Despite a downright negative start, the Rangers do have some positives going for them

It's not all negative for the NY Rangers

Please note: all data used in this article does not precede 10/16/19, due to the ongoing shot location issue with the first 91 games of the NHL season.

On Tuesday, about two hours before the Tampa Bay game, I messaged the BSB group to say that I planned to write an NYR numbers update on Wednesday and that it would “be of a positive nature.” The thought formed originally in an effort to break away from the historically bad start we’re witnessing NYR put together, but after the Rangers most complete game of the year against the Lightning, being positive is a little easier today.

Leading up to the Tampa Bay game, the Rangers were in complete disarray on the ice. The Rangers have struggled with limiting shots and chances against, especially since Lindy Ruff showed up. Dave has mentioned time and time again that some of this (outside of player talent) is by design. Despite this, the Rangers have managed to generate decent expected goals for figures in the past few seasons with an ever-changing forward corps, and this is still ringing true the morning of 10/30/19:

I shamelessly share my own tweet because while NYR has seemingly chosen to go with a less talented roster to start the season, there is a path forward for NYR to potentially show improvement over last year with the personnel options they currently have. Any improvement in limiting shots and scoring chances against will allow these young and talented forwards to challenge the actually good NHL teams of 2019-20. I think we’re all comfortable in saying that the Rangers goaltending situation is a good problem in of itself, so who knows how effective this team could be with an improved defensive structure and lineup deployment.

Speaking of goaltending, let’s move to the first positive: Lundqvist and Georgiev

Data via Evolving Hockey

The simple breakdown of the above chart (all situations) is this: the quality of shots and chances that Henrik Lundqvist has faced should result in numbers that would risk his NHL roster spot. When you adjust for these factors, Henrik actually comes out looking like a top 10-15 goaltender. Georgiev has faced some easier competition thus far, but still has put up respectable NHL results, which is good because that’s exactly what NYR will need if they plan to obtain an asset for him. In the end, Benoit Allaire and the organization as a whole continues to offer the Rangers well above average goaltending options despite the rebuild status.

Moving onto the skaters, which requires me to start with the defenseman who has looked sharp relative to his time on ice, Adam Fox.

When Adam Fox has come over the boards, the Rangers have usually benefitted in the form of being able to hang with opponents when it comes to shots and chances. Some of this positive work was while he was paired with Brady Skjei, as Fox’s numbers took a dip (as expected) when he got paired up with Marc Staal. Still, on a team that needs to prioritize good-skating and puck-moving defensemen, Fox is certainly playing in a way that should yield more time on ice. He’s also been getting some more power play time, deservedly so.

I do have to give an honorable mention to the Skjei-DeAngelo pairing on defense, who have been a relatively positive force since being paired up in Game 6 against Vancouver. More on the defense later.

As for the forwards, two of them have played consistently above the rest: Jesper Fast and Artemi Panarin.

Panarin has already showed why he was the top UFA of the summer as he’s played well regardless of who is on his line thus far. Ironically for the other forwards that have played with him, it’s the shots against that decrease more than the shots for increase when on the ice, as he’s a well rounded player who wins puck battles. The same can be said for Fast, who quite clearly makes it tough on the other team to generate much when he’s on the ice. While Fast has seen his TOI rise, his perfect usage will be in that middle six to complement a line if and when Kakko and Chytil get settled in (I included Chtyil on the chart to show just how good he was against TBL).

To finish this up, I’d like to look at the defenders as a whole, but with a positive spin (courtesy of the Lightning game).

