Around here, we like to use some advanced metrics –in addition to the eye test– to analyze how the Rangers are performing from a defensive standpoint. We use quality of competition, offensive zone starts and RCorsi, all at even strength.
For those of you new to these stats, zone starts accounts for who is on the ice during faceoffs and whether that faceoff is in the offensive, neutral, or defensive zone. Relative Corsi (RCorsi) is a stat we like to use here to measure puck possession. A positive number shows more shots directed at the opposition’s net while a player is on the ice, and a negative number shows more shots directed at the Rangers net. It’s not a perfect stat, but it does put a measure to puck possession and defensive ability.
While we are victims of small sample size this early in the season, it’s worth noting that Rick Nash is a monster when he is on the ice. He has a very wide margin on RCorsi compared to the rest of the forwards. His linemates (Marian Gaborik, Brad Richards) are numbers two and three on the RCorsi leaders, which shouldn’t be much of a surprise. But it’s the way they are deployed that may surprise a few:
What this table shows is that yes, Nash, Richards, and Gaborik are monsters on the ice from a RCorsi perspective, but it’s easy to have absurd numbers when you are taking 70% of your faceoffs in the offensive zone. Another person to focus on here is Taylor Pyatt, who is still one of the Rangers better players despite taking just 33% of his faceoffs in the offensive zone. His RCorsi shows that he may not be the puck possession monster that Nash is, but Pyatt is at least capable in his own end and is contributing offensively.
The one person that really stands out here is Carl Hagelin. Hagelin is –at the moment– facing the toughest competition among all forwards, but yet still has a positive RCorsi. He’s not being used in a defensive role like Callahan, Rupp, Pyatt, or Halpern, but his numbers still suggest that his slow start will be a thing of the past very soon.
As for the defense, the numbers show something we’ve been saying all along: Stu Bickel is having a lot of trouble, and probably shouldn’t be in the lineup.
Focusing on Bickel, he is facing the easiest competition, he’s not being used primarily in a defensive role, but his RCorsi shows he just isn’t doing anything right. Half of his faceoffs are in the offensive zone against the bottom of the barrel, and he still can’t maintain possession of the puck. This is something we’ve known for a while.
What is interesting is the fact that MDZ is being sheltered the way he has been. Del Zotto hasn’t been a liability defensively, but that negative RCorsi is a little bit more damning then one might think. With that QoC and OZone start percentage, you would expect the RCorsi to be along the lines of Hagelin.
That said, only Ryan McDonagh has a positive RCorsi, so maybe it’s just a small sample size that is really skewing the numbers here. Regardless, the OZone start, for both forwards and defensemen, illustrates how Torts is going to be utilizing his forwards this season. He’s going to be riding his big three forwards and Del Zotto offensively, and putting Girardi and McDonagh against the top competition on a nightly basis. Par for the course it seems.