It’s still too early in the season to draw any real conclusions on the Rangers. However we do have enough information to see how the Rangers are trending. If you recall, the Rangers had one of the worst starts in history last season. They were just downright atrocious. By the end of the season, they had turned it on and were looking like an actual NHL team. These trends for the Rangers have continued into this season.
First two games
The first two games, as mentioned many times, were complete opposite ends of the spectrum. We saw the Rangers at their worst, and then at their best. It’s fair to say that these two versions of the Rangers are not the norm. When looking at their trends, these two games actually cancel each other out.
Games 3 and 4
This is where we see the Rangers for what they are. A team that will push the pace offensively. They will also have their fair share of defensive lapses and mistakes. In short, they are going to be a relatively inconsistent team. At least defensively.
What was promising was that despite the defensive mistakes, the overall process was good in these games. Since the inception of this site, we’ve been preaching process. Process breeds results. The end of the Alain Vigneault era had awful process. They were caved in regularly, but won due to unsustainable goaltending and shooting.
The beginning of the David Quinn era started similarly with bad process. The difference was the Rangers didn’t have the skill or goaltending to mask it. So they lost a lot. As for roster improved and the skill came, the process was expected to get better. It took a while last season, but the process got there.
Trending the right way
This leads us to where we are today. The Rangers are moving in the right direction. They aren’t perfect, not by a longshot, but they are at the cusp.
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Some teams moved themselves last night but /everyone/ moved to the right because DAL did their damage on special teams, posted about 1 xG per 60 at 5v5 last night, and stretched the chart.
— Sean Tierney (@ChartingHockey) January 23, 2021
Throughout most of last season, the Rangers were firmly in “bad” territory in all of Sean’s visuals. Once December rolled around, the Rangers moved to the “fun” category (we may win but I may die). What we see from the visual above is the Rangers are moving from “fun” to “good.”
In some of these charts from the thread, the Rangers are actually moving into “unlucky” for expected goals. This makes sense since Mika Zibanejad and Artemi Panarin have both struggled to start the season. Once they get going, expect the floodgates to open.
The biggest difference is the depth the Rangers have. Last year it was top-six or bust. This year they have an actual third line. They’ve actually been the best line the Rangers have. Depth matters, and the Rangers have it up front.
At this point, the two biggest steps are finding the right roster decisions (coaching) and finding consistency on defense. Neutral zone pressure is key for the latter, as it limits controlled entries against. This then limits good changes against. It’s a cylce.
As for finding the right roster decisions, this begins and ends with the blue line. At the risk of beating a dead horse, Jack Johnson shouldn’t be in the lineup anymore. It won’t happen, but it should.
Given that NYR *should* be trying to optimize the Defensive pairs, some takeaways from the below.
1) Scratch 27
2) 79-8 is kinda working but it's chaotic (high xG both ways)
3) We know 77 can do more, which is why a pair with 23 makes sense.
They're close. pic.twitter.com/HHFzg1koHg
Rob broke down what the Rangers should be doing. I don’t think there are going to be many complaints either. If these small roster decisions get made, coupled with the good Rangers trends, they might turn heads this season. There’s still a long way to go, but these trends are very promising.