Rangers’ Jacob Trouba is in trouble. What risk does he pose against the Panthers?

When the Carolina Hurricanes attempted to come back in the second round, the New York Rangers began to look exposed. This was particularly evident in a defender’s minutes.

Carolina’s surge in Game 4 took advantage of some of the weaknesses in Jacob Trouba’s game. In his 13:39, the Hurricanes dominated the game with a 25-11 lead in shot attempts. Shot volume ultimately matters, but with Carolina, it’s not everything if the quality isn’t there. In Trouba’s minutes, it was clearly important. New York recorded a 35 percent expected goals rate with its captain deployed.

The Rangers may have scored twice with Trouba on the ice, but they gave up three in return – and the defender’s errors directly contributed to that score.

Game 5 wasn’t much kinder to Trouba: a shot attempt differential of minus 13, an expected goals rate of less than 26 percent and a goal differential of minus 1 at five-on-five.

The answers to these two dismal performances? An advance towards the second pair with K’Andre Miller in the minutes of the match.

And that’s where he’s now expected to start in the Eastern Conference Finals against a star Florida Panthers team. The question is whether he is up to the task of the second duo and the workload that comes with the territory.

Match minutes are nothing new for Trouba. He helped carry the burden of high-level competition throughout his tenure in New York, usually with Miller. The two were among the biggest constants in the league this year with around 985 minutes together, the 13th-most defensive duo. During that span, the Rangers had an expected goals rate of 49 percent, which essentially set a standard for that role this season in New York. The results were a bit worse, with the Rangers being outscored 42-36 in their minutes.

Trouba took over this role after returning from injury with dicey results, leading coaches to shake up the pairings for the final games of the season. Braden Schneider jumped to Miller’s right while Trouba slotted into the third pairing with Erik Gustafsson in a more protected role.

That’s how the Rangers started the playoffs until Game 6, when Trouba was moved up with Miller.

On paper, a player with a 47 percent expected goals rate through 10 playoff games doesn’t really raise any red flags on the second pairing. But Trouba’s numbers throughout the playoffs as a whole may not accurately reflect how much he struggled at times.

As we go through the tape, let’s point out some questionable reads and decisions that a team as dynamic as Florida could benefit from.

The Washington Capitals aren’t the most complete team, which has allowed the coaches to manage each pair’s workload as they see fit. Ryan Lindgren and Adam Fox shouldered a heavier workload than usual on the top pair, with Miller-Schneider behind them. This second pair fell below the regular season standard set in New York, with 46 percent of the expected goals share while being outscored 2-1. Their start to the playoffs was strong, but faded as time went on.

Trouba and Gustafsson, on the other hand, thanks to facilitated confrontations against the lines of Hendrix Lapierre and Nic Dowd, obtained 63 percent of the expected goal share and dominated their opponents 2-0.

The Rangers kept their pairs intact for the second round after sweeping the Capitals. But the Hurricanes presented a whole different challenge; with more depth forward, everyone’s workload became more difficult. Especially Miller’s.

The pair of Miller took over from Fox and Lindgren, likely for two reasons: Lindgren’s struggles and potential injury concerns. In five games, Miller-Schenider lost the shootout battle, but had the edge in expected goals at under 53 percent and broke even in goals (3-3).

The weak link on the Rangers blue line was the third pair. Gustafsson-Trouba was outshot 88 of 49, had a 41 percent expected goals rate and was outscored 5-2 while mostly tying Carolina’s bottom six.

Both defenders had poor showings against Carolina, but only one is given a bigger role after getting the bump to Miller’s right in Game 6.

The second-round failures in particular argue against stricter use of Trouba.

Here’s a great example from Game 2 against the Hurricanes. Trouba turned the puck over with a weak backhand pass through the neutral zone. Three Rangers were drawn by Sebastian Aho along the boards, leaving Jake Guentzel wide open for a scoring opportunity that he capitalized on. It started with a bad pass and continued with slow reactions and poor anticipation, leading to a goal against.

Or Game 4, which was filled with costly mistakes and bad reads. With the score 2-0 from Stefan Noesen, Trouba’s turnover keeps a tired Rangers unit on the ice after a long period that ends with a goal against.

Trouba was quickly on the ice for three five-on-five goals in the first period alone in Game 4. Not all of the goals were entirely on Trouba. Take Evgeny Kuznetsov’s goal: Barclay Goodrow had to carry this one, but Trouba’s poor positioning obscured Igor Shesterkin.

On Aho’s 3-1 goal, Artemi Panarin’s coverage contributed to a goal against. But this play started with a poor decision by Trouba to be aggressive in the neutral zone, putting Panarin in a more defensive position than he should have been.

And the fifth game wasn’t much better. Take Jordan Martinook’s goal. Trouba faced pressure from Jack Drury below the goal line and gave away the puck. Martin Necas centered the puck and Martinook quickly sent it past Shesterkin.

Not every mistake against Carolina ended up in the back of the net, like Trouba’s decision to pinch the ice and get out of position to launch a hit in double overtime. Even though it didn’t lead to a goal against or a game-ending play, it was an unnecessary risk in this situation, especially when he didn’t have the speed to get back into play as the game came back at the other end of the field. ice.

To Miller and Trouba’s credit, despite a heavy dose of Aho’s line, the Rangers were the better team in Game 6 with this pair in terms of shot volume (26-17 attempts) and quality (shot rate). expected goals by 56%) and scored. to show it (2-1 goals).

But Game 6 wasn’t without similar gaffes that cost Trouba earlier in the series. These are mistakes that make a scoring opportunity even more dangerous and, when faced with opportunistic shooters, can end up in the back of the net.

There’s a reason the Rangers moved away from the Miller-Trouba pairing to finish the year.

Schneider showed he could be the safest player to slot in next to Miller in game minutes, thanks to his quietly effective play and ability to limit scoring chances in transition.

But the safe pick for the second pairing may not be the right choice if the team ends up with a volatile third pairing.

By splitting Trouba and Gustafsson, each player gains more support in front with Miller on the second pair and Schneider on the third. This could put them in a better position against a deep team like the Panthers. And that, along with a stronger performance in Game 6, could explain why the Rangers are sticking with a reunited second pairing of Miller and Trouba.

Trouba’s numbers may be passable for game minutes in New York, but they may not reflect how costly some of his missteps have been. This leaves the Rangers at serious risk of getting burned against the Panthers and the possibility of another defensive readjustment.

Not all of the defensive errors in Trouba’s minutes were necessarily his fault. But at some point, the Rangers need the player who was built to be one of their best to play like that. Not only must he stabilize his game, but he must be ready to step in to cover others. Trouba needs to show the Rangers that he can manage the game in high-leverage situations and be a tough defender to play against – and not just in the physical sense.

Data via Hockey in evolution, HockeyViz, Hockey Statistics Cards, All three zones And NaturalStatTrick. This story relies on camera-based metrics; here is a primer on these figures.

(Photo: Kyle Ross / USA Today)

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