To put it bluntly, the Rangers defense looked alive and well against Tampa Bay without Marc Staal, who was deservedly scratched after 2-3 years of declining and below average play. While it is unlikely that Staal sits the remainder of the year, the other concerning trend emerging for the NYR D is the Hajek-Trouba pairing, who have been playing top-pair TOI at 5v5. WOWY (with or without you) analysis has its limitations, but Trouba has been about 5-8% better in terms of shots and chances (at 5v5) in the limited time he’s been away from Hajek. In the end, Hajek is looking like he’s simply not ready for this amount of TOI in the NHL and may benefit from some time in Hartford. If this were to be the case, that would leave the following as the ideal NYR Defensive pair options:

Smith or Fox-Trouba
Lindgren-Smith or Fox

Say what you want about the value of Smith’s contract, but part of the reason he’s been able to transition to Forward and put up respectable shot and chance share numbers is because he can still skate and defend at an NHL level. By sending Hajek down, a forward could come up from Hartford while Staal, Smith, and Lindgren rotate out as the 7th D-man. Finding Trouba a competent partner that will allow him to create offense, which has been his strength for years, should be a huge priority for Quinn and Ruff.

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  • The Rangers do have a lot of good things going for them, but it’s how they manage the players that will determine whether the good stuff will result in wins.

    Benching Staal is a good start. Haley and Smith have to be next.

    I suspect Henrik is on the “watch list” meaning that Georgie may be splitting the starts, at the very least. Shesty killing it in Hartford, he’s the real deal. So, what’s next for the goalies?

    • Henrik knows what’s going to need to happen, he’s been so positive and upbeat plus he continuously shows he loves NY. Perhaps he is playing the cards right to look great being traded to a win now team where he can life his last missing piece towards his obvious HOF career…

      what could we get in return for him this season?

      • A chance to win the cup….I wish he would agree to being dealt to a contender and win the cup! Henrik deserves a stanley cup on his mantle….Long like the king!

  • Always a silver lining to a club that has so many young players. The offense needs time to adjust. Once DQ leaves his lines alone for 2 games.
    The defensive schemes need to change. Hopefully quicker players can make the system work.

    Goaltending is the heart of this team. We go nowhere without it.

  • I would love to see the line-up that played vs Tampa be the same for some 6-8 games, and then decide what if anything else needs to be done. I wouldn’t send Hajek down, instead try Lindgren with Jake, and give Libor some protected minutes.

    In the spirit of full disclosure, I was against the Fox trade, thinking that we gave away 2 #2 picks, for a player who was coming here anyway. He is proving me to be wrong, and well worth the picks to get his services this season. Now if only DQ could also admit his mistake, and leave the Lindgren kid in the line-up, and sit Marc for at least the number of games suggested!!!!!!!!

    • Hey Walt – I agree with most of what you said. I do think DQ says what he means and means what he says. I mean, look it, man, the high value $$ players are not going to play despite their emotional value with the club – despite what upper management says, or paid, for them. he made that clear. It is now obvious the call for the favorites to play wuz coming from above and he is making his own call as he should – he is the coach. If they don’t like his moves, they can find someone else, but he is doing what they hired him to do – work with the kids, and if that means sending them down to build them up, or because he felt they were not ready (Lindgren, Chytil) or benching them for their immaturity (ADA), well so be it, bro – but it all has worked despite what we may or may not think He is doing what he does best – teaching and building the kids inside (and outside) the ice surface. Yea he looks pissed, and brings some tough love, maybe, but this is how he became successful in Mass. He pushed the right buttons with both Chytil and Lindgren – and with Kravstov. IMHO, he actually played his cards well. I think Lindgren is staying for a while and Chytil has now been introduced into a new environment both with the ‘Pack and here. If he is not the right coach following this year, fire him! However, just like this team, we are seeing better progress and the kids are slowly starting to take varsity roles. Peace! And hope your daughter is feeling better!! 😉 I don’t forget.

      • Carlos

        Agree to a certain extent, except he isn’t playing the best players, and it was made obvious the other night against Tampa. As for being a teacher, I have to question that seriously, especially when he praises a player only to sit him for longer periods of time the very next day???????

        Thanks for asking about my baby, she is doing just fine. I have to laugh at that remark, her being our youngest, and a mother of three, but she still is my baby!!!!!!!!!!

  • We played one good game and everyone thinks we are okay. WE ARE NOT!
    This team still has PP and PK problems and only our top line plays well 5v5. We still have Lindy Ruff and a very bad defensive system. Let’s not sing the accolades of DQ just quite yet. Shouldn’t we at least get to .500 first?

