It is tough to analyze #fancystats on a game-by-game basis or early on in the season. There are too many fluctuations that come with small sample sizes that skew the numbers. For example, the Rangers CF% and FF% remain in the basement of the league because of that awful game in San Jose. The reason why it’s tough to analyze on a game-by-game basis is because teams have bad games. These #fancystats –like all statistical analysis– is best used to analyze the trends over time, not just one game.
That said, there is a lot of value in looking at puck possession and noticing trends. For example, the Rangers are really hurt in the CF% and FF% categories by two games: San Jose and St. Louis. Both games saw them finish under 40%, meaning the opposition had 60% of the 5v5* shot attempts. The Rangers lost both those games. They lost another three where they had an edge in puck possession, but their goaltending and defensive coverage was atrocious (Anaheim, New Jersey). The other two losses: Phoenix (deserved to lose), Philly (dominated puck possession, good goaltending, losses happen).
*For all intents and purposes we will always be using 5v5 stats, since the majority of the game is played at 5v5.
So what does all this mean?
There is an old saying: You are never as bad as you are at your worst, and never as good as you are at your best. The Rangers were bad this road trip, but they are not a bad club. The defensive miscues will subside, so games like San Jose and Anaheim shouldn’t happen again. The goaltending is in a decent state, with Cam Talbot showing he can be a more than capable backup for Henrik Lundqvist. Games like St. Louis and New Jersey should be few and far between.
Perhaps the biggest thing to notice, aside from the new-found compete level that they have reached over the past two games, is the possession trend. Over the past four games, the Rangers have out-possessed their opponents. New York went 2-2 in that stretch, and an argument can be made that New Jersey was the only game in that stretch where they deserved to lose.
I’m not a big “what if” kind of guy, but what if the J.T. Miller goal is upheld in Philly? All of a sudden we are looking at 3-5-1 or 4-5 instead of 3-6.
But since I don’t like what if’s, let’s just use the facts from the standings. The Rangers are five points back of the third spot in the Metro Division (top three guaranteed playoffs) with two games in hand.
As puck possession continues to trend up for New York, the wins will come. Throw in the eventual returns of Lundqvist and Carl Hagelin this week, with Rick Nash and Ryan Callahan hopefully returning next month, and you have a very dangerous Rangers club.
At this point, you’re probably nauseated by the amount of optimism we throw out on this blog. It’s in our nature to be optimistic, since things are never as bad as they seem. However the stats agree with us. The team is starting to click. The kids (Miller and Chris Kreider) appear to belong. The wins will come.