If you’re still ignoring the #fancystats movement, you’re missing out on some awesome information that provides a lot of further insight to the game. But one thing we don’t need advanced stats to tell us is that to succeed in the NHL you A) need good players, and B) need your good players to play well.
That was missing early in the season when the Rangers’ best players, Rick Nash and Henrik Lundqvist, were non-factors (Nash was hurt, Lundqvist was playing some of the worst hockey of his career). However, over the past month both men have returned to their old superstar forms, and not coincidentally, New York has played its best hockey of the season. The Rangers are 11-4-1 in their last 16 games dating back to December 22nd, and in that stretch, Nash has recorded 12 points (10 goals, two assists) while Lundqvist has a 1.97 GAA and a .933 SV%.
On the season, the Rangers are 13-5-1 when Nash records a point and 14-6-0 when Lundqvist allows two goals or fewer. It seems pretty clear that as they go, go the Rangers, right?
Plenty of other things helped the Blueshirts stay afloat this season from Mats Zuccarello’s emergence to the suddenly potent power play, but in the end, New York couldn’t turn a corner until Nash and Lundqvist began playing like Nash and Lundqvist.
The team is finally firing on all cylinders, but the return of the team’s two biggest stars to their old selves has been the biggest reason for this recent turnaround. Sometimes hockey is as simple as that.