The New York Rangers started off strong and then tapered off in the first half of the season, largely due to their shooting percentage descending back down from the heavens, but also in part due to injuries to three of their top six forwards. Rick Nash, Mika Zibanejad, and Pavel Buchnevich all spent significant time on injured reserve, and their collective return has helped the Rangers find more of a scoring touch and get the most out of their forward depth. Still, with the way the last few games have been going, there’s work to be done.

Let’s start with the positive: DJ ZBad, Buch, and Nash are all finally back, and their return should be a major help as we head into the second half of the season. Zibanejad, although he’s only played two games so far, has recorded two goals for a P60 of 4.17. He’s also helped reinvigorate the Rangers’s power play, with his one-timer proving to be a serious threat that other teams now have to respect. Lastly, although it’s an incredibly small sample size, he’s got a 56.92 CF% for a relCF% of 8.77.

Buchnevich too has proved to be productive in his four games back, notching two goals and four assists, including his nifty skate-to-stick goal right in front of the net against Toronto. That kind of heads-up thinking is hard to teach, so it’s nice to see that he has the quick reflexes to handle scrappy situations in front. Numbers wise his P60 is 7.33, which is of course going to come down, but his CF% of 50.49 is hopefully around where he’ll stay (or hopefully even improve upon) for the rest of the season. For reference, his P60 and CF% for the season (14 games played) are 3.90 and 53.61. He’s got a complete skill set – he’s both scrappy along the boards and creative in his passing, although he does make occasional defensive lapses in judgement.

And then there’s Rick Nash, who has helped fill out the Zibanejad/Buchnevich line with his physical presence, ability to retain the puck, and penchant for driving to the net. Nash has been productive, with a goal and three assists for a P60 4.63, up from 2.20 on the season. He too will regress to the mean, but while we’re here this is a great hot streak to ride from the three recently re-added players. Unfortunately Nash has had a bit more difficulty in the possession department, posting a CF% of 47.66. This is probably around where he could be for the rest of the season, given that in 34 games he’s had a CF% of 45.58.

What all of these numbers mean is that this line has displayed legitimate chemistry together, with the proof to show for it. That kind of scoring, provided the rest of the team is on their game, could help the Rangers pick up some important wins as we get closer to the trade deadline and playoff push. Still though we’ve seen the team as a whole struggle in their time together, with the absurd game against Dallas, comeback notwithstanding, being a serious low point in the season thus far and the win against Toronto still showing signs of deep flaws in the Rangers game.

Much of that has to do with the defense of course, but one can’t just separate out scoring and defense from each other. Scoring results from getting shots and chances, which is simply the other side of the same coin from sound defensive play and effective transitions. With a defense like the Rangers’s you’re not going to have meaningful possession of the puck apart from odd-man rushes, which is going to drive shooting percentage spikes but impact scoring eventually, especially as the Rangers begin to play teams with much better defensive groups than Dallas and Toronto.

The solution to the Rangers’s puck possession woes could fill several blog posts, but the bottom line is that all of the offensive production in the world won’t help if the Rangers let up say, 7 goals in a game. More fundamentally, all of that scoring simply isn’t going to happen if the Rangers don’t get their act together and tighten up their game or, hopefully make some personnel changes. For the sake of us fans, in terms of sanity but at least in terms of entertainment, let’s hope they do.


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