Looking at how the NY Rangers have been trending

A statistical look at the NY Rangers' performance through 15 games

Note: The stats from this post were taken on Saturday. The Rangers have played a pair of games since then. While the exact numbers may be off, the overall trends are still accurate.

We have come to a point in the season where the possession and expected goals numbers are starting to normalize and become more telling of how a team is performing on the ice. These numbers are important because they speak to overall process on the ice. There are other factors to team success like overall shooting skill and goaltender performance, but process reigns supreme, and usually teams with better process go on point runs to even out the standings.

The narrative thus far has been that the Rangers are pretty talented offensively, but a black hole defensively. The numbers certainly check out too.

Without getting back on my soap box about the system and the overall team deployment, this shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who watches the team. Sure they are flawed offensively, hence why they are 14th and not top-five, but they can be fun in the offensive zone. This is why their xGF% is so bad – their defensive numbers are so bad that they drag down whatever positives their offensive potential is.

What Rob shows here is the numbers at a point in time. That’s important, but it’s also not the whole story. Have the Rangers been improving from game to game? Are they getting worse? Or are they treading water?

Starting with expected goals share, I’m pretty sure we can all agree that the Rangers were just awful to start the year. This represents a five-game rolling average, so it took a little while for the Rangers to crawl out of the cellar they were in. While they have been and will likely continue to be the worst team in the league in regards to shot share, their offense is picking them up to being average when you factor in quality.

There is a lot to unpack here – first and foremost is that those first three games this season were downright atrocious, but the Rangers went 2-1 because they faced Winnipeg and Ottawa, two not so great teams. The Rangers then lost their next four in a row –making it five in a row if you count the Edmonton loss– before that great team win against Buffalo. That’s the second uptick you see around October 26 on this chart.

The Rangers continue to trend up, with the Boston game showing up as the lone blip. That run against Tampa, Nashville, and Detroit were all upticks in their expected goal differential. The process was there. Of course they were inconsistent because there were big dips in their loss to Ottawa and the Henrik Lundqvist show in Carolina. For the most part, when the Rangers have their process functioning somewhat, they win. The problem is that it’s wildly inconsistent due to their inept defensive system.

Over the course of the season, the Blueshirts are likely going to remain below that median line of an even expected goals share. That’s almost entirely an end result of their poor defensive system, although lack of actual depth is a problem too. At least they should be fun offensively, as expected.

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  • Good morning all.

    The first question is whether the Rangers, as an org, even pay attention to these stats. Because if they don’t, then it’s tough to fix something you don’t know what needs fixing.

    The second question is what exactly is their system? Does anyone know? Anyone?

    It appears to me, that “gap control” is the key for this Rangers’ team. When they are consistently 2 feet away from opposing players, then they play well. When they’re not, then you have the sh-tshow that we see on a regular basis, giving up loads of shot attempts.

    So, it is up to the coach to figure this out. Not juggle the lineup, hoping that something works, but to find out what the underlying problems are. That’s what coaches are supposed to do.

    • Tony

      As usual spot on. It’s incumbent on DQ to get the defense where it should be, and it’s clear as day Ruff isn’t up to the task. Here’s a simple solution, why not bring in Jeff Beukeboom, and or Ulf Samuelsson to run the defense? Geeeees, that may too simple!!!!!!!!!!! Have a good day folks……..

      • Ruff may just be there as a calming force and experienced mentor for DQ. Defense if definitely not his strong suit. I cannot figure out why he is still there, unless DQ wants him or Gorton says so.

        In this very analytic world, there is no way the Execs do not see the stats. What they choose to do with them is another story.

        • That’s a gross misrepresentation of the work that Beuk and Ulfie did as D coaches. The Rangers’ D as a unit and individually under Beuk and Ulfie far exceeded the performance of the defense under Lindy Ruff.

    • I asked the same question about systems as the Islanders rocked from last to first in defense. The answer attributed their success to superior goaltending. (Which may beg a question about Hank.) But Lehner is now gone, and still the islanders have allowed only 39 goals against in 17 games this season. Now look at 6’4″ 240 lb Ryan Graves. Couldn’t crack the NYR defense but is second on Colorado at +8 while playing over 16 minutes / game. Sheeesh.

