Despite the abominations Rangers fans witnessed earlier this season against San Jose and Anaheim, there have been plenty of reasons to expect a turnaround in the team’s fortunes. An extremely difficult early-season road schedule, several injuries to key players and an expected adjustment period to a new coach have all contributed to the team’s struggles. All of those things issues seem to be slowly righting themselves and as a result New York has won two of its last three games. But there’s another simple reason the team’s 4-7-0 record isn’t indicative of its performance the rest of the way: luck.
Sure, it sounds silly to think that luck can play such a major role in a professional sport where athletes are paid millions of dollars to use their top-notch skills to eliminate such variables, but luck is indeed as much a factor in the NHL as it is in your beer league game, when sometimes your team has 25 scoring chances in a game and still can’t put one by the opposing goaltender.
And any way you look at it, the Rangers have had absolutely miserable luck this season all over the ice. Well, all except one player – Brad Richards – who, ironically, felt like the team’s unluckiest player a year ago.
New York’s poor luck is apparent in its shooting percentage as a team this year, a combined 5.7%, dead last in the league and nearly a full percentage point behind 29th-ranked Buffalo. By contrast, Toronto leads the way with a team shooting percentages of 12.4%, and not coincidentally the Leafs are first in the Eastern Conference. The Senators had the worst team shooting percentage in the league last year, and they were still substantially better than the Rangers at 7%. The Blueshirts themselves converted 8.5% of their shots last year, nearly 1.5 times as often as they’ve converted this season.
The point is, even if none of the other more publicized issues are rectified, the Rangers should be able to improve significantly just by having slightly better luck. Scoring at even the Senators’ paltry rate of a year ago would mean four more goals for the Blueshirts this far. Scoring at New York’s own rate from last year would add eight goals to the season total. Considering the Rangers have managed just 18 goals all season, that makes a huge, huge difference.