Every season, there’s always a team that plays well above what they’re capable of. The most famous examples are the 2014-15 Calgary Flames, 2013-14 Colorado Avalanche, and of course, the 2012-13 Toronto Maple Leafs, and this year, that team is the New York Rangers. While they have some solid pieces in Adam Fox, Igor Shesterkin, Artemi Panarin, and Mika Zibanejad, they’re attempts to go a tougher route this season means that the team pretty much struggles when they aren’t on the ice. Shesterkin has masked a lot of that for them in net, bailing them out on many occasions to give them wins, but when he isn’t on his game, this team is usually in tough to get wins.
Note: This is based on projected lines and starters at the time of publishing. Coaches really love to surprise us right before game time, so there’s a solid chance that some of the matchups aren’t accurate for the actual game because of that.
Tale of the Tape (via Mark Norman)
Toronto Maple Leafs
New York Rangers
The first line of Chris Kreider, Kaapo Kakko, and Zibanejad is one of the few line combinations that actually work well together for the Rangers this year, generating a 52.61% CF% and a 56.08% xGF% in almost 250 minutes together this season. Kreider is having a resurgence this season on that line, living up to what was thought to be a very pricey contract up to this point, finding himself fourth in the NHL in goals, and aside from a lack of discipline, doing very well in most facets of the game. Zibanejad has established himself as a strong first line center from a points perspective for a few years now, but he struggles to drive play on a consistent basis at both ends of the ice. Kakko is in a similar boat, except he also doesn’t put up points, and just struggles to live up to his draft pedigree at any part of the game up to this point in his career. Kreider clearly carries the line from a possession standpoint, but between him and Zibanejad, it has the potential to burn you every now and then, so it’s still one to keep an eye on.
Filip Chytil isn’t the normal candidate on the second line next to Ryan Strome and Panarin, but with the current injuries, that seems to be the case, although it’s not a pretty one, as the combo finds themselves on the wrong end of the ice more often than not with a 44.74% CF% and a 27.95% xGF%. It speaks to Panarin’s skill then that the line has a 68.87% GF%. While his defense leaves much to be desired, he’s one of the best playmakers in the game, and his ability to create offense out of nothing more than makes up for his defensive game. Strome has found a home next to Panarin these past few seasons, and rediscovered his game after a disappointing stint with the Oilers, at least offensively. And going with Chytil on this line shows their going all in on offense, who while he doesn’t put up points on the scoreboard, he can somewhat drive offense, so he won’t hold back Panarin and Strome in that regard. Still, none of them can defend, so if you can put a strong offensive line that can defend up against them, you can take advantage of them.
The third line of Barclay Goodrow, Dryden Hunt, and Julien Gauthier is one that hasn’t got much time together, so their results are a little bit all over the place with a 33.57% CF%, but a 55% xGF%, so not much to go off of their. Goodrow was one of the Rangers big additions this offseason, as they wanted a piece of the infamous third line from the Tampa Bay Lightning’s Cup runs. The problem is, they picked the wrong piece, as Goodrow was definitely the beneficiary of that line’s results. He’s okay defensively, but he can’t carry a shutdown line like the Rangers think he can. Hunt actually can, so he saves the line a little bit, but he lacks a bit in other aspects of his game, so overall he still isn’t quite as effective as the Rangers probably want in a third line shutdown role. Meanwhile Gauthier is here pretty much because of draft pedigree, as the former first round pick really hasn’t established much of an NHL game aside from hints of driving offense, and playmaking, but he really struggles elsewhere, making it for an investment that overall isn’t worth it. This all amounts to what the Rangers will probably want to use as their shutdown line, although the Leafs probably shouldn’t worry too much about actually getting shutdown by them.
While I think you could match up the Matthews and Kämpf lines against either of the top six for the Rangers, it might be an advantage to go Matthews vs. Panarin as I alluded to earlier. They’re good offensively, but really weak defensively, so it’s an opport …
Author: Scott Maxwell / The Leafs Nation