In his post game interview last night, Joe Thornton was upset that his San Jose Sharks lost to a “very soft Rangers team.” Thornton continued this by stating that the Rangers were the softest team they played on their road trip. Well, let’s define soft. To me, soft is a team that is unwilling to do the dirty work to get the job done. They won’t deliver hits, won’t go into corners, won’t block shots, and won’t clear the crease. In essence, they just want to Roger Dorn their way through the game.
Let’s start with the two areas that have stats: hits and blocked shots. The Rangers are currently 10th in the league in hits with 238, which isn’t too shabby. Hits are a tough stat to really measure, because the home scorekeeper generally inflates this stat a bit. Since the Rangers have only played three home games, expect this number to increase a lot. I would expect the Rangers to finish in the top-five in hits.
As for blocked shots, well we all know the Rangers block shots. They have 151 blocked shots thus far, good for 16th in the league, way off from last year’s league leading pace. Blocking shots is a double edged sword. It shows a certain toughness to be able to sacrifice your body to block a 90+ MPH shot, but it also takes a certain stupidity to do it against a Zdeno Chara slap shot (cough, Cally, cough). Not many players block shots regularly, but it seems almost every Ranger is willing to block a few shots for the team.
As for working in the corners, well that’s a tough area to really quantify with stats, so we have to go with the eye test. Looking up and down the Rangers roster, we know who will work in corners, and who won’t. Every team has players on both sides of the fence. Let’s call this one a wash.
Where Thornton may have some accuracy is in the clearing the crease area. The Rangers have struggled with that for many years, as it seems that Henrik Lundqvist gets run on a daily basis. It is less of a problem lately with the additions of Mike Sauer and Ryan McDonagh, both of whom are willing to knock someone down. However, the injury to Marc Staal does leave something to be desired in terms of physicality on the blue line. Injuries happen though, and it’s not an excuse.
But has anyone really considered the source of this? Joe Thornton is not exactly known for his toughness, and for his willingness to do the dirty work. He’s not a Ryane Clowe, or a Ryan Callahan, or a Ryan McDonagh, or (insert some guy named Ryan here). He’s a finesse player, and a superb one at that. If Clowe were calling the Rangers soft, then there might be some credence to the statement. However, coming from Thornton, the only reaction should be “eh.”