When Bad Luck is Actually Good

At 2-5-1, the Rangers sit dead last in the Metropolitan division and 29th overall in the league; a start that we should all be pleased with in this low expectation season. NYR ranks 26th overall in PDO with a figure of 974 (as of 10/22), driven mainly by the 4th lowest 5v5 adjusted shooting percentage of 5.62. For context and a reminder about small sample sizes as we inch towards games 20 to 25, there are currently 9 teams shooting below 7 percent adjusted at 5v5. The total number of teams that shot under 7 percent adjusted in 2017-18 was two: Buffalo and Montreal. Could the Rangers use a few more finishers up front? Of course, and while a few of the forwards might begin to find twine (*cough* Chytil), the lack of finishing has allowed NYR to miss on some standings points that they otherwise may have obtained.

While the presentation of the above chart may not go all year-long, I think it will be a good context reminder of what could end up being the low point of NYR team play in the last few seasons. At this point, there are three takeaways. The depth of the offense, despite the game-day lineup debates, is still showing in 2018-19, as NYR continues to generate shots and chances. Unfortunately, the same story is also holding over for the defense, with shot attempt rates (CA/60) only being worse out in Anaheim. While the defensive struggles are absolutely personnel driven, I also would love to see Lindy Ruff fade out of favor eventually in terms of influence.

Finally, the team 5v5 save percentage is influenced heavily by the 8-goal loss to Carolina and the 4-goal loss to Calgary. Lundqvist has mostly continued his great start to the year, posting a 2.74 Goals Saved Above Average in his 7 games played (all situations). If he manages to keep this pace, he would likely be en-route to a 23-plus GSAA season (based on 60 GP), which would be his second best in his NHL career (28.57 in his Vezina winning 2011-12 season is his peak).

As an aside, here’s the Corsi (shot attempt) and Expected goal tracks for NYR this season. The big thing here is that as of today, NYR’s xGF% ranks 11th in the league at 51.63, led firmly by the offense (xGF/60 of 2.8, 3rd in the league). As shown by the YOY chart, the offense will likely come down unless the forwards keep clicking, while the defense (xGA/60) is in the same ballpark as last season.

Before I turn to highlighting some trending players, I want to just provide my two cents on the daily lineup lottery (and subsequent twitter debates) that appears to be going on given the state of the Rangers roster build. Does anyone remember the scene from Moneyball when Brad Pitt and Philip Seymour-Hoffman are discussing lineup choices in the manager’s office? “I’m saying it doesn’t matter what moves I make if you don’t play the team the way they’re designed to be played.”

Leaving out the working relationship of Jeff Gorton and David Quinn, which none of us know anything about, in the end I think all I want is for David Quinn to focus on dressing the 18 skaters who can score the most goals possible on any given night. Yes, there are highs and lows in seasons for players and there is a lot of personal and injury related facts that none of us are privy to. That said, when there are historically proven average or bad skaters playing over developing/younger players who may have more to offer, that is where I begin to draw the line. In a year where the team may actually not be as bad as some individuals thought and the expectations are the lowest in a while, to me it’s perfectly fine to find out what NYR has on hand before trying to make any improvements.

Let’s move to some names. Here’s the updated Game Control bar chart (sorted by TOI, left to right aka least to most):

Trending Up

Fredrik Claesson: Claesson drew in against the Sharks on 10/11 and played in three more games before sitting out against Calgary due to an upper body injury. In those games with an average of 16 minutes of ice time, he has been the Rangers best Defenseman in a strictly statistical sense, as he is the only one with a Corsi-For% above 50 and easily leads the xGF% race with a 70.23 figure (Corsica 5v5, adjusted). Per HockeyViz, his opponents TOI has been mostly middle-six based for Forwards, so while the numbers could be slightly inflated by his competition, in my mind Claesson should be a staple of the lineup until he shows any struggles.

Filip Chytil: To slide or not to slide, that is the question. While Chytil has been moved up and down the lineup with new line-mates every third game, overall his results are encouraging so far despite only one primary point. While he’s been on the ice for quality chances (60.85 xGF%), some volume shooting might help in getting of the schneid goal wise, as he’s dipped from 2.33 shots on goal per game in his 9 GP last season to 1.5 thus far. If he remains past 9 GP with NYR and burns an ELC year, hopefully he can continue to drive offense regardless of where he is in the lineup.