      • 16 minutes a game indicates 3rd pairing minutes (will he ever be more than that?) … now I always liked Graves, but let’s be honest — he had no future here with Skjei, Hajek, Lindgren and soon to be added guys like Miller, Rykov, Reunanen, etc.

        However your point about systems making the difference is a good one. Look at the turnaround for the Islanders, add a team like the Oilers (so far) to the list, even Buffalo (not that either of those two teams are upper echelon defensive teams yet). One thing they all have in common is the D improved after a coaching change/system change.

        • As an aside, not saying Graves is an All Star but yes, 3rd pair and +8, and basically given away. He’s not out there while MacKinnon and Donskoi are lighting it up, so the puck is not exactly filling up the Avs’ net while he is on ice. Hard to believe Graves could find no role on a Quinn team – a bit odd given how they are playing up Lindgren’s “style” these days, while none of Miller, Rykov, or Reunanen is currently near the roster. The Rangers meanwhile really don’t have a single d-man who inspires the fear factor when the puck is below their goal line. Come playoffs (hmm, maybe hold that thought for a minute) that’ll be a huge tell. The game may have changed as they say, but size (along with a viable system) still matters especially in April and May. Ask the Blues. Oh never mind, I doubt they would hire Ruff either.

  • Agree with you here, but keep in mind lots of new players this year, not just the rookies. Other than Skjei, Staal and ADA and 5 games of Hajek, the current D Corp are all new. (Trouba, Fox, Lindgren and Hajek) It takes time for them to figure it out. And they are. Definitely moving in the right direction.

  • Im lost as to the system too. It seems like primarily a zone system – which may be why attackers are left unchecked so often. Our defenders appear to prioritize defending positions over marking attackers, even in transition. I have a suspicion this is an extended overreaction to AV’s old hybrid pressure point system that had us chasing players around and leaving the slot or weak side open. Possibly this is an attempt to protect and simplify things for a very young d corp. Obviously it doesn’t work as designed.

  • The talent level of the offense is higher than the talent level of the defense. Ruff deploys a ” bend don’t break” system that all too often breaks. This should get better as the defense plays more games together, but will always give up lots of shots.

    We still need a killer line on offense and won’t be 3 lines deep until we get Zib back. Strome is a place holder. Once our 3rd line is a force our offense will climb.

    • The killer line has arrived, as thus far Buchnevich-Chytil-Kreider is 55% in shots for and 58% in expected goals for at 5v5. Howden centering the third line is dragging Lemieux and Kakko down. When 93 comes back, Strome could center them or go to the wing and give Lias a shot there.

  • The statistics are what they are. They are factual data, no more, no less. The conclusions that you draw from them, however, are not. They are your opinion. “Over the course of the season, the Blueshirts are likely going to remain below that median line of an even expected goals share. That’s almost entirely an end result of their poor defensive system, although lack of actual depth is a problem too.” Is it “almost entirely a result of their poor defensive system” or is it a result of having 7 players under the age of 21 on the team? Is it “likely going to remain below that median line of an even expected goals share”, or is it going to improve as those players gain experience? Is “The problem is that it’s wildly inconsistent due to their inept defensive system”, or is it a lack of talent at defense? The implications that you seem to be drawing are: That the youngest team in the league is incapable of becoming better over time (based on a sample of … 14 games? Didn’t the Blues have the worst record in the league on January 1 last season?), and that the poor statistics are driven entirely by coaching ineptitude, which is confusing causation and correlation. (There is nothing in that data that tells us what CAUSED the numbers to be what they are, only that puck possession and the number of shots attempted are RELATED to the number of goals scored). It may be because of poor coaching, it may be because of inexperience, or it might even be a lack of talent. Don’t get me wrong. I appreciate the value of statistical information, but I also realize that it’s extremely important to understand its limitations, and use it in the proper context.

  • Team needs to rid itself of marginal NHL talent on the 4th line and bring up some kids from Hartford. Between Lias, McKegg and Smith, I am sure we can put together more talented players from the AHL. Even if they are fast and defensive, that would be an upgrade over the current talent on the 4th line.

    Can we agree that Lias and DQ don’t mix and that Lias needs to go?

  • Here is a stat that I find very telling, despite the relative in experience and poor defensive play.

    The New York Rangers are 5-1-1 in their last 7 games.

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