The Rangers can’t, and won’t, continue to win this way

Relying on skill with bad process won't lead to continuous wins

The Rangers won 5-0 last night. On paper it’s a solid win. You can’t complain about a 5-0 win, or at least it’s very difficult to complain about a 5-0 win. It is, however, worth arguing that if not for Alex Georgiev’s heroics, the Rangers would have –or should have– been down big after the first period where they were outshot 17-7, with many of those shots being high quality chances. In the end, Georgiev made 38 saves.

This has been a trend of late, and it reminds me of the 2015-2016 season. If you recall, the first two months of that season were the Henrik Lundqvist show. The Blueshirts went on a nine game winning streak through November. Then reality hit and they went 5-12 from Thanksgiving through Christmas. Bad process reigned supreme as stellar goaltending came back to normal and unsustainable shooting regressed back to around 9%, which is what the Rangers shot at that time (still above league average).

I say this not to put a damper in the 5-0 win. It should be celebrated. I say this as a cautionary tale that Georgiev won’t stop 38 shots every game. Or 33 against Montreal. Or 45 against Columbus. He will come back down to Earth. Let’s run through the last four games:

  • 12/2 vs Vegas (4-1 loss): 71 shot attempts for, 59 against, 30 shots for, 32 shots against. Not bad process, but just some bad plays (unlucky first goal, Howden swivel head fail, Howden turnover). Mental mistakes happen. Sloppy, but the Rangers weren’t pinned the whole game.
  • 12/5 vs CBJ (3-2 win): 39 shot attempts for, 85 shot against, 19 shots for, 47 against. Awful process. Georgiev stole that.
  • 12/6 vs MTL (2-1 loss): 60 shot attempts for, 53 against, 30 shots for, 33 against. Bad game, both teams tired, but not as bad as the “track meet” against Columbus.
  • 12/8 vs VGK (5-0 win): 39 shot attempts for, 71 against, 25 shots for, 38 against. Dominating on paper, but Georgiev is the reason they were even in the game.

Georgiev started the last three, stopping 45 of 47, 31 of 33, and 38 of 38. That’s 114 of 118 and a .966 SV%. If you think that’s sustainable, then there’s no point in you continuing to read beyond this point.

But let’s play with top-end goaltending numbers for the league. A .920 SV% on 118 shots is 108 saves in those three games. That’s six goals at some point. Distribute them evenly for the sake of this exercise, and the 2-1 stretch is now 1-2. Makes you look at things differently, right?

I’ve been a big proponent that skill and goaltending matter, and that a skilled team can survive with a sub-50% xGF% or CF%. It’s something I’ve been shouting from the rooftops for a while. Skill matters. The Rangers have high end skill and elite level goaltending. That means something. Even elite level goaltending will come back down to Earth. Not at an .880 SV%, mind you, but at that .920 SV%.  When that happens, and it will, we won’t have this run of Prince Alex.

So while enjoying these wins is a must, identifying what is wrong and what needs fixing is also a must. The overall process is unsustainable. We’ve covered what the issues with the system are, and I’m not going to re-hash it. For anyone watching last night’s game, you saw that the Rangers were caved in. They took advantage of their opportunities, but what if Georgiev had a game meant for a mere mortal? Do they have that extra jump in their step to get two goals in 14 seconds? For every argument that says they have the mental capacity to find ways to win, there’s another argument about whether they would have been able to find those goals if already down 3-0.

The process does matter, and without beating a dead horse, the process hasn’t been good all season. It is very concerning that the coaching staff seems to think this is an acceptable way to win in this league. If and when the goaltending comes back down to above-average levels, the wins will stop coming too.

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  • Sure they can. Don’t be a Davey Downer. They can win this way AND lose this way. Lots of 5-0 games in their future.