Vladislav Namestnikov: One of three forwards above 50% in Corsi-For and only one of two that can pair it with an xGF% over 50 (the other player will be below), the Rangers have simply been better when Namestnikov has been on the ice. The caveat here is that he has done this mostly against bottom-six TOI competition (he himself has the 4th lowest TOI of NYR forwards). With a logjam at center, Vlad may want to get used to lower TOI, which I’m perfectly fine with so long as he keeps tilting the ice towards the other team’s net.

Trending Down

Vinni Lettieri & Ryan Spooner: These two are mentioned together only because by the TOI these are your two lowest regular forwards so far. Letteri has been better purely by the numbers, but if we think about the eventual trade deadline, no doubt Ryan Spooner may fetch a higher return. Letteri skates hard and has been getting to the net, but in the end I’d rather have Spooner try to shoot over 10% again so that NYR can flip him down the road (which requires at least some ice time).

Jimmy Vesey: While Vesey has had a lot of high-profile scoring chances, in the end he has struggled at 5v5 play to win the shot and expected goal share. The breakaways and beneficial turnovers have led to him getting power play time, which quickly needs to end. He is posting many more shots on goal this year, but if you’re in your own zone more times than not, that tends to be negated.

Pavel Buchnevich: A full-on sophomore slump? One can only hope. I’m not going to try to defend Pavel’s play because I think many would agree it’s been uninspiring. The only item I will point to is that he’s been all over the lineup with the exception of the first two games. Is that an excuse? No, but for player who was treated in a bit of an inconsistent manner last season, some consistency for number 89 may do him some good.

Other Notables

Marc Staal & Neal Pionk: Speaking strictly by the numbers, Staal has been ok (48.3% Corsi, 52.6% xGF, positive relative in both) and Pionk has not (41.9% & 48.5%, negative relative). Pionk’s been a topic as of late as no one wants to quite call him a bust but for anyone looking at the numbers, they are not pretty (taken of course with the salt of the team and his common partners). Both are worthy of watching very closely in this first 20 game stretch.

Cody McLeod & Jesper Fast: McLeod hasn’t even seen 20 minutes of 5v5 time on ice yet, but I’d be a liar to say he’s been bad in his last two games (he’s the other player north of 50% in CF and xGF at 5v5). The reason I note this, though, is because usually McLeod is very bad, which is where I expect he’ll eventually be back down to. Jesper Fast is mentioned in the same section because he is also playing much better than he previously has, posting his best shot numbers of his career so far. With the second-highest 5v5 TOI among forwards, he should be due for a goal or two soon if he continues to play this effectively.

"When Bad Luck is Actually Good", 3 out of 5 based on 10 ratings.

40 thoughts on “When Bad Luck is Actually Good

  • Oct 23, 2018 at 8:09 am

    Watches games: Pionk generates offense, is exciting, and noticeable in good and sometimes not so good ways every game. Promising though, especially for a developing player.

    Watches data: “no one wants to quite call him a bust.”


    • Oct 23, 2018 at 8:48 am

      TCJJ – I do agree that Pionk has looked good in certain spots, all I’m saying in the above is that hasn’t translated to great results. Many point out that he’s been paired with Staal for 23 of his 34 career games thus far, but somehow Staal’s numbers end up better when he’s away from Pionk. On the flip side, Pionk does not have any positive relative numbers above any teammate, meaning he’s always giving up more shots regardless of who he’s paired with.

      Can he seemingly skate well and make some nice plays? Yes, but if he continues to struggle with defending his own zone that doesn’t make him immune from criticism.

      • Oct 23, 2018 at 8:56 am

        Thanks Rob. I do appreciate the care in examining the numbers closely. I am not anti-analytics and the shot metrics matter. I understand this. My only caution is with the extremes of our narratives. Pionk is hardly close to bust territory even with concern about his underlying numbers and room for fair criticism.

        • Oct 23, 2018 at 9:05 am

          Yeah, bust is likely not a fair word to use at this point, but if you took the name and jersey numbers away from the data, not many would pick him to be in the lineup on a nightly basis.

          • Oct 23, 2018 at 11:06 am

            …and that’s why there are names and numbers on uniforms. There are actually people in them uniforms, they live, breath, think and have emotions and feelings. Unlike computers.

