When I started writing this post, I had about 20 things going through my mind about this team, but nothing was solid enough to be a stand alone post. After about an hour of trying to figure out what to write about, it dawned on me. Since Thursday is Thanksgiving, a Monday Musings sounded like a solid idea. I feel like this should have come to me sooner than an hour later, but such is life.
- Let’s get this out of the way first: This start is easy to enjoy. Getting all these points now will make things a lot easier in March/April when other teams are fighting for their playoff lives. They haven’t clinched anything yet, but 32 points after one-quarter of the season is a nice bank of points to start with.
- That said, this team has not been playing as well as their record indicates. That’s not saying they aren’t as good as their record, it’s saying they have not been playing like an elite team. Their defense has been relatively atrocious, and they’ve been poor with puck management. They’ve excelled with what we’ve expected them to: goaltending and transition scoring. Based on the reaction from the poor showing in Florida, people are starting to catch on.
- There will be a significant PDO crash for this team. That means the hot shooting will likely level out, as will the unsustainable goaltending. This doesn’t mean the Rangers will become a bad team, it just means that we should expect some losses. No team can continue at this pace, it’s just not possible.
- For those who keep inquiring: The Rangers are sitting at a .961 SV% at even strength. Over the past two seasons, that has been at .932. It’s fair to expect SV% to level out to that number over the remainder of the season. However it is also fair to be hopeful that this team can be a statistical outlier and finish with a .940 SV%. It’s been done, but only by teams with elite goaltending (Tuukka Rask, Carey Price). If that happens, then it isn’t out of the realm of possibility for the Rangers to finish with a PDO greater than 103 (100 is usually where teams sit). Only six teams have done this, and none won the Stanley Cup. If you expand this to a PDO of 102 or greater, you have 16 teams and a pair of Cup champs (2011 Bruins, 2013 Blackhawks). Both of those teams were north of 50% with possession though.
- If not for the unsustainable goaltending, the Rangers would likely be slightly above .500, probably between Pittsburgh and Washington. One of the things that few are pointing out is that the play in front of the goalies has been the same in every October/November in front of Alain Vigneault. The difference is that the goaltending is in playoff form, while the skaters are still working through the kinks. Each year, the team has turned it around and played significantly better come December/January. Assuming that normal turn around comes, then the PDO crash mentioned above will be weathered.
- What concerns me about the puck possession game is that it starts at the blue line, and the Rangers’ blue liners have been awful so far, save for Keith Yandle and Kevin Klein. If the other four guys can’t figure out how to make the smart, simple pass out of the zone to start the transition to offense, then this team won’t make much noise in May/June. That is a critical piece that has been alarmingly absent.
- I always get a good laugh when people tell me I’m not allowed to criticize anyone on the defense during this streak, but those same people are the first to throw Rick Nash under a bus.
- Speaking of Nash, that hatty was a long time coming. Way too many posts for him, and hopefully that was the sign of some better puck luck.
- As of this morning, the Rangers have nine players that are on pace for 40 points: Nash, Mats Zuccarello, Derick Brassard, Oscar Lindberg, Kevin Hayes, Derek Stepan, Keith Yandle, Chris Kreider, and J.T. Miller. Six of those guys (Nash, Zucc, Brassard, Lindberg, Hayes, Stepan) are on pace for 20 goals. That, my friends, is some serious scoring depth.
- The powerplay will come along, as soon as Yandle is playing PP1 minutes.
- The quartet of Etem, Moore, Stoll, and Fast is the best fourth line the Rangers have ever had. Better than Boyle-Moore-Dorsett. It is that fourth line that makes this team so good up front. If and when the defense catches up, this team could make another run.
"Monday musings: PDO crashes and the usual October/November start",