally, as Morgan also notes, the team has received a lot of production from unexpected sources. Michael Grabner, for instance, already has seven goals and 10 points through 12 contests for the Rangers. Last season in Toronto, Grabner tallied just nine times in 80 games and has failed to crack the 20-goal mark in four years. It’s certainly unlikely Grabner will continue his torrid pace.
Morgan also singles out rookie winger Jimmy Vesey, who has six goals for the Blueshirts, as another player whose production is almost sure to fall off as the season wears on. Vesey never played more than 37 games in a single season while at Harvard and at some point will hit the proverbial “rookie wall.”
Finally, Morgan writes that the Rangers PDO (a combination of team’s shooting and save percentages) is likely set for regression. New York currently owns the 4th highest five-on-five PDO in the league at 104.29, buoyed in large part by a ridiculous 11.72% shooting percentage, tops in the league. However, it should be noted the Rangers also led the NHL in shooting percentage in 2015-16, converting 9% of their shots on goal at five-on-five into goals. Even if the Blueshirts shooting percentage regressed to that 9% figure, they’d still be among the highest scoring teams in the league.
Plus, while Morgan highlights several players whose production is probably unsustainable over the course of a full season, there are a few Rangers who have yet to play up to their potential. Derek Stepan, who has averaged 0.25 goals/game throughout his career, has just one through 12 to start this season. Mika Zibanejad is averaging nearly three shots on goal per contest but only two have found their way into the back of the net. His career shooting percentage is 10.6% suggesting if he was converting at his normal rate he’d have more goals on his ledger.
Naturally the Rangers should not be expected to win three out of every four games but this is a team that plays fast and has four lines that can score. Add to that one of the best goalies in the game in Henrik Lundqvist, and this Rangers team has the look of Stanley Cup contender. The question is, will they look like one next spring.
More from Morgan:
- Apparently, leaving Al Montoya in for all 10 goals in Montreal’s 10 – 0 loss Thursday night was not well received within the goalie community. Not surprisingly, no active tender expressed his opinion publicly but former NHL netminder Corey Hirsch was not shy about his feelings: “I just thought it was disrespectful to Montoya. It’s basically saying we care about Carey Price. We really don’t care what happens to you. It’s not like they’re scratching for their playoffs lives. It’s October, they were 9-0-1 and this is a guy who helped get them there when Price was out at the start of the year. For me, it took away from the team concept you try to build. If I’m a teammate, I’m looking around and saying ‘I guess he’s not afraid to throw one person to the wolves. Maybe I’m next.’” According to Morgan, several other former NHL goalies agreed with Hirsch’s sentiments though none wished to be quoted on the subject. Of course Montreal is no stranger to this type of controversy. Back in 1995, then Canadiens bench boss Mario Tremblay allowed Patrick Roy to remain in a game against Detroit in which the Hall of Fame goalie would eventually allow nine goals before being removed. As he stormed off the ice, Roy told team president Ronald Corey that he had played his final game for Montreal. He was dealt a few days later to Colorado and the rest is history.
- When the St. Louis Blues acquired Nail Yakupov from Edmonton it was expected they would be patient with the enigmatic but talented winger. That patience may already be starting to wear thin, however, as Morgan notes Yakupov was a healthy scratch Saturday night. Head coach Ken Hitchcock tried to deflect that line of thinking by pointing out the team has 14 forwards on the roster and he was just trying to get everyone in. “We’ve got lots of choices. We’ve got 14 forwards and everybody is going to play this weekend, so we’ll just figure it out from there. If he doesn’t play (Saturday), he’ll be back in (Sunday), so it’s not a big deal.” Evidently Hitchcock changed his mind as Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch tweeted earlier that the Blues were going with the same lineup as Saturday night with Yakupov and Ty Rattie scratched. Perhaps it’s a sign that Yakupov is falling out of favor already in St. Louis or maybe it’s just a tactic to try to motivate the former top overall draft pick.