Archive for Analysis
We are 24 games into the season, and we’ve seen a Rangers team that has wowed us, depressed us and made us feel every feeling in between. No matter where you sit on the spectrum of the Rangers play, you are likely happy with the 16-7-1 start to the season. If not, then you are likely happy with the +29 goal differential thus far. If not, then well then I’m assuming you hate the coach.
We’ve seen enough of the Rangers that we can evaluate their performance and perhaps what’s to come for the rest of the season. Joe Fortunato did a wonderful job of reviewing if you should be worried about the club, something you should check out, and this is likely going to cover a lot of the same points. I had this post planned for today, so I’m going to write it anyway. Sue me Joe.
Successful teams need depth and the Rangers certainly have depth right now. What they also have is value for money and in a cap world when depth goes hand in hand with value for money you have yourself a winning record. Getting bang for your buck is something we’ve discussed ad nauseam on the Blog but it’s worth repeating.
Here’s a number that may surprise you. Only eight(!) teams have a smaller overall cap commitment than the Rangers this season – your deep pocketed Blueshirts check in with an overall $70,246,111 spend. When was the last time the Rangers were near the bottom of the league in overall spending? Leading the league in goals scored while having the 22nd overall cap hit is a great example of value for money in a hard cap league that forces General Managers to trade away talent to be financially compliant.
Don’t look now, but your New York Rangers are tops in the league in goal scoring (35) and tied for second in the league goal differential (+13). The Rangers have won games by simply outchancing, outshooting, and outscoring the opposition. The rebuilt forward group is deep, fast, skilled, and allows Alain Vigneault to run four lines capable of putting the puck in the net, seemingly at will.
This team has been incredibly fun to watch. It’s been a while since we’ve been able to say that about the Rangers, as they usually have been relying on Henrik Lundqvist to bail them out game after game. This year seems different, even if the outrageous scoring may not last.
At this point last year, the Rangers were just starting their run of what felt like two months without a loss. The wins kept piling up, but there were significant flaws in the process, as the club was getting completely dominated. They relied on unsustainable goaltending and unrealistic shooting success. In December, they crashed to Earth hard.
This year is significantly different. The Rangers are enjoying some success, but not at the same level as last year. There are easily identifiable holes, but the overall process is significantly better. The Rangers are piling up the scoring chances and keeping clubs pinned in their own zone, something we didn’t see last year.
Generating offense can be tricky to analyze. Most use raw point totals, but those don’t tell the entire story sometimes. What point totals can miss is overall creation of offense and quality chances. Only 8.5% of team chances wind up in the back of the net on average (assuming a .915 SV% as league average), and that’s in all situations. Are we only supposed to judge offense on 8.5% of all hockey plays?
That’s where some of the passing projects come into play. The main one is Ryan Stimson’s (@RK_Stimp) passing project, where he employs many different people to manually track pass types and how they lead to goals. This got taken one step further by @loserpoints, who looked at specific pass types (Steve Valiquette’s Royal Road passes, behind the net passes, etc) and how they led to dangerous shot attempts. The full details are here.
Henrik Lundqvist has been the backbone and the face of the New York Rangers for over a decade. It’s been a fascinating career to watch, as we have become somewhat jaded to his consistent excellence and the impact he has had on a franchise in transition, coming out of the lockout in 2005.
Now, at age 34, with a huge contract and still without that elusive Stanley Cup ring, detractors have begun to emerge and question The King’s right to his throne. Specifically, they have taken shots at his current performance level and anticipated decline.
Last summer, I was asked to provide some insight into which stats I use, how I use them, and why I use them. I held off on writing that post until now for a few reasons, most importantly being my personal use of the stats available. This is going to be a very long post about how I use stats, why I use them, and how my use of them evolved over time.
First things first, I am not a statistician. For the most part, I do not understand a lot of the stat posts I see that dive into r-squared calculations. I read the first paragraph, I skim through the meat –which is where these posts begin to lose me– and then I read the conclusion. I also read what the trusted minds say about these pieces, and I draw my conclusions from there. But generally speaking, the “mainstream” stats have been peer reviewed multiple times. In any field, from math to medical to business, peer review is essential, which is why these are the ones that hit mainstream.
Throughout this painful season, one of the comments that has stuck with me is when Alain Vigneault referenced that the Rangers look good when you see the advanced metrics. That was a false statement based on what’s publicly available –teams track their own stats, but it’s proprietary and we have no idea what they track or how effective it is– and all of the analytics community was pretty confused by this statement. The Rangers felt the pain of being a bad possession team once the playoffs rolled around as they were absolutely trumped by a possession goliath in Pittsburgh.
Even though the season has felt like a fluke in the standings, there must be someway to explain their stellar season heading into the January, PDO is certainly one of the prevalent reasons. The current measurements of shot quality can’t currently explain the season or where AV’s stats were coming from (Jim Sullivann, head of the analytics department, maybe?). It is almost impossible for a team to win time of possession and be so inefficient to not out shoot the other team on a regular basis.
Whether you believe in them or not, advanced stats are becoming a staple in the hockey community. These stats are being used in conjunction with scouting to evaluate players, teams, and every facet in hockey. However unlike sports like baseball, hockey is still very “raw” in regards to the information provided in the stats. That gap though is being closed by amazing hockey minds such as Ryan Stimson and his passing project, Micah Blake McCurdy, Jen Lute Costella and many others. Before I begin, I do want to say thank you to them because there work has not only inspired me but also many others, their information is truly invaluable.
As a fan, I have noticed the resistance against advanced stats for a handful of reasons. One reason I’ve seen is because advanced stats may go against notions that some have already created through the eye test. Theoretically the resistance does make sense, people naturally cling on to what they see and remember.
Another reason that I have seen and it is recently being seen in a larger quantity is the concept of grittiness and intangibles. Kevin Hayes is seemingly a perfect conduit for the little argument between fans of opposing views. Some call Kevin Hayes out as lazy because of what they see (which in my opinion is practically blasphemous, large skaters like him who don’t need to peddle are beautifully effortless skaters. That doesn’t mean he is lazy).
For many years now on this site we’ve talked about the Rangers mediocre power play, what’s wrong with it, and what we’d do to fix it. Fortunately for the Rangers, recently history suggests that you can win a Stanley Cup without an elite power play. The LA Kings proved this twice (sad face), as have the Bruins and the Penguins.
The penalty kill is a different story. None of the clubs mentioned above had a PK rate under 83% in their Cup winning seasons; same goes for the Chicago Blackhawks and their runs.
This season the Rangers are only killing off 77% of their penalties, which is good for 26th in the NHL. That does not bode well for any team trying to compete for a Cup, let alone one currently in the top half of the League in minor penalties. And no, Eric Staal doesn’t help you there.
In order for the Rangers to have a fighting chance this postseason, the PK needs to get fix. Here’s three issues the Rangers need to address to fix the kill.