Better Know a Ranger: Defense and Goalies (Part 2)

September 30th, 2015 at 6:00 am by Derek

The August doldrums are over, and training camp is upon us. To get you primed for a season that will take another two or three years off of your life, we’re doing position-by-position breakdowns of the Rangers’ roster. These opinions are trash so please disregard them immediately after reading.

Keith Yandle #93
Vital Info
Age: 29
2014-15 stats: 84GP (league leader!!!), 6G, 46A, +0.9 Corsi% rel (spent first 63 games with ARZ)
Contract: 5 years, $26.25M ($5.25M AAV [$2.625M for Rangers] through 2015-16, UFA)
Fursona: TaniDaReal

2014-15 Season Recap
Yandle spent most of the year putting up points in bunches for a pitiful Arizona team. Then, in a bit of a shocker, he was traded to the Rangers (with Chris Summers and a 2016 4th-round pick) before the deadline for Anthony Duclair (gone, but not forgotten), John Moore (he will be missed), a 2017 1st-round pick (who needs ‘em!), and a 2015 2nd-round pick (*armpit fart*). The Rangers pretty much got what the scouting reports said about Yandle: a high-risk, high-reward offensive defenseman. He made some great plays in the attacking zone, but his overly-aggressive decision making led to some horrible goals against. The most egregious example was this ludicrous pinch against the Capitals in game 5, which led to a 2-on-0 and goal that nearly ended the Rangers’ season:

2015-16 Season Outlook
One of the big stories to watch this season will be what the Rangers decide to do with Keith Yandle. It’s hard to imagine them fitting him under the cap next year: they already have over $54M committed to just 12 players in 2016-17 and a couple key RFAs (Kreider, Hayes) who will need new contracts. Unless some serious cap shuffling goes on, this will be Yandle’s final season as a Ranger. Will he be wearing another jersey before this season is over? If the Rangers are looking like contenders, as expected, one figures that they’ll hang onto Yandle and make another run for the Cup. But if Jeff Gorton decides that he doesn’t want to lose a star defenseman for nothing, he could potentially grab a pretty hefty return for him near the deadline. 8 goals, 38 assists.

Relevant GIF
yandle_johnson(via @myregularface)

I have never seen a hockey stick unintentionally fly so far. Did that thing land on top of the scoreboard? All this GIF needs is a cartoon slide whistle sound effect in order to be complete. Tyler Johnson either needs to head over to Tropicana Field and ask to borrow a little pine tar, or hit the gym and start doing some grip strength exercises. You’re not going to be very effective out there if your stick keeps getting shot into orbit, Ty Guy.

Kevin Klein #8
Vital Info
Age: 30
2014-15 stats: 65GP, 9G, 17A, -1.7 Corsi% rel
Contract: 5 years, $14.5M ($2.9M AAV through 2017-18, UFA)
Fursona: Sono E. Anderson-Kei

2014-15 Season Recap
Kevin Klein seemingly broke out in his first full season with the Rangers, setting career highs in goals and points. By the New Year, Klein was a fan favorite thanks to his scoring goals like a madman and filling in admirably for the injured Ryan McDonagh and Dan Boyle. However, as the season went on, his results started to dry up. Consider the following two graphs from WAR On Ice, which are 20-game rolling averages of Klein’s 5v5 Corsi% and all-situations personal shooting percentage from last season:


The graphs end in early March, when Klein suffered a broken arm against the Capitals. However, the trends up to that point are still clear. Once the calendar flipped to 2015, his sky high-shooting percentage tapered off, and his Corsi% nosedived faster than M. Night Shyamalan’s film career. The latter trend isn’t coincidence: as the season went on, AV started trusting him with more and tougher minutes. Take a look at the 20-game rolling averages of his 5v5 TOI/game and OZone%:

Clearly, AV thought he had a top-four caliber defenseman whom he could use in a shutdown role. However, Klein’s track record in Nashville as a second-pairing defenseman was poor, and that pattern has continued in New York. The tougher usage later in the season drastically reduced his effectiveness on the ice.

2015-16 Season Outlook
However, Klein has shown that he can thrive in a third pairing role, as seen in the latter half of the 2013-14 season and ensuing playoff run. With a fully healthy defense corps heading into this year, Klein should find himself on the bottom pair with Keith Yandle. Undoubtedly, we’ll see him substituted for Dan Boyle on Marc Staal’s opposite side for some defensive zone draws in late-game situations. As long as the health of the Rangers’ defense holds up, though, Klein shouldn’t spend too much time in the top four. Also, I know what you’re thinking, and don’t hold your breath. The Rangers love Klein, and unless Dylan McIlrath proves to be the second coming of Matt Greene, they aren’t going to trade him. 3 goals, 11 assists.

Relevant GIF
This was one of the best goals in the Kevin Klein Hot Streak. The stupid Rangers blew a 3-1 lead in the third period and let the game go to overtime. Klein fired a nice shot from the point that deflected off of Christian Ehrhoff and made it behind Marc-Andre Fleury. Did I mention that this was the game where Klein LOST PART OF HIS FUCKING EAR? He got high sticked by notorious assface Steve Downie and had to get part of his ear stitched back on in the dressing room. He was still a bloody mess while wearing the Broadway Hat after the game. Hockey players are great. #pleaselikemysport

Raphael Diaz #33
Remember Matt Hunwick? This is pretty much the same guy. If you want to write 400 words about a seventh defenseman, be my guest.

Dylan McIlrath #6
I hate prospects, so I’m not writing about any of them.

