Tanner Glass and the Rangers’ fourth line
Prior to Rick Nash’ return to the lineup, Alain Vigneault was free to juggle the lines without leaving a healthy forward in the press box. But lately, Oscar Lindberg, a rookie with 12 goals and 26 points, has been a healthy scratch for the last four games, much to the ire of many fans.
Lindberg has bounced through different spots in the lineup, playing center and wing, going from the top line to the fourth line, and performing his role well. Lindberg’s offensive skills are good enough to contribute in a limited role, and he’s been solid defensively, handling his assignments against tougher assignments as well.
But Vigneault has his quirks, and one of them is relying on veterans and players that he trusts to handle key roles. Since last season, one of those players has been Tanner Glass. Glass has been a mainstay on the fourth line since being recalled from his stint with the Hartford Wolf Pack.
Many people, including myself, have criticized Vigneault for his never-ending use of Glass on the fourth line over players like Lindberg. No matter what your opinion on Glass as a player is, it’s pretty clear that Lindberg doesn’t belong in the press box on a nightly basis.
Glass is never going to be a dynamic fourth line winger. He’s never going to drive possession consistently or score a lot. Last season, he didn’t do all that much and was largely useless on the fourth line But his stint in Hartford really allowed him to focus on his game, fine-tune his mechanics in all three zones, and work on getting ready to be a contributor in the NHL. And since his recall, it’s worked for the most part.
When you take Glass’ play from last season and compare it to this year, there’s no doubt that he has gotten much better. He’s been better in all facets of his game, most notably limiting his defensive gaffes, and he still brings that same brand of physical hockey the team appreciates.
One area I think Glass has really helped is the forecheck. There have been times where the Rangers look completely disinterested and lazy while the opposition is controlling the puck and setting up plays in their own zone and the neutral zone. Rather than pressuring them, the Rangers will tend to sit back and let the other team do their thing.
Vigneault and the players have discussed needing to improve in this area, but Glass has embodied this, making forechecking a big part of his game. He will regularly pursue the puck carrier, apply pressure and even lay a big hit, like he did last night on Jakub Kindl before Viktor Stalberg’s goal. It’s really elevated the fourth line’s play and helped them focus on other areas of the ice.
Glass has also meshed really well with the new-look fourth line. Dominic Moore is a mainstay at center. But Viktor Stalberg has been on the second and third line for a while, and he has been playing extremely well lately, generating offense and contributing more in front of the net.
His speed has been working well with the fourth line, causing matchup problems, opening up the ice and leading to more scoring chances. In fact, since Stalberg has returned to the fourth line, they’ve been spending much more time in the offensive zone, which is exactly what you want from your fourth line.
Throughout the California road trip, the trio of Glass-Moore-Stalberg has been enjoying shifts in the offensive zone, pressuring opposition, forechecking like crazy and scoring more. Against San Jose, they were the only forward line that actually played consistently well. Over the last two games, the fourth line has led the team in possession, yet another area where that line has seen improvement. And the defensive play has improved, allowing Vigneault to use that line in a defensive, checking role against strong opposition.
And in the midst of all this is the elevated play of Tanner Glass. He didn’t change his playstyle or skill set, but instead he has been playing to his strengths. His physicality allows him to change the tempo with a big his as well as forecheck effectively.
He also uses his size and physicality to get to the front of the net. He’s scored almost all of his goals in a position close to the net, he’s gotten a lot better and screening the goalie and deflect pucks, and he causes confusion and creates havoc in the crease. All of this has changed the dynamic of the fourth line.
So while I do not think that Lindberg deserves to be in the press box, I do think that Glass has helped the fourth line lately. His playstyle suits Moore and Stalberg well, and he even has three points (2-1-3) in the last seven games.
Over the last three or four games, this line has shown flashes of the Dorsett-Moore-Boyle line from the 2013-14 season. It’s definitely not at that level yet, there needs to be more consistency from this group first. But the early signs are positive.
If Glass, Moore and Stalberg can continue to play at this elevated level, it’ll really help the Rangers going forward into the playoffs. Of course, the other three lines need to start contributing consistently as well, but this is a good start.
Posted on March 22, 2016, in In the Crease and tagged Alain Vigneault, Dominic Moore, Jesper Fast, Madison Square Garden, MSG, New York Rangers, New York Rangers blog, NYR, Oscar Lindberg, Rangers, Rangers blog, Rangers fourth line, Tanner Glass, Tanner Glass goal, Viktor Stalberg. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.