          • Oct 23, 2018 at 3:34 pm

            One difficulty with evaluating numbers this early in the season is this: PDO is more important than Corsi in winning hockey games, but, with so little data, PDO numbers are basically crap. [Corsi generates ten times the data per game.] What the PDO numbers will do is regress toward where they should be. It is simplistic to expect them to regress to some arbitrary mean. With veteran players, we expect regression to career norms. With a kid like Pionk, a coach has a sense (not necessarily right) of where that PDO will end up. He also has a sense of which of his flaws are fixable and which are not. FWIW, both AV and Quinn seemed high on Pionk and with so little data to go on, that makes me high on him.

      • Oct 23, 2018 at 11:56 am

        To steal TCJJ’s format…

        Watches games: Staal falls all over the place, can’t defend, can’t make a clearing pass, is the team’s worst d-man, needs to benched, needs to be bought out.

        Watches data: “Speaking strictly by the numbers, Staal has been ok (48.3% Corsi, 52.6% xGF, (positive relative in both)”

        I am NOT a Staal supporter – his contract is an albatross of the worst kind and a reminder of the Sather era. But it is interesting that despite all of the noise about his play “speaking strictly by the numbers – he is OK”….

      • Oct 23, 2018 at 12:34 pm

        And yet the coaches continue to increase his playing time and participation in key situations. Something doesn’t jive here. Since Quinn uses analytics to an extent maybe he doesn’t base everything on that like so many who in my opinion over value advanced stats.

    • Oct 23, 2018 at 9:01 am

      Do you also watch the parts of the games where Pionk has bad defensive zone positioning, or loses his man, and can’t recover in time to prevent a shot or scoring chance? Because I see those moments a lot more than his flashy offensive skills, and the data backs that up.

      • Oct 23, 2018 at 11:18 am

        Please name someone, anyone, in any hockey league, or for that matter any sport, that. is always in perfect position and always makes the perfect play. I mean 3 out 0f 10 is considered awesome in baseball. I just don’t understand the “they must always be great” rhetoric.

        • Oct 23, 2018 at 11:29 am

          That’s a massive leap of nonlogic on your part. Way to go.

          Pionk is not good defensively yet. For all the heat that Shatty takes on this site, Shatty comes off like Marc-Edouard Vlasic compared to Pionk defensively. If you can’t see that, then there’s no point discussing this subject with you. As a matter of fact I think Tony DeAngelo has outplayed Pionk when in the lineup this year, but it’s pretty clear that Quinn doesn’t like Tony D as a player already. It also doesn’t mean that Pionk can’t develop into a better defender, he seems to be a coachable player.

          I’m also repeatedly on record here saying I think that Shattenkirk/Pionk/DeAngelo should be the 3 starting RD for the Rangers. Notice that I think Pionk’s better than McQuaid?

          • Oct 23, 2018 at 11:45 am

            DeAngelo sitting is a mystery at this point

          • Oct 23, 2018 at 12:57 pm

            Well then, since your not interested in a discussion with someone who may have a different opinion than your own, we will end the discourse. Have a great day, buddy! I wish you peace and happiness always!

  • Oct 23, 2018 at 8:10 am

    Lose for Hughes! All the stats are impressive, but if this is to be a lost season, lose all the way. We need offense, which is trying but unsuccessful, and we need defense, but Tony D still sits in the pressbox. If AV were coaching, he would be getting crushed.

    We just do not have 18 very good forwards. We have a top line that challenges any #2 line in the league. Nice is the word that comes to mind, not scary or strong. We have a nice team, In this league, nice gets you in the bottom of the standings.

  • Oct 23, 2018 at 8:10 am

    Just great work Rob.

    Zuc proclaiming that he’s not shooting more or changing his game to try and score more goals basically seals his fate as a Ranger. Which will be the same reason that Hayes will be traded too, and not get the $6M+ per that he thinks he’s worth.

    Eli had almost 400 yards passing but couldn’t get into the end zone if his life was on the line.

    All these stats are great and they do potentially predict future results, but the bottom line is that goals still win games. And not having any snipers or goal scorers, other than maybe Zib, will result in all these competitive losses.

    The thing about the NHL is that shots that go in, in the AHL, KHL, SEL, etc., don’t go in here. It separates the men from the boys.

    Panarin please. I know, he creates and is not a sniper, but he’s so good that he makes others look and score better.

    • Oct 23, 2018 at 8:31 am

      So true! I also want Panarin, but make more trades, gather first rounders and then go all in on a few studs so 2019/20 won’t suck as bad.

      What did you expect to happen when you trade JT, Nash and Grabner? Were their 50+ goals just going to reappear from someone else? I am also thinking Krieder may bring a nice return from a struggling club as well. Move em out I tell ya! Back up the truck! Bring up more kids and let them learn at the NHL level.

