Jaromir Jagr

Assume the Position

by Matt Waxman

As the Rangers look to put this bad spell behind them there are several things I would like to point out. First of all, the positional play of this team, in the offensive zone, is horrendous, for the most part.

Think about how many rebound goals, what should be any NHL team’s primary sustenance, the Rangers have scored and it is clear that they are lacking in that category, which is a consequence of bad positioning. However, in last night’s victory over the Hurricanes, the Rangers did put up three rebound goals. But I would say this was more the result of suspect team defense and goaltending on the part of the Carolina Hurricanes; watch the game closely and perhaps you’ll agree with me. The Rangers tend to collect too close to each other and too close to the crease in their usual offensive zone formation, such that the few times they get to a rebound they are too near defenders to shoot or pass the puck effectively. Even when they can pass, their teammates are so close to them, and covered by the other team’s men, that the whole concept of a pass is negated.

After all, there’s no point in moving the puck a foot and half to a teammate, that doesn’t greatly change the goalie’s angle, nor is it smart to move the puck to someone with an entourage of defenders around him, which is another point I need to discuss later. So essentially, because of positioning, all the Rangers can do with rebounds is slap at them in a rather innocuous manner, which you should be familiar with by now.

Adjustments could be easily made to ameliorate the situation, but thus far Tom Renney has not done this. Put one man on the doorstep on one side, on the other side put another man a few feet back, and have the third forward towards one of the slots. See pictures below.

Now to expand on another gripe I mentioned: passing to teammates that are behind enemy lines, i.e. not in position to take a pass. I hope you have noticed it; some players on this team have the tendency to pound the square peg into the circular hole. Off the top of my mind the biggest offenders are Jaromir JagrChris Drury, and at times Scott Gomez, though they are not the only ones.

This is a simple concept and these players are too good to be succumbing to such unavailing impulses. You simply cannot try to string the needle, especially when, even if you succeed, the player accepting the pass is at a bad shooting angle, in position to be injured or cough up the puck, or most importantly cannot shoot because of the proximity of the defenders around him, which necessitated a perfect pass in the first place. The infrequent attempt to spring a breakaway or an odd-man rush is understandable, but a cross ice pass from the point to a man in the corner with two men on him is intolerable. This malady greatly ties in with poor positional play in the offensive zone, as well as, passing up shots in lieu of passing; the New York Rangers are often gun-shy. Maybe the problem is the Rangers think they need a perfect play to score, since they have so few rebound goals, which ties in with my previous point. Well, that’s just a vicious cycle, ain’t it? With the Winter Break upon us look for more in the coming days and weeks, as I will have time to contribute.

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