The Rangers just need to be good enough
As the Rangers head into their next break, the focus is on Chris Drury and what he will do to improve the team. The Rangers are top heavy, with a loaded top six/top four and elite goaltending. What they lack is scoring depth and consistent sustained offense. Both are related, and as the Rangers make moves to address the scoring depth, the sustained offense should increase. But as mentioned yesterday, this isn’t about creating a perfect team. The Rangers just need to be good enough, not perfect.
The Rangers today are a powerplay dominated team with some sprinkling of even strength offense, carried by Igor Shesterkin. Powerplays disappear in the playoffs, which is why the emphasis is always on 5v5 play, as that becomes the overwhelming majority of ice time in the postseason. We measure this by looking at the expected goals share and shot share. Right now, the Rangers don’t look good, and could likely be a first round exit.
The trade deadline isn’t going to be about magically making the Rangers a top possession team in the league. That’s not realistic and likely not possible. One flaw in many stats-based analysis is looking at season long numbers to project playoff winners, when in fact recent trends should be factored in. The Rangers are going to be a litmus test for this, depending on what they do at the deadline.
Currently near the bottom of all major 5v5 stats, the Rangers will never get to a top-five season long team in any of these stats. Recent trends matter, and as the lineup gets changed, we’d like to see these numbers move from sub-45% to as close to 50% as possible. With strong play to close out the season, specifically following the trade deadline as the Rangers, in theory, get deeper and better offensively, they can inch closer to that 50% mark.
What the Rangers have that many teams don’t is high end skill plus elite goaltending. Skill still trumps all, and the Rangers will always have this advantage. Thus while 50% is the goal, giving them an even larger advantage, they can even the playing field by just getting to middle of the pack. Bottom five, as it is today, won’t cut it.
Top-16 in the league right now is a shade above 50% for the full season numbers. But if you look at the teams above that middle ground, very few have that high end shooting skill and goaltending. Florida, Toronto, Tampa, and Carolina all come to mind, and there’s a reason why they are the cream of the crop in the East. But then you look at the Caps, Penguins, and Bruins, and they are missing one of those components, usually goaltending.
This is a lot of words to say that, assuming the Rangers make moves at the deadline, looking at recent trends will matter a lot more than season long numbers. And I’m sure I’ll get eyerolls from people who leverage stats and from people who don’t. After all, stats always matter more than everything and they also never matter at all.
Getting the right players to fill out the lineup will help create a more favorable 5v5 game plan, and thus put the Rangers in a position to win a coin flip against teams like Florida and Carolina. If the Rangers get to within the coin flip range, they have a shot.