  • Process does matter but process isn’t a game to game thing. Its likely a year to year thing meaning dont expect things to change next game with a flip of a switch. Lots of things have to come together for posession to improve on team wide scale. First off they need personnel not named panarin or trouba that generate shot volume. Also the team does seem to lack a speed factor which makes keeping up with teams like Vegas hard. Sometimes the team being so young cant win a board battle .. which einstein would indicate.. poor posession. Then there are the coaching tactics. So I think its silly to go oh put this pair and this pair together posession should improve. As the team gels I suspect, young players mature their games , I suspect possession should improve.

  • Until the defense is sorted out, there are going to be a LOT more games like last night. Its just part of the process. On another topic: Vitali Kravtsov has been demoted from his KHL team to a VHL affiliate. Uh ohhh…………

    • Sounds like Kraftsov pouts on multiple continents. Someone needs to get his head on straight before 2 big picks both become busts (Lias & Vitali).

      Gorton! – go get Kovalev to go talk to the kid

      • This is just more proof that Kravs is the problem, and his piss poor attitude about being treated like he has done something at this level, not the Rangers management team. He needs to grow up and quick before he ruins a career that hasn’t even begun.

          • Clearly, I get it, but the mob was quick to blame Ranger mismanagement when this first went down. It is to them I speak.

  • Let’s be honest. With all the younger defensemen we have on this team who actually aren’t very good defenders, what did we expect. Name me one shutdown defender on this team. For the most part, they are offensively minded hence we are leading the entire league in points from defensemen. Personally speaking I think our forwards don’t help enough, they are always cheating.

    • I still hesitate to even really truly grade our younger defenders due to coaching and system flaws. While we know ADA for example is never going to be confused with a stalwart brick wall defender type, he’s also yet to be under a defensive coach other than Ruff with the Rangers, and yet to be playing in a blue line system that doesn’t have some glaring flaws. Under AV, the man/overload meant the defenders were chasing constantly. Now Quinn’s system has perhaps alleviated that particular issue…but they are giving up the blue line and getting rushed on a lot, on the other hand. Neither system seems particularly conducive to preventing shots, going by the numbers as well as the eye test. Goalies are still getting hammered with shots, second most per game in the league this year so far. While preventing shot quantity does not guarantee victory of course, it’s probably not a coincidence that last year for example, eight of the top ten best teams at limiting shots per game played made the playoffs, with the four teams that made the conference finals all within the top six. System isn’t everything; you obviously need quality personnel as well. Point being, these guys have had a defensive coach who has never actually been good at coaching defense – even since before he was with the Rangers (yet somehow inexplicably has been in his role three seasons now), and during that time there have been two defensive systems both with easily identifiable fundamental issues for the roster at hand. I feel like all the younger defenders deserve a bit of an asterisk on some of their perceived flaws due these factors.

    • It seems that ur not a true ranger when you post an idiotic comment about.a futu hall of famer,but heck you entitled to you opinion?

    • He’s NHL starting goalie material. I suspected it the first time I saw him and he’s done nothing over the course of the last 2+ years to dissuade me of that opinion. In addition to his physical skill set, his demeanor is outstanding, his poise and mental toughness undeniable. When he does have a subpar game, he bounces back quickly — another hallmark of a good starting goaltender.

      Resolution of our goaltending dilemma should not automatically mean Georgi gets traded, although I suspect that within another year or two either Wall or Huska will further complicate the situation. I don’t know the answer to the goaltending issue, but trading the kid this year isn’t the solution IMO.

      • “He’s NHL starting goalie material.”

        We don’t know that he is, but we hope that teams like Toronto, Carolina, etc., feel that he is. We’ve seen this movie before with Talbot and Raanta. Playing the # of games as a backup and then as a starter for a full season are like night and day.

        Which is where a lot of fans miss the point at how good Henrik has been, based on the # of games that he’s played and the brutal amount of work he gets in those games, based on high quality scoring chances. Fans will quickly point to the soft goal given up, but do not acknowledge the 10-15 saves he makes in a game that could have easily been goals. So the great saves far outweigh the soft goals, overall.

