Fourth line clicking when Rangers need them most
In the playoffs, there may be nothing more important a team looking to make a long run than depth. Depth in the forward lines, defenseman and multiple quality goaltenders gives a team the best chance for success.
Last season, the Rangers embodied this mentality, rolling four lines that were a threat to score at any time. Everyone knows about the third line of Benoit Pouliot, Derick Brassard and Mats Zuccarello, which was arguable the team’s best and most consistent line throughout the playoffs.
But the fourth line Dominic Moore, Brian Boyle, and the rotating wing of Dan Carcillo and Derick Dorsett did a lot of things right too. It was a great defensive line, but could just as easily spend some pinning their opponents back in their own end. Don’t forget, it was Dominic Moore that scored the game winning goal in Game 6 against the Canadiens to send the Rangers to the Stanley Cup Finals.
In the first half of the regular season, the Rangers struggled to get any production from their last line, with the trio of Tanner Glass, Dominic Moore and Lee Stempniak not getting much, if any, offensive possession.
But as the season progressed, with the right wing spot on the last line rotating, they began to find consistency, really coming together at the end of the season. Dominic Moore finished with 10 goals, Jesper Fast’s overally game drastically improved, and Tanner Glass even picked up his play, bringing physicality and forechecking to the line.
After the first round, with Zuccarello sidelined indefinitely, Alain Vigneault had to shuffle his lines to accommodate for the absence of his top line winger. Martin St. Louis was bumped up to the first line. Jesper Fast received a surprise promotion to the second line, a role that he’s thrived in. And Vigneault wanted to get Dominic Moore more involved, so he is now centering the third line alongside Carl Hagelin and Kevin Hayes on the wings.
That leaves Tanner Glass, JT Miller and James Sheppard manning the last forward line in the last three games against the Capitals, and they’ve played very well, maybe the best hockey from the fourth line throughout the playoffs.
In the Game 5 and Game 6 wins especially, the fourth line was extremely noticeable, with each player bringing something unique to the table.
I was initially against moving Miller back to center, because he has performed better at the wing position throughout the regular season. But he’s done a good job, adding more physicality and some skill to the line. He’s a good skater, has a good wrist shot, and complements Glass and Sheppard nicely.
James Sheppard did not play at all in the first round against the Penguins, but came into the lineup for Mats Zuccarello. He struggled a bit to find his game at first, which is understandable considering he hadn’t played in a game for over two weeks, but he had his best game of the playoffs in Game 6, picking up an assist, and winning eight of the nine faceoffs he took. He wins puck battles on the boards, provides another big body, and isn’t afraid to get to the dirty areas of the ice.
Not many people appreciate some of the things that Tanner Glass does, instead pointing to his 43.37 Corsi for percentage (possession) and saying that he doesn’t bring anything valuable to the table. But since scoring his first and only goal of the season in Ottawa, he’s picked up his play, showing more confidence.
He closed out the season with two assists in the final nine games, and although he has been held without a point in the 11 playoff games, he has 10 shots on goal, 20 hits in the series against the Capitals (10 in the last two games), and has raised his Corsi for in the playoffs to 48.24%, up five points from the regular season. He brings a needed physical presence to combat teams like the Capitals, and is never afraid to drop the gloves and stand up for his teammates. He’s a good guy to have on the team, and he’s been solid in the playoffs.
If the Rangers want to continue their success and keep on playing playoff games, they will need the fourth line to continue to contribute and bring a physical edge to combat the big, tough Washington Capitals in Game 7.
Some stats were taken from fulltiltnyr.com. Go check out their blog as well.
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Posted on May 12, 2015, in In the Crease and tagged Dominic Moore, James Sheppard, JT Miller, Madison Square Garden, Mats Zuccarello, Mats Zuccarello injury, MSG, New York Rangers, NHL Playoffs, NY Rangers, NYR, Rangers, Rangers fourth line, Stanley Cup, Stanley Cup Playoffs, Tanner Glass, The Garden, Washington Capitals, Zuccarello injury. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.