    • Oct 23, 2018 at 8:45 am

      zuc has 15 shots through 8 games. our supposed “top rw” and “leader for the kids” . not hard to diagnose team scoring woes.

      he has 6 points although I suspect half of them are noise (the site that tracks that stuff is down).

      the difference between the flames and nyr last game is one had johnny and the other didn’t.

      on shots going in a different levels: that is why its so hard to predict prospect success: for example wahlstrom is off to kind of a slow start with BC after torching the USHL.

      • Oct 23, 2018 at 9:10 am

        Hmmm imagine that. But Wahlstrom is already ten times the player that Lias Andersson is, isn’t he? Funny, it’s almost as if being a one dimensional shooter with success against 18-year olds doesn’t automatically guarantee success against bigger/stronger/faster adult hockey players. Who’d have thunk it?

        • Oct 23, 2018 at 9:16 am

          Might be a bit early to judge either player at the NHL level yet. Give them a full year at the NHL level first.

          • Oct 23, 2018 at 9:20 am

            Tell that to the Lias bashers like Mr Matrix here. My post was made with tongue in cheek, trying to make the same point you’re making.

            • Oct 23, 2018 at 9:32 am

              firstly I don’t compare lias to wahlstrom, different years. secondly i wasnt comparing anyone to anyone. thirdly, I can think lias will be a player and not like the pick.

              • Oct 23, 2018 at 9:36 am

                but since you only accept it from the experts, adam herman wrote about lias’s shot generation at the banter today.

              • Oct 23, 2018 at 10:16 am

                Saw the article and his opinion was that Lias is doing quite well at Hartford both with his production and with his play away from the puck. Working on creating more offensive opportunities for himself and just building his confidence seem to be the major focuses. Look for him to join the big club possibly after the trade deadline.

        • Oct 23, 2018 at 1:04 pm

          “Hmmm imagine that. But Wahlstrom is already ten times the player that Lias Andersson is, isn’t he? ”

          I actually have an opinion, but since it doesn’t match yours, no sense in discussion.

          • Oct 23, 2018 at 1:33 pm

            Thats the way these sites go. Anything remotely against or not in favor of a “fan fave” gets voted down/rebuked.

      • Oct 23, 2018 at 9:38 am

        Agentsmith—Also wanted to note: Zucc’s 15 shots thru 8 games rank him sixth on the team in total shots. Three players are tied at 16 shots. And his career average for shots per game? Why, it’s a little over 2 shots a game! 983 shots in 471 games played. Shocker, right? Do you really complain when a player is playing to their career averages? Why not just say you hate Zucc and leave it there, your bias is blinding you.

    • Oct 23, 2018 at 8:58 am

      Rangers won’t win that sweepstakes in the summer. Why would Panarin join a rebuilding team without a true 1c and 1st pair? He’s going to get the chance to pick to play with top notch center’s, not Zib who will help in competitive losses.

      If they trade for him, than CBJ in return
      will want players who already have years left on their contracts. Zib, Kreider, Buch etc. I don’t think the next sell off is going to go as you planned.

  • Oct 23, 2018 at 8:25 am

    Letteri works hard but needs to regain his scoring touch. He be better off on the farm playing big minutes. The Rangers could call up another prospect and see what they bring to the table.

    Anton Forsberg was waived yesterday I would like to see the Rangers make a bid for him. Georgsieve doesn’t look ready to me and Mazenac is a disaster.

  • Oct 23, 2018 at 8:32 am

    when bad luck is also good luck:

    jack hughes
    kirby dach
    Dylan cozens

  • Oct 23, 2018 at 9:25 am

    NIce work Rob thanks for your efforts.

    Pionk is a young and inexperienced defenseman at the NHL level. Defensive zone coverages and techniques are some of the most difficult things to learn in my opinion. So, I am unsurprised at his number because I’ve noticed his struggles in the D zone despite his offensive skills. He’s got time to learn and talent so I am not concerned for now.

    • Oct 23, 2018 at 1:45 pm

      Well said. That’s the best way to frame Pionk at this point. You almost have to throw out the advanced stats across the board at this point in the season (sacrilegious for me to say- I’m a huge proponent) as there is just so much noise as far as learning a new system, learning to play at the highest level: NHL, rotating partners/linemates, and quality of competition.

      Pionk at least shows promise, albeit with a ton of rough edges to smooth out. You’re just not getting that upside with the Staals and McQuaids of the world.