        It has been shown that Hank is good for over 1 goal per game in deciding game results. So if the Rangers had even an average NHL goalie, they would not have had nearly the success that they did have. Georgiev, as much as I like him, is no where close to even proving that he could log a full year’s schedule, and do it effectively. Part of being a great starting NHL goalie is the ability to play at a high level for, sometimes, 65+ games per year. And then playoffs after that.

        There is not enough appreciation that Hank can get, IMO.

        • I cringe to think how this team would have done over the last 15 years not even just with an average goalie situation, but worse yet with a run of truly subpar goalies such as teams like Carolina have suffered through for stretches. Would have been just miserable. That’s why I pay little mind to the hosers who are dedicated Hank Haters. That crowd is just certifiably nuts.

          • I think that it is safe to say, not nearly as well as the Rangers did. Especially from 2012 to 2016.

  • Time to bring our savior back to Hartford from the Russian farm team to which he was demoted? Or do you let him tough it out “playing hockey on the moon” for the rest of the year?

    • Let the kid get a taste of Siberia, then Hartford may not look so bad. Spoiled hockey brat. I guess he parents being close to him are not making things that much better. He may have additional issues that no one has voiced out loud as well.

      • sounds like JG prefers option A.

        If I were VK I would have been concerned about retaliation from unofficial channels in a country where Slava Fetisov pushed for a ban on Russian born players from playing in the NHL. That’s like defecting and then trying to un-defect. Good luck to you kid on making the right decision this time! Guess he didn’t see it that way.

  • The fundamental structure of the team is based on high-end skill and goaltending.

    Short Term: Success will be, at best, inconsistent, especially with a team that is so young.
    Long Term: Even teams built like this that achieve more consistent success during the regular season do not see that translate into deep playoff runs as they simply can’t match the more balanced teams that combine elite skill and goaltending with size, physical play and solid team defense.

    • Spot on. Your posts hit the mark quite a bit, and i think you nailed it on this one. Game to game there is so much variability and any team can go on short term winning (and losing) streaks. Long term, the way the rangers play will not allow them to consistently challenge for the Cup. They allow the most shot attempts against in the league, and their shot share percentage is atrocious (shot attempt share percentage of 43%, next closest is 46%). Common sense says that is not a recipe for prolonged success.
      The hope here is they evolve as their young team matures, with both players and tactics.

    • Rod and RFIB, you guys are aware that we are less than 2 years into the rebuild, Right? I don’t think anyone can expect much more than this team is giving and doing right now. However, what you can see in this team is the development of the youngsters, above average goaltending and a seemingly endless supply of it, good young offensive D with some defensive minded D-men on the horizon, and highly talented forwards, a couple of which I dare say are elite. I think the position the team is in at this point is better than is to be expected. I guess, however, you can’t please everyone. This team will be great, but it will take some time.


      • You misconstrue my comment. I think the rebuild is going brilliantly. In just over two years, Gorton has totally transformed the franchise. That view is not at all inconsistent with what I said. Gorton (and now JD) are still in the process of building the foundation and the future is very promising. However, with the current roster and, as I said, the inexperience, I expect the team to be very inconsistent over the short term. That is hardly surprising and we’re further along than I thought we would be.

        My concern is that teams that are built primarily on elite skill and exceptional goaltending are playoff fodder for more balanced squads. Our younger players gaining experience will not cure what I think is a fundamental defect in the structure of the roster. We’re going to need a team that plays more physically in all three zones and plays much better team defense in front of that stellar goaltending.

        We’ve added young, elite talent and it appears that our goaltending will remain at the top for at least the next decade. What we need moving forward is not just maturity but a more effective mix of talent built for playoff hockey. As much as I like Buch, trading him for a more physical, defensive forward would be the kind of move I’d like to see the team make to create more of that kind of balance.

        Let THIS team marinate for 2-3 years and develop as we hope and they still don’t match up well with the likes of St. Louis, Boston, or Washington. But there is time to address this structural flaw as long as management is patient.

        • I totally understand what you said. My point still remains, this team is not done with the rebuild and the team you see on the ice tomorrow will not be the same team that is competing 2 years from now. They are rebuilding, so saying the team as constructed can’t compete in the playoffs doesn’t say much, except that the rebuild is not over.

