Found July 26, 2012 on Blue Seat Blogs:
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With this week’s blockbuster trade, many are now wondering just how far the Rangers will go with the addition of Rick Nash.  While it’s still way too early to be penciling us in as front-runners to win the Cup, one thing we can do is look at how the Rangers might change from an x’s & o’s or “systems” perspective.

Fortunately for John Tortorella, adding Nash doesn’t necessarily require a complete strategic overhaul the way acquiring Jagr once did. Nash will fit like a glove in our current team template. Why? Because Nash’s offense is versatile. He’s not a one trick pony.

Nash can score off the forecheck, he can score off the rush, he make plays cycling off the half wall, and he can jam the crease with that 6’4 frame of his. Guys like this are tailor-made for John Tortorella’s aggressive 2-1-2 forechecking system, which requires skaters to hunt for the puck down low and create offense below the dots. This is not a sit back and clog up the neutral zone type team. Their identity is built around skating and effort above all else.

Of course, 5-on-5 forechecking is just one aspect of a hockey system, so today we will also look at how adding Nash might cause Torts to tweak other aspects of our system like the power play and our propensity to block shots.

Defensive Zone Strategy

This past post-season the media made a lot of fuss about the Rangers defensive zone strategy, which required our players to collapse around the net and block a lot of shots.  What got lost in their slanted coverage is that in today’s NHL, more and more offensive teams are adopting this style of play. Point in case, during the 2001-02 season 9 teams blocked over a 1,000 shots. Last season 27 teams blocked over 1,000 shots, and the other 3 teams were pretty damn close.

With that said, now that we have two legit scoring lines, you can bet your marbles the Rangers will tweak their strategy, at least for our top 6 players. Rather than play a Box+1 (as seen above), the Rangers will probably station 2 wingers closer to the opposing defensemen at the blueline for a chance to create more odd-man rushes (as seen below).

By no means will this team be cherry picking in the neutral zone, as the Pavel Bure’s of the world once did, but I would expect our skilled forwards to be more aggressive than last season. Also, our bottom 6 players will likely still play more conservatively. They will be tasked to defend homeplate at all costs, as they should.

Power Play Strategy

For the sake of brevity, I will just say that last year’s mediocre power play was not due to coaching decisions or their umbrella formation (seen above). The problem was a lack of execution based on limited personnel. Penalty killers could key in on one guy and knew the others either wouldn’t sense open ice (hockey IQ) or put a quality shot on net if they did manage to shake coverage.

So how can Nash help the Rangers improve?

1) Zone Entries

The Rangers were subpar at crossing the blueline with the puck. This was because Richards was the only guy who was comfortable handling rubber through penalty killer traffic. Nash gives them another option, which will help spread coverage.

2) The cycle

Cycling the puck is a start. Cycling players is what creates defensive miscues. The purpose of any power play is to exploit open ice. Cally is good at setting screens, but not finding real estate for one-timers. Nash can be that guy. He can set the screen and move up to receive forehand shots. Nash can also play along the walls and use his frame to protect the puck. Lots of possibilities there.

3) The points

The Rangers were subpar at keeping the puck in the zone. Part of this can be blamed on our pointmen, but part of the problem was our pointmen often didn’t find anyone to dish to. With Nash drawing coverage down low, it will also open up ice for MDZ, Richards, etc. to walk the line and find a better shooting lane.

Obviously it is going to take some time for the Rangers to come together and all get on the same page. Hopefully fans show a little more patience than they did last fall, when all but myself and Dave it seemed didn’t want Tortorella fired. Give it a chance. When it all comes together, it’s going to be great hockey.

THE BACKYARD
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