Analysis

Stats: Is the bubble bursting for the Rangers?

Let me be blunt: The New York Rangers did not deserve to win last night’s game over Florida. They started slow, special teams bailed them out, and then they finally played well in the third. This is the exact same way the Rangers played against Carolina, minus the special teams. Hank bailed them out in the first period of that game. Those are two wins with poor performances that they only won because they played against bad teams.

The Rangers lost the two previous games to the Habs and Isles, also games that they did not deserve to win. They beat the Senators before that, and the Rangers certainly played better defensively in that game. However, there was something missing from that game too. That’s five straight games where the Rangers were not the better team. They came out of this 3-2, beating the bad teams and losing to the good teams.

One of the biggest warning signs of a team performing above its talent level is FF%. Teams that are above the 50% FF mark –preferably above 52%– are the teams that make deeper runs in the playoffs. It’s been proven. If you don’t like it or these stats, well too bad. I’m about to use it to show why the Rangers bubble may be about to burst, or is in the process of bursting.

*-For each graph below, numbers are at even strength only.

Don’t get me wrong. The Rangers have banked enough points to make the playoffs. No team is unseating them from at least a wild card spot. But the Rangers have been trending in the wrong direction of FF for a while, looking at their ten-game rolling average:

nyr ff

That massive spike in December was when they started their winning streak, and we saw that result on the ice. But as the year turned to 2015, the Rangers weren’t driving play in the same manner they had been. They were still winning games, but the wins were more a result of unsustainable SH% and SV%, which we will get to in a moment.

PDO is a stat thrown out there that measures “luck.” Luck is a bad word, but in reality it measure SH% and SV% combined. League average is about 100. The Rangers have been well above that mark all season:

nyr pdo

You’ll notice that the Rangers spiked at a whopping 106 average, well above norm, during the winning streak. They’ve been tanking since, down to 101 since their highest.

Now the problem with PDO is that it doesn’t account for elite goaltending. Teams like the Rangers and Predators, who have elite goaltending, are generally above the 100 mark. League average SV% is around 92%, but for someone like Hank, it’ll be around 93%. We see the rolling ten-game average below:

nyr sv

Hank has been playing unworldly lately, save for that softy against Montreal. He certainly has the talent to play at this level, but it’s worth noting that this is above even his career averages.

Lastly, we get to the most alarming part: SH%. At even strength, league average SH% is somewhere between 6%-7%. Naturally, teams like the Sabres will be below, and teams like the Pens will be above. But usually, you don’t see a SH% above 9%, otherwise it’s a giant red flag. Let’s look at the Rangers rolling ten-game average:

nyr sh

The Rangers spiked to a whopping 13% (!!) during their win streak. Over the past four weeks, they have come crashing down to Earth, hard. The games haven’t been cakewalks, and it shows up on the ice.

The lazy narrative that people will throw out is “compete level.” Yes, there are games where the Rangers mail it in, but this isn’t one of those cases. Pros don’t mail it in for several games in a row. At that point, it’s about talent level and overall team talent. The Rangers have struggled because they aren’t shooting at a 13% clip anymore. Hank is bailing them out regularly, but he’s playing at a 95% save-percentage. That’s not sustainable either.

The Rangers are a different team this year from last. Last year’s team was well above 52% FF all year, but their SV% and SH% were lacking. When the calendar turned to January, all of that balanced out, and the Rangers went on a tear. It’s why many (including myself) picked the Rangers to make a run to the Stanley Cup Finals. This year they don’t have that same talent. This year they are relying on a high PDO and low possession to carry them. If we’ve learned anything from teams with high PDO/low possession (Leafs, Avs, Wild), it’s that those teams are doomed.

This is a team headed to the playoffs, and there are some roster moves that can be made to improve the team for postseason. But for now, the bubble appears to be bursting. Things need to change quickly for this team to retool for another Cup run.

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45 Comments

  1. Insert sad face emoji here

    So I guess, B Boyle / Pouliot / Dorsett / Stralman > Hayes / Glass / Fast / D Boyle

    Couple other moving parts, but those are some of the highlights

    1. You forgot about Stempniak, Malone, and re-signing Girardi. Disastrous off-season.

      Pouliot would have been tough to keep just because of how expensive he was nad the realities of the cap, but the others should have been retained.

      1. The biggest moves they botches were re-signing Girardi and choosing Boyle over Stralman. When compared with those moves, Glass is just fumes.

