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:
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:
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:
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:
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.