  • Thank you! Even with 100 points and a high seed, this is the kind of team you hope to play in the first round.

    • I disagree. We have 2 goalies who could steal a game at anytime by pitching a shutout. Sure other teams will usually control the puck more, but if we could ever get our PP going, we could be a tough out. Not even saying we win a round. but Georgi and Hank still could be top 4 goalies in the metro division.

  • As I read this you seem to be quick to downplay Georgiev’s skillset. Looks like a pretty solid netminder, and apparently has better stats so far this year than Lundqvist. Is this article some sort of backhand apology for Lundqvist? Fast physical and relentless? Where Mr. Quinn, where??

  • Let’s not forget the Rangers are still in rebuilding mold. the defense is young and raw for the most part. Hank is complicating our goalie situation as both Shestoykin is doing better than anticipated in Hartford while Georgieve keeps improving. There are still many players that will be moved , especially on defense once k’Andre Miller and Lundquist are ready to join the team. Patience is going to be the key as we will have alot more ups and downs during this season.

  • “The Rangers can’t, and won’t, continue to win this way”. As long as they win, who cares how they do it?

  • I guess the # of thumbs down on this great article by David says it all, how fans are blinded by wins.

    Great read David, keep stating the truth.

    If Georgie was not off the charts good, then it would have been the Rangers that lost 5-0, and then all the fans would have been irate.

  • Ranking the teams on the basis of SAT at even score, with 1 the best team and 31 the worst, the sixteen teams currently making the playoffs average 15.4 with nine teams in the top 16 while the fifteen outside the playoffs average 16.7.

    Or to put it another way, the relation between shot attempts and winning is pretty much random.

    Process is a fiction. The true measure of a quality shot is one that goes in. Not very useful but hard to improve on.

  • So, we need better coaching or a coaching change on the defensive side system (defenseman and forwards). We need a couple of more skilled Lemieux type players too. We will be okay but we may have blown it on Andersson and Kravs, so the entire scouting operation needs to be re-evaluated and especially on drafting a goalie in the 2nd round.
    Keep Georgie – even if we got a #1 pick in a trade, look at my last line on Rangers ability on drafting in first round. At some point Hank, Smith, Kreider, Staal will need to go. The sooner the better, but i do believe if they get this right, we will be competing for the cup in 2-3 yrs with the right age group. The problem is that Hartford is still weak on forward options, so this will take some clever deals to get stocked the right way and sooner rather than later.

      • If I were to predict who will not be here next year, then it would be CK, Fast, Staal (buyout), Smith, and Haley (this is an easy one).

        Strome would have been on the list, but if I believe that CK is going, then Strome is probably staying. But I shudder to think that the 5 year, $25M contract is looming for Strome, which would not be a good thing.

  • we can’t keep Georgie he is out of options,he is good in the games he’s been in,get the wheels in motion and.get a first rounder or someone that can help the team now

  • Something to think about. Chris Kreider has 7 goals. Ryan Graves has 5 goals and is a +19.
    How about Anthony Duclair who has 14 goals

    • Ya I like the Duke and always wondered why the Rangers never gave Ryan Graves a shot in the bigs. But I guess his name wasn’t Trouba, as the Rangers always go after the brand-name on the back of the jersey in the Big Apple.

      • Bloomer, while I’d agree with you that Graves deserved a shot, it had nothing to do with the acquisition of Trouba. First off Graves is lefthanded, you can blame Marc Staal’s contract for blocking him instead. Or Skjei’s. Or the fact that the org saw fit to play guys like Matt Hunwick, Chris Summers, or Nick Holden instead of him. Even John Gilmour and Rob O’Gara got more of a chance than Graves, which is ridiculous.

        • All players progress and mature differently. Some blossom in certain systems and some wilt. It’s been that way forever. Every team has former players that either didn’t mesh with coaches or systems, were blocked by existing roster players, or were just still growing into NHL players.

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