        1. Basically if we kept Stralman over Boyle we’d be in better shape. But Girardi is an anchor now. Miller over Glass is something that can be done right now though.

  2. In yesterdays’ article you wrote very smartly about small moves the Rangers could make to improve. Perfectly sensible approach and no criticism here. More of an observation than a question, but maybe it is time to start looking at big moves they can make to improve their chances. The reality is that the core players are safe due to lots of reasons – cap, no trades, etc. But, should they be? The results are what they are – an eighth place team who so far can’t compete with the big boys in conference in the weaker of the two conferences. Maybe a bold move is needed more than tweaks.

    1. The guys that they should be looking to trade just signed long term deals. While a big move (dumping Girardi) is best for the team, it’s just not feasible. Trying to live within reality.

  3. Your point about PDO is well taken – basically, the law of averages is starting to catch up to the Rangers. The PDO spike in December goes a long way toward explaining the winning streak.

    My question is – why the drop in possession since early January? Fenwick/Corsi doesn’t seem like it should be a luck-based stat, and the Rangers were trending up in that category until mid-January. It looks like the spike in the Fenwick chart you provided occurred right around the Cali trip. So, since possession (Fenwick/Corsi) isn’t really a luck-based stat like PDO, how do we explain the significant downward trend in the possession numbers over the last few weeks? Haven’t been any long-term significant injuries, and Tanner Glass has generally been a regular presence all season, so he’s not necessarily the cause of the current downturn. Aside from AV’s juggling of the lines, the same team is taking the ice now that was taking the ice during the upward possession trend.

    Is last season’s cup run catching up to the Rangers now?

    1. I’m researching what caused the spike/tank now. It’s likely personnel related, could be that they faced crappy teams too.

      It’s not the Cup run last year, it’s the 3 bad moves they made: Girardi, Boyle, and Glass.

      1. Did some research, there are a lot of contributing factors. A lot of guys got hot at the same time, they faced some crappy teams, Glass wasn’t in the lineup.

        Now, those guys are slowing down, they are facing better teams, and Glass is in the lineup.

      2. I was thinking the FF% spike could reflect a good run against lousy teams, but that’s why it’s odd that it seemed to spike during the California trip – definitely not lousy teams. Looking forward to reading what you dig up.

    2. It’s not catching up to them, so much as this current roster is showing its true talent level in terms of possession. Girardi was bad last year, worse this year. Dan Boyle can’t keep up. Tanner Glass doesn’t belong in the NHL. JT Miller deserves to be in the lineup. Marc Staal is lost without Stralman. Until a few games ago, the Kreider-Stepan-MSL line was getting torched possession-wise.

      AV clearly doesn’t see the problem here.

      1. We’re fans. We second guess and criticize. It comes with the territory. However, it never ceases to amaze me how often so many think that they know more or have better judgment than the coaching staff and management who watch every moment of every practice and every game.

        It’s one thing to disagree with a coach’s decisions. But it’s quite another to think that the coach “doesn’t see the problem” or doesn’t understand what you do. The former is a matter of opinion; the latter is a matter of hubris.

        1. Stating a coach doesn’t see the problem is harsh, but he has yet to answer why Glass is playing over Miller.

          1. One is a very different issue than the other.

            But has AV given us reasons to doubt his thinking and judgment to such an extent that you should assume there’s a bad reason for not explaining his rationale. Or, instead, has he given us good reason to give him the benefit of the doubt?

            Maybe he hasn’t answered the question because he can’t – as in he and Sather are hoping that by playing Glass (and maybe Stemp) that they may be able to trade them.

              1. I could not disagree more. The team’s tremendous record of success – by every measure – over the past 13 months provides far more reasons to give him (and Sather) the benefit of the doubt rather than using his playing of a 4th line winger (Glass/Miller) to question his judgment to such an extent.

                Btw, does sitting Miller help or hurt his trade value?

                Thankfully, in one month we’ll have our answers and we can move past the speculation and the second-guessing.

  4. Great post Dave… these kinds of stats are most useful when they’re cross-referenced with each other, and you did exactly that.

    Basically with this declining rate of FF and PDO, we WILL see a decline in win percentage. PDO is unlikely to return over 9 for an extending time, but as long as the team FF% turns around (and is very possible) there shouldn’t be much of a team collapse at all.

    Live by the sword, die by the sword… this team lives and dies with Lundqvist. He had a great January with a 1.75 gaa and .945 sv% and the Rangers record is a reflection of that. Hanks stats may be unsustainable, but not by a very large margin.

