A look at how the Rangers have trended for the first 41 games

Believe it or not, things aren't that bleak

As we look at the first half of the NY Rangers’ season, one of the key factors is how the Blueshirts have been playing lately, as it is more indicative of future success than overall numbers. Yes, it’s how you finish that matter and not how you start, especially in a rebuild when kids are still developing. That said, overall team numbers are still an important indicator.

Starting with those season long numbers, the Rangers have been…not good. You probably knew that already, but let’s list off how the Rangers rank in some of their metrics (all stats are 5v5 unless noted):

  • CF%: 45.14 (last)
  • xGF%: 45.33 (30th)
  • CF/60: 51.56 (28th)
  • CA/60: 62.67 (last)
  • xGF/60: 2.26 (17th)
  • xGA/60: 2.73 (last)

So from a season long standpoint, the Rangers have been atrocious defensively and are dead last in almost every major defensive metric. They do generate a decent amount of quality offensively, but the quantity isn’t there. The goals are coming from a 9.33 SH% (4th), which is where you’ll hear a lot of people argue that it isn’t sustainable. However I’ve argued that skilled teams, specifically teams with players like Artemi Panarin and Mika Zibanejad, can sustain a high shooting percentage.

So clearly the problem is process. We’ve covered this. But it’s worth noting that these are season long numbers, and as mentioned above, trends matter.

A good overall metric to use is expected goal share – which is basically the difference between expected goals against and expected goals for. It measures quality and quantity both for and against, and is a good barometer here. What’s good to see here is that the Rangers are trending way up lately, with that three game stretch of 12/6, 12/8, and 12/10 being the last time the Rangers had a big dip. They’ve been trending to almost league average. That’s good!

Breaking this down a little further, we can look at xGF/60, in which the Rangers again saw a big spike after that 12/10 game, but have been dipping a little since. So if their offense is dipping a little, why the huge uptick in expected goal share?

Simply put, the Rangers have been great defensively since that 12/10 game, and are actually moving in the right direction. This is good! The reason why the wins aren’t coming is because the goaltending took the second half of the month off, thus the team SV% was down, allowing more goals. But in terms of quality and quantity allowed, the Rangers have been pretty good lately.

So what happened around that 12/10 game? First and foremost, Libor Hajek was injured, and he was taken out of the lineup. That was addition by subtraction, as he was really struggling. His injury forced David Quinn to reunite Jacob Trouba and Brady Skjei, and both have been playing somewhat decently lately, although Skjei’s recent games have certainly put a damper on some of that.

Also around that time is when Mika Zibanejad returned to the lineup, giving the Rangers three actual lines to work with. The fourth line is still a mess, but baby steps.

Using the above with what we know about the team, we can formulate a few conclusions about this team so far:

  • The offense is top heavy and extremely potent.
  • The bottom-six is a work in progress, but moving Brett Howden to the wing and the continued development of Filip Chytil gives the Rangers a viable third line.
  • The defense, when deployed properly, can actually be league average. A league average defense with this offense can win a lot of games.
  • The coaching staff needs players to be injured to deploy the right pairs that work. This is bad.
  • The coaching staff also relies too heavily on wins and not process. Wins matter, but how you win and how you lose matters more in a rebuild.
  • The goaltending kept the Rangers afloat during the awful games. It will eventually correct itself back to better than league average. This little stretch of bad goaltending is likely a blip.
  • The recall of Igor Shesterkin, combined with the positive defensive trends and negative goaltending trends, likely isn’t a coincidence. Or at least I’d like to think that.

The western Canada road trip was ugly and it has left a bad recency bias taste in everyone’s mouths. That’s understandable. But it’s not all doom and gloom for the Rangers. They are trending in the right way. Whether or not they continue to trend that way remains to be seen.

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  • Welp, the good news is, it can only get better, and Shesty said he likes lots of shots. He’s come to the right place.

    • Sal

      There’s light at the end of this tunnel with both Staal, and Smith leaving as soon as next season is over, when their contracts expire!!!!!!!
      Let’s also remember that after Feb 24th, we will have a different team, with a lot of new players coming on board…………………..

      • Walt – a very positive perspective – BUT
        We have a whole ‘nother year of Staal, Smith and Hank (if there are not moves or retirements)
        Another season of grooming youth
        A defensive system and coach that just does not work for us
        Another playoff-less year to deal with.

        I really hoped that we would be knocking at the door of the playoffs this year, but that hope is fading.
        DQ may have been the coach to get us to this point, but is he the right person for the next phase?
        Can we draft better so that Fast is a 3rd or 4th line winger?
        With all this I am still hopeful that we will be in the playoffs for the rest of this decade (starting next year).

        • Sal

          As I see it next year we make the PO’s, and at least one of the three mentioned, Smith will be gone. Hopefully Staal sees his decline as an embarrassment, and decides to retire on a medical issue, blind in one eye, and collects the balance of his contract from the insurance company, and his cap hit comes off of the books. With the addition of the Czar, maybe Hanks also realizes that his’s lost his edge, and retires as well.

          This is a pipe dream on my part, but we have to have hope. As for the coach taking us to the next level, not happening, he’s a waste of time, and effort. Bottom line, there is plenty of light in the very near future!!!!!!!!

  • Disagree on Hajek Staa combo, Staal is no better then Hajek, and Hajek wasn’t that bad at all, the difference is Ziba, who is our best 2way C…. Also we are talking about the structural issue, sinusoids very often mean just stable instability, and current result just top before next problematic period

  • Ryan Graves, unable to find a roster spot on that robust NYR defense, now leads NHL in +/- rating at +31 and playing 1LD and 1st PK unit on division leading and Stanley Cup contending Colorado. What are we missing more, a defensive system or a talent evaluator?? Well, who needs a 6′ 4″ 240 lb defender anyway, someone who could move Anders Lee out of the crease?

  • The 2nd half will get worse not better. Now teams know how to stop the Rangers: Stop Artemi Panarin and Mika Zibanejad, you stop NYR from scoring. Buchnevich, CK, Kakko, Howden, Chytill, Lemieux…they just don’t contribute much in the offense. Buchnevich is horrible in the first half with only 21 points, one more then Adam Fox.

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