  • What a difference a game can make! It’s all going to come down now to their next game, and if they can duplicate the same level of effort. When they play like that, I don’t mind if they win or lose. They played a full 60 minutes and forced the play aggressively all over the ice. That’s the blueprint, and that’s being relentless. I think bringing in Fil and Ryan, while benching Staal at the same time, finally woke this team up.

    Props to DQ, especially since I’ve been all over him lately. He sent a message, he had them ready, and they finally played the game he wanted to see. It needs to be more than one game, but that was a great step in the right direction. The video sessions should all be from the 3rd period vs EDM and that entire TB game. Just keep showing them that over and over…

      • I imagine it was the other way. I think Gorton wanted Staal and others in the lineup to try and trade them in some way, even if that seems far fetched. But I also think Lindgren helped here as well. He had a good camp and played well enough in Hartford to make his case and let the powers that be feel comfortable bringing him up. It may not stick completely, but he is forcing the situation now and starting to push Staal out of the lineup. This is how it should be done, as opposed to forcing them in there, IMO.

        I have not had too many issues with DQ in the past. 1/3 of the roster are college-age kids. Inexperienced kids with an inexperienced coach could breed a losing culture if we’re just throwing the kids out there. It’s the level of effort and preparation this year that I’ve been disappointed with from DQ. They are *hopefully* starting to turn the page here in those dept’s…

        • Staal returning to the lineup would send a negative message to the NYR fan base. I know I would be fuming. Staal just cannot keep up with anyone . He is easily beaten one on one, his puck handling is worse than ever, and he will not get any better sitting on the bench…..Love the guy, but his time has passed and it passed a few years ago.

  • Thanks Rob, with all the negativity around the team lately it’s nice to read an article that is not excoriating the players (who sometimes deserve it), the coaching and management (who sometimes deserve it), and, more recently, the fans themselves.

  • I haven’t been that concerned with the team’s performance. Except for the loss to the Devils, the Rangers have lost to mostly very good teams like Washington, Boston, Edmonton, Vancouver and beat the likes of Winnipeg, Buffalo, and Tampa. Their goals against and goal differential aren’t bad at all. They have a bunch of kids 21 and under on the team. They will have some games where they look quite good and others where they get blown out. So long as there is overall progress it doesn’t make much sense to despair over losses in individual games. I am rather enjoying the season thus far.

  • Concerning Lundqvist, stats people do not grasp the concept of shot difficulty. Individual goalies have strengths and weaknesses. So if you rate shots on a scale of 1 to 10, With 10 being the most difficult, you might find an 8 for Lundqvist being a 5 for some other tender while that other tender’s 8 is a 5 for Hank. I’m far from an expert, but my impression at least is that Hank struggles more than most with distraction and screens, but has been incredible with undistracted shots. The upshot of this is that metrics which measure shot difficulty, being goalie neutral, don’t take the actual goalie’s skills into consideration.

    Why does this matter? Because the coaching staff knows who the goalie is. When they develop a defensive system, they try to minimize the number of high difficulty shots FOR THEIR GOALIE. Lundqvist gets high marks for stopping shots that are high difficulty for others while facing relatively few shots that are high difficulty for him.

    Comparing goaltenders on different teams is hard and one cannot rely on GAA and save percentage. But comparing tenders on the same team is easy as the other variables are fixed. Using GAA and save percentage during the regular season (we have no playoff data as Hank always plays), we see Hank was outperformed in 2013-14 by Talbot, in 2014-15 by Talbot, in 2015-16 by Raanta, in 2016-17 by Raanta in 2017-2018, by Georgiev, in 2018-19 by Georgiev, and so far this year by Georgiev.

    AND, please note, I am not saying those other tenders are any good, just that there was one tender in the world they were better than.

    Pretending your eighth best defenseman (who used to be very good) should be treated as fourth best hurts, but not nearly as much as pretending your #3 goaltender (who used to be very good) should start 50 games.

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