Yes, I’m aware out-puck-possessioning isn’t a word.
The Rangers out-shot the Caps last night by a margin of 36-30. The Rangers out-hit the Caps by a 41-32 margin. The Rangers out-Corsi’d (out-possessed) the Caps by a +16 margin. But yet, the Rangers lost. All of these stats would make you think that the Rangers outplayed the Caps. But, leading in stats does not mean you outplayed the opposition.
The tone for last night’s loss was set just 34 seconds in, when the Rangers took a too many men penalty (I still have no idea how you take that penalty 30 seconds into the game. Did they start with 6 guys on?). The Caps may not have scored on that powerplay, but it gave them offensive rhythm and put the Rangers on their heels. The first shot on goal for the Rangers didn’t even come until eight minutes into the period. You can also make an argument that despite the fact that the Rangers out-hit the Caps, they were dominated physically. After all, how many board battles did the Rangers win last night?
If you’ve been coming here for a while, you know we love our stats. We use them as a great supplement to what we see from the Rangers, and we use them to help determine who we would want to see on Broadway from other teams. That said, there seems to be a misinterpretation about what these stats tell us.
Statistics is the study of mathematical trends over time. In hockey, we use these trends over an 82 game season, which is enough time for the law of averages (everything regresses to the average) to kick in. While that generally works out, the problem is that this is the playoffs, and there isn’t enough time for regression to occur over a seven game (or less) series. There will be times when the stats work out in your favor, but you lose, and vice versa. Last night, the Rangers out-statistic’d (again, give me a break with the wording please) the Caps, but lost.
Where the Caps won was momentum, hard work, and most importantly, execution. Touching upon what I mentioned above, the Rangers may have out-hit the Caps, but there’s not a single person that thought the Rangers were more physical than the Caps. The Caps won the board battles, they won the battles in front of the net, and they just overall out-muscled the Rangers all night. This is a separate type of physicality that just hits.
Execution was the biggest story last night, as the Rangers failed to execute in multiple facets of the game. They didn’t stay out of the box, they didn’t execute on a five on three, they didn’t outwork the Caps, and they didn’t play better team defense.
Over the course of 82 games, the stats will even themselves out, but in a seven game series, the Rangers can’t afford to wait for regression. They need to create their own luck by doing the little things. Last night’s game wasn’t a disaster (they were a post and a bad camera angle away from tying the game), but they should have been much better.