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Keith Yandle makes the Rangers a more explosive and dangerous team

Bobby Bevilacqua

keith yandle 3-2

Adding Keith Yandle to an already strong Rangers team makes them even better, and adds more diversity to the attack. Photo courtesy of MSG Photos.

On Sunday, March 1st, Glen Sather, the New York Rangers General Manager, pulled off yet another blockbuster trade, acquiring Keith Yandle, one of the league’s best offensive defenseman, from the Arizona Coyotes, and sending John Moore, Anthony Duclair, a first and a second round pick in the process. The Coyotes will also pay for half of Yandle’s salary through next season, making his cap hit a modest $2.625 million.

While that is a high price to pay, the Rangers managed to get a highly skilled player without losing anything off of their current roster, keeping the chemistry intact while adding an elite talent on the back end, giving the Rangers one of the best three defensive pairings in the league.

In 560 career games, the 28 year old Yandle has scored 65 goals along with 246 assists, a grand total of 311 points. Three times in his career he has scored 10 or more goals (career high of 12 in 2009-10), and he has eclipsed the 50 point mark twice including an 11 goal, 48 assist season in the 2010-11 season.

From the past two games, you can already see how well the defense has responded to the change, allowing only three goals, and putting 40 shots on goal in each of the games. The Rangers looked really solid, playing a tight checking game that limited the amount of shots and quality chances that the Predators and the Red Wings had.

Obviously Yandle is not the sole reason that the Rangers are playing well, but he certainly adds a lot of dimension and depth to his new team.

1) Scoring from the blue line

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Yandle adds a good shot and great passing ability from the back end. Photo courtesy of MSG Photos.

 

One thing that the Rangers have not been able to consistently do this season is get production from their defenseman. The Dan Boyle signing was supposed to address that, but he has missed almost 20 games with injuries and illnesses, causing him to be off his game at times.

Scoring from blue line has been a trend on the upswing for New York, with goals in 14 of the last 17 games from Rangers D-men.

Yandle will further enhance that. Even when he isn’t finding the back of the net, his presence allows for his defensive partner to get open. For example, Yandle and Klein skate together often. If Yandle has the puck at the blue line, almost always an opponent will come out to pressure him knowing what he can do with the puck. That opens space for Klein to blast a slap shot.

Just having him on the ice, and the fact the other team knows his offensive reputation, creates opportunities for the other skaters on the ice, kind of like how Rick Nash does it from a forward’s perspective.

2) Passing and Assists

The biggest aspect of Keith Yandle’s game is his passing abilities and his ability to find the open man. He has 37 assists this season, all with the Coyotes, and had 45 last season. He knows how to find open players, with good vision on the ice and using his skating ability to find the open lane. He’s also not afraid to take a shot (185 SOG this season), which opens the possibility of deflections for goals, something that Chris Kreider and Martin St. Louis happen to be very good at.

You’re also probably not going to see Yandle make a ton of standout defensive plays. That’s not because of he’s bad defensively, it’s because the puck is almost never in his own end while he’s on the ice. The Rangers sometimes struggle to connect on passes through the neutral zone, something that Yandle excels at.

3) Offensive zone pressure

keith yandle skating 3-2

Yandle’s specialty is using his skating and passing ability to keep the puck out of his own end, and apply constant pressure to opposing teams. Photo courtesy of MSG Photos.

 

Like I mentioned before, Yandle applies constant pressure on opposing teams. There have been a few stretches in the past two games where he was on the ice, and the puck never left the other team’s zone for a very long time. Yandle and Boyle were tremendous together creating offense, and Klein also did a good job when paired with him.

The Rangers have gotten 40 shots on goal in each of their last two games, partially due to the way Yandle opens the ice and creates space for his teammates.

4) Power Play

This is Yandle’s bread and butter. In his career, he has 23 power play goals and 120 power play assists, with two of those goals and 24 assists coming this season. He’s been on the ice for almost all of the Rangers power play time, and they are 1 for 4 in the last two games (25%). New York had a lot of really good looks last night against Detroit, so hopefully more of them start finding the back of the net in the near future.

5) Spreading out playing time

ryan mcdonagh 2-26

With six high-quality defensemen all ready to take the ice, guy’s like Ryan McDonagh will be able to get some more rest in games. Photo courtesy of MSG Photos.

 

 

Although this is not an offensive aspect, acquiring Yandle allowed for the Rangers to roll three high quality defensive pairings. The disparities between playing time of all three is pretty close, with nobody playing less than 17:30 in last night’s game. Vigneault now has six high quality defensemen to work with, meaning Ryan McDonagh and Dan Girardi won’t need to log 26+ minutes of high pressure hockey. This could be the most important aspect, solidifying the bottom pairing and allowing for McDonagh, Staal, and the other guys to get some rest.

Adding Yandle to a Rangers team that was already very strong makes them even better and more diverse. New York has one of the best top-six defensive group in the NHL, with the ability to score goals and completely shut down opposition. Put that in front of a healthy Henrik Lundqvist, and behind guys like Rick Nash, Derick Brassard, and Chris Kreider, and you are looking at a Stanley Cup contender.

Trading for Yandle embodies the Rangers “win now” mentality, and that is certainly the result that the team and the fans are aiming for come season’s end.

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Posted on March 5, 2015, in In the Crease and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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