Henrik Lundqvist #30
Vital Info
Age: 33
2014-15 stats: 46GP, 0.930 5v5 SV%, 67.4% quality starts
Contract: 8 years, $59.5M ($8.5M AAV through 2020-21, UFA)
Fursona: Foxy Malone

2014-15 Season Recap
Like 2013-14, Lundqvist got off to a pretty slow start last year, putting up an .891 save percentage in October. However, from November through the end of January, he ran at a cool .931, and everything looked great. That is, until it happened:

There is no scarier sentence for Rangers fans to hear than “Henrik Lundqvist is injured.” (“Ryan Hollweg is back” is a close second) Inexplicably, the Rangers’ training staff let Lundqvist stay in the game after he took a puck to the throat. They even let him play in another game before one of those geniuses said “Hey, ummm, maybe this guy shouldn’t be playing hockey right now.” It turns out that he had a sprained blood vessel and could’ve had a stroke if he kept playing. A stroke! Thankfully, he stayed free of major cardiac misadventures and led the Rangers back to the Eastern Conference Final after a couple of hard-fought goalie match-ups with Marc-Andre Fleury (not a typo) and Braden Holtby.

2015-16 Season Outlook
Before the playoffs last year, I told a friend that the Rangers needed to win it all, because Hank didn’t have many more elite-level playoff runs left in him. He certainly looked like a one-man wrecking crew against the Penguins and Capitals with a .944 SV%. However, a tough series against a more talented Lightning team ended that dream, and the clock ticking against Lundqvist and the Rangers grew ever louder. He’s been the most consistent goalie in his generation: for six straight seasons, his 5v5 SV% has been 0.929 or above. That sort of dependability is increasingly hard to find in a league where goalies are hardly more than voodoo. He turns 34 this season and is near the proverbial aging cliff off of which most goalies fall and never return. Hank has certainly separated himself from most NHL goalies, but the aging curve can be indiscriminate with its effects. I want to believe that he’s got a few more good seasons in him, though, so I’m calling for another .930ish performance at 5v5 and his absolute best in the playoffs.

Relevant GIF

Well, it’s a good thing that I didn’t write anything remotely positive about Keith Yandle’s defensive play in his section. Man, what the hell is that pass all about? Did he not realize that Steven Stamkos was on the ice? Yeah, bud, that’s Steven Stamkos, not his cousin Brad Stamkos who works at Tim Horton’s in Mississauga. Lundqvist was straight fire with the glove, though. Remember when high glove was Hank’s weakness? I’m glad we’re all finally over the Sergei Fedorov goal from game 7 in 2009. If Yandle’s body language at the end of this GIF is any indication, he shit his pants after watching that save. Everybody poops, Keith.

Antti Raanta #32
Vital Info
Age: 26
2014-15 stats: 14GP, 0.940 5v5 SV%, 66.7% quality starts (with CHI)
Contract: 1 year, $750K (through 2015-16, UFA)
Fursona: Kendricks “Ken” Redtail

2014-15 Season Recap
After taking the backup torch from the injured Nikolai Khabibulin in 2013, Raanta looked to be the full-time understudy to Corey Crawford last season. However, journeyman Scott Darling emerged and started an always-entertaining backup goalie controversy. In the end, Darling won the job (and, ever the ambitious one, tried to start a starting goalie controversy with Crawford in the playoffs), and Raanta was banished to Rockford. He was called up with the Blackhawks’ other Black Aces for the Stanley Cup run, but never dressed for a game. Understandably, he was a little upset to be third on the depth chart after putting up a .936 overall save percentage during his 14 appearances (to Darling’s credit, he also put up a .936 in his 14 appearances). He was so irked, in fact, that he apparently rooted for the Hawks to be swept Nashville in the first round so he could go home to Finland. Talk about team spirit! Raanta recently claimed that the translation was a bit harsh, and I’m sure things have cooled off now that he’s got his name on the Cup. Oh, what’s that, his name didn’t get engraved? Whoops!

2015-16 Season Outlook
That’s okay, Antti, because you’re going to get your name on it this year! *Re-reads defenseman previews* Well…at least you got a day with the Cup this past summer. That’s what counts. Raanta should overtake Cam Talbot’s throne as the undrafted, late bloomer backup goalie who is actually better than Lundqvist. Check out the stats, bro. Raanta had a .936 save percentage last year, and King Hair Gel only put up a .922. What the heck are we paying him $8.5M per year for? For every good start that Raanta has, he should automatically get the next two. Let pretty boy Lundqvist sit on the bench and watch how a real goalie plays. You’d think that this section is over-the-top parody, but I shit you not that I saw Rangers fans posting that Cam Talbot was superior to Lundqvist because he went to Alabama-Huntsville and had to work to get to the NHL. Meanwhile, supermodel jerk Hank gets called “The King” without having won a Stanley Cup or becoming the head of a monarchy. Sports fans! Anyway, watch your back, Antti; Magnus comin’!

Relevant GIF
With saves like this one, Raanta will be supplanting that phony pony Lundqvist in no time! He shows some pretty nice reaction time and lateral movement here. However, the caveat is that this play by the Canadiens was executed by two EA Sports NHL Be a Pro characters. Jacob De La Rose? Sven Andrighetto? These are clearly made-up names by some 16-year-old jerkoff on Xbox. You know, the kind of guy who talks shit when he uses glitch goals to score on people online. Cool, dude, you figured out that shot from behind the goal line always goes in! Did you know that you were adopted and your real parents think that you’re a dickless failure? Haha, yeah, good game though.

That’s it for our Better Know a Ranger series. We hope they were enlightening entertaining somewhat stimulating as you read them during your morning bowel movement. Keep your eyes on the Save By Richter Twitter account for more terrible content this season!

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