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Friday, April 10, 2015

Final Thoughts on NY Rangers before 2015 Playoff Run (Part 1)

   Assuming there is no injury dealt to a NY Ranger on Saturday's season-finale matinee in Washington D.C., Game 1 of the 1st Round Playoffs will be an opportune time for the blueshirts to finally take the ice with 100% health. With Kevin Klein set to return from his broken arm injury, we will see New York the healthiest it’s been since the night of Lundqvist’s neck injury.

   Does anything “odd” come to mind when looking over the projected NYR playoff lineup?...

Zuccarello - Brassard - Nash
Kreider - Stepan - St. Louis
Hagelin - Hayes - Miller
Fast - Moore - Glass

McDonagh - Girardi
Staal - Boyle
Yandle - Klein


(Extras: Shepperd, Hunwick, Summers, AHL call-ups)

   … Well, did you notice something? 

   If not, try this spoiler on for size: This particular group of players has actually NEVER played a single game together!

    Keith Yandle, Henrik Lundqvist, Martin St. Louis & Kevin Klein have never been in the lineup all at the same time. The opening game of the NYR playoffs is set to be the debut of the 100% completely healthy post-trade-deadline New York Rangers.

   Scary, huh? 

   Well… scary for opponents. A fairly pleasant bit of trivia for any Rangers fan, no doubt.

   How about this: when Boyle, Brassard, Klein, Kreider, Lundqvist, McDonagh, Miller, Nash, Stepan, St. Louis & Zuccarello all play in the same game: NYR is 12-3 this season.

   12-3? That’s a points percentage of 80%, which is well-above the already-league-leading 69% NYR has amassed in the total season!

   Can this team really be BETTER in the 1st round than it has in the past 10 weeks? I mean: NYR are 14-5-1 since acquiring Yandle. When all these players hit the ice, with Yandle/Klein/Lundqvist all onboard together at the same time for some shifts, could it possibly decrease Broadway’s winning formula in any way conceivable? 

   The answer is: probably freaking not.

   Not only does head coach Alain Vigneault rotate a remarkably even-keel on spreading out ice time for forwards & defensemen, but there seems to be an equally spread-out wave of rest amongst key players, perhaps extremely beneficial for a potential Stanley Cup run.

   Lundqvist: 36 games missed/rested

   McDonagh: 11 games missed/rested

   Boyle: 17 games missed/rested

   St. Louis: 8 games missed/rested

   Klein: 17 games missed/rested

   Stepan: 14 games missed/rested

   These injuries will seem like blessings-in-disguise should NYR have another series of hockey battles lasting into the month of June. Any advantage of rest, or less-energy-expended-than-opponent, will be absolutely clutch. Gaps of missed time, save a few cob webs, can make the difference in close, battle-of-the-beaten-teams rundowns.

   You think Marian Gaborik’s successfully sprite playoff performance with LA last postseason had anything to do with him spending 50% of the regular season resting with injury? As if Jonathan Quick would have as much left in the tank as he did last May/June had he played 1,000 minutes more than the 2904 he played in the ’13-’14 regular season?

   Actually we did some research... over the past 10 Stanley Cups winners, how many Cup-winning goaltenders finished Top-10 Minutes Played in that regular season? Answer: Just 2.! Yup, twice in the past decade. Only Marc-Andre Fleury 2009 (9th in minutes) & Jonathan Quick 2012 (4th in minutes) were able to play the big minutes in the season AND win it all in June. The other 80% of the time, championship teams had goalies with far less regular season minutes. Causation/correlation? 

   The theory of (Rested Goalie) = (Better Stamina in May/June) >>> (Overworked Goalie) = (Lower Stamina in May/June) sure seems plausible, at least at a glance.

   By the way, the 8 well-rested Cup-winning goalies the past 10 postseasons are: Crawford'13 (21st), Quick'12 (21st), Thomas'11 (14th), Niemi'10 (34th), Osgood'08 (30th), Giguere'07 (18th), Ward'06 (46th), Khabibulin'04 (17th).

   Lundqvist: Currently 27th in the NHL.

   So we have a well-rested King Henrik, who has (abnormal to his career, mind you) played a conservative amount of minutes this season. What about rival Eastern Conference powerhouses' goaltenders? 7 of the 8 possible teams are sporting netminders in the Top-20 minutes played. Only OTT Senators with Andrew 'Hamburgler' Hammond have the advantage of rest over New York.

   Metro Division rival Brayden Holtby (WSH) leads all NHL goalies in minutes played. Rask (BOS) is 3rd, Price (MTL) is 4th, Fleury (PIT) is 8th, Bishop (TBL) is 12th, Halak (NYI) is 13th, & Howard (DET) is 20th. 

   Let's be real: Henrik Lundqvist will have a considerable edge of stamina against any "top" Eastern Conference foe. In a league where rest-is-best when dealing with goaltenders winning Cups, the rarity of a Lundqvist long-term injury (seemingly detrimental at the time) has now become a new rarity, seemingly helpful at this time.

   A combination of rest, rotation & multiple-egg-basket distribution has a seriously optimistic ring for NY Rangers fans. The top-20 NYR contracts will all be healthy & in the lineup together again at Game 1 for the first time since January. Talk about timing, talk about a plan coming together damn nicely.
   We'll likely post a follow-up when the NY Rangers playoff opponent is officially decided Saturday.

   The playoffs start next Wednesday.

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