The Rangers have had a bit of an issue getting consistent scoring on a game-to-game basis. Every now and then they light up an opponent, but for the most part they are getting by on goaltending, defense, luck, and goaltending. That’s not to say there’s something wrong with that, but a balanced offense would make things a lot easier. The Rangers have just four players on pace for 20 goal seasons, down from five last year. Brandon Dubinsky and Brian Boyle were in that group last year, and will need miracles to get there this year.
In the month of January, the Rangers have played 11 games, with tomorrow night’s game in New Jersey capping the month. The Rangers have gone an impressive 8-3, but when you look at the underlying goals scored, it’s not that impressive. In those 11 games, the Rangers scored three goals 7 times, two goals once, one goal twice, and got shutout once. Not one time did the Rangers score more than three goals. This wasn’t an issue in December.
The problem is likely within the powerplay, as the Rangers have just one player with double-digit points with the man advantage (Richards). Only four other players (Gaborik, Callahan, Michael Del Zotto, Dan Girardi) have eight points or more when on the powerplay. Can you remember the last time they scored with the man advantage? I can’t.
But, the powerplay has looked good in recent games. They are moving around, moving the puck, and getting good chances. The problem is they aren’t finishing. A 14.1% powerplay conversion rate isn’t going to get them far.
However, there is room for optimism. With all the talk about regression to the mean for the Rangers, the powerplay falls in the exact opposite boat. The Rangers finished last season at 16.9% on the powerplay last season. That is almost three full percentage points higher than their 14.1% rate this year, with an upgraded unit (on paper at least). There is room for progression to the mean here.
Progression to the mean is hopefully something that can be triggered by some people moving more towards their career averages in points as the season goes along. Brad Richards is one that is struggling to meet his career average of approximately 70 points. Brandon Dubinsky has a career average of approximately 40 points, and he –like Richards– is going to have to have a strong second half to get there.
The Rangers are winning despite their offensive woes, where there is clearly room for improvement and room for the law of averages to take effect. If they continue to falter, then that weight on Henrik Lundqvist’s shoulders is going to get mighty heavy. There’s still two and a half months to get it right.