  • Oct 23, 2018 at 12:21 pm

    Very nice article. I do wish to take issue with one statement: “all I want is for David Quinn to focus on dressing the 18 skaters who can score the most goals possible on any given night.” I faulted AV for doing exactly this and I don’t want Quinn doing it. I think you want to win each game, but you also want the best team going forward. Balance. You may give a guy an extra day to heal from an injury, for example. You might prefer to have McDavid humiliate Staal rather than Pionk simply because the humiliation will affect Pionk more long term (even if that means McDavid is more successful against Staal). You might do something dumb like putting DeAngelo on the PK just to see how it affects the way he approaches playing defense. There are things you can do that have potential long term benefit even while hurting you in the short run.

    • Oct 23, 2018 at 1:28 pm

      Hi Ray – I agree with your points. I only made that statement because after watching NYR twitter all last week debate the lineups, I still feel that for an NHL coach it should be his goal to find the best optimal lineup as the season progresses. This year for NYR is certainly different with the expectations and the roster build. In the end, though, if certain key lines or pairings aren’t found, I just ask why, is all.

      • Oct 23, 2018 at 3:20 pm

        I think we are on the same page. For the most part, you want your best players out there. Many want to see as many kids as possible. However, kids like Chityl, Howden, Pionk learn a lot more by playing on a real NHL team with solid players. The presence of veterans adds to the learning experience for the kids who do get to play. Trying to win is an important part of that experience.

    • Oct 23, 2018 at 4:21 pm

      “You might do something dumb like putting DeAngelo on the PK just to see how it affects the way he approaches playing defense. There are things you can do that have potential long term benefit even while hurting you in the short run.”

      I fully agree with this for a new coach. Now, if Quinn is still experimenting to this degree come January 2020, I’m going to be getting a little fed up with it by then. I don’t mind it a bit right now, though. I don’t get your statement in relation to AV, though – from my perspective, there were plenty of times AV didn’t send his best 18 out.

      • Oct 23, 2018 at 5:38 pm

        Sending your best 18 out means sending the 18 players YOU think give you the best chance to win. Obviously, you and the coach will not always agree who those 18 players are. I think it was AV’s style to only play defenseman 7 or forward 13 when forced to do so, to never trust players in situations where they had not earned his confidence, etc.

  • Oct 23, 2018 at 1:20 pm

    Thanks for this post. I think this is the best article reviewing the Rangers posted on a fan website and am looking forward to it in the future.

    One area that I think we need to be cognizant of is that so far of 28 GA, 7 have come on the PK. Somehow with Hank playing out of his mind, our PK has leaked goals at a comical rate. That combined with comical reffing has led the team to its current ranking. I don’t think anybody can say we’ve played at a bottom five rate. We have not. With time as some of our snakebitten forwards find their luck, our ranking will show that as well.

    • Oct 23, 2018 at 1:31 pm

      Hi Arisrules – Appreciate the kind words. The PK could be suffering from coaching, but we don’t know that for sure. In the end, I tweeted about Henrik and his EV/PK results so far: https://twitter.com/RLuker12/status/1054459392572223491

      Also, statistically speaking, PK save% bounces randomly in-season and YOY. It’s very hard to correlate to specific PK changes or trends: https://www.broadstreethockey.com/2012/1/25/2730816/goalie-save-percentage-projections-even-strength

      • Oct 23, 2018 at 2:25 pm

        Thanks. Yea I saw that tweet that got me thinking more about the PK, as it’s been one area where I’ve personally noticed that we haven’t been effective. Also do you have that same chart comparing the team as it is now to last year at the same point, and then also at the end of the year?

        That second article is interesting in terms of save percentage and how it bounces around. I guess I always tended to make assumptions on Hank’s record at the PK as being a main driver for our typical success.

        Having said that, I still feel that the combination of poor PK results (whatever the drivers are, I think it warrants a deep dive and Gorton should be pushing Quinn/Ruff on it) and poor reffing (the Sabres scored with too many men on the ice!) contribute more to the record than our team play (e.g. xG% daggers from Tierney show us postive, etc). We haven’t been that bad, and I’ve actually had fun watching the team this year.

  • Oct 23, 2018 at 1:57 pm

    I’m happy with the way the team is playing — and better results will follow over time, that said I hope the “results” aren’t too much better so we at least get a legitimate shot at a guy like Hughes (as if Bettman would allow us that much luck).

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