    Bottom line, PDO will settle, not continue to fall. Would really like to see FF% improve. Lundqvist needs to stay hot.

    1. Thanks, much appreciated.

      They can make 2 moves that will substantially improve the team: a small trade for Santorelli and subbing Miller for Glass.

      An upgrade on D would be nice too.

    1. The Kings are annually one of the best teams in hockey in possession metrics. With or without Gaborik. I believe they finished 1st last year in Corsi and Fenwick % (and have been at the top or close since their first Stanley Cup).

  5. While many are at the ledge, I think this is a manageable situation, if Slats can pull another rabbit out of his hat.

    JT is gone, I think that is quite evident. I think we need some CAP space, so you have to believe Zucc may be headed out the door as well. Do we have any trade-able commodities on defense other that McD? Only Klein comes to mind. Can Slats use JT, Zucc & Klein ( and maybe another kid and a pick) to bring back a puck moving defenseman, and a legit #3 center? If he can, add that to the top 6 and we may be able to right the ship.

    Trying to be positive (for once).

    1. Cap space will be had by trading Hags, not Zucc.

      Sad thing is that the cap space should be had by firing Glass into the sun.

  6. I can only imagine what the posts and comments would be like if we weren’t:
    * 4th in the league in goals against per game (7 one-hundredths out of 1st)
    * 5th in the league in goals scored per game
    (only Chicago is in the top 5 of both categories)
    * 8th in the league in points per game (4 one-hundredths behind Islanders/Lightening)

    Are there reasons for concern? Yes. But the amount of concern compared to the amount of appreciation for what we have is completely disproportionate.

    We’re making the playoffs. AV and Sather are well aware of our flaws. Steps will be taken to attempt to correct them. There’s plenty of time.

    Breathe.

      1. You provide an excellent basis for the concerns. But I think they’re more than outweighed by the reasons for optimism. Not to mention that I think there’s more fun being justifiably optimistic than justifiably pessimistic.

        (Stanley) Cup half full!

        1. I try to be justifiably realistic. Last year I was all positive, this year I’m a mixed bag.

          I wasn’t being sarcastic btw, I do love the optimism.

          1. I know you were being sincere. I was VERY positive last year. A tad less so this year. But that’s only because our success this season is going to depend on the move(s) Sather makes to address our flaws.

  7. You know I’ve seen tons of games the Rangers should have won but didn’t so let’s not get too panicky yet. Too much sun & sand but all that snow will drive up the alertness level I’m sure. It sure does it for me when I take Charlie for a walk in the morning!!

  8. Nice work Dave, thank you.

    This is not the 2013-14 Leafs who imploded after enjoying a very lucky streak of lack of possession vs. win/loss success for 75% of the year. The Rangers are also not possession team they were last year. The loss of Stralman and not having a puck possession D (Boyle was supposed to be) has really hurt.

    But the Rangers are a very good transition team and they have made hay based on that style of play this year. We did see what they are capable of on their west coast trip. A few trades will change this trend, IMO.

    Get a solid 3rd line C and a dependable D and I think these improvements help reverse the downward trend. I have heard that the Rangers are all over Sekera and trying to obtain him. Add to that the possible C acquisition of Vermette or Hanzal or Santorelli or maybe even Thompson, then I think the Rangers would be set to contend for the Cup.

    1. Problem with our being a good transition team is it only works IF we can efficiently clear the puck. Too many of our defensemen have a problem with that, which undercuts the transition game.

      1. This is where face offs matter too. Granted face offs are not the end all like people think but losing face offs cleanly continuously like the Rangers do is a problem. It’s an uncontested pass by the opponents is what it comes down to.

        I agree with you as well.

        1. It’s interesting. A Face-off is basically a 50/50 puck battle. We lose more face-offs than we win. And I bet we lose more 50/50 pucks than we win, or at least we’re not ahead in that department either.

          Basically it’s the same problem. Our team either doesn’t quite have the needed skill, or we’re not playing well as a team.

          I hope this is something coaching can fix.

  9. The bubble may be bursting but…

    Habs lose to Sabres.

    Isles on a slide.

    Hawks look terrible.

    Kings are toast.

    Etc,etc.

    4 in hand on Bolts, 7 points back.

    Everything is attainable within the Conference.

    Things ain’t so bad. I remain optimistic.

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