On November 6, the Rangers were at MSG with a 2-0 lead heading into the second period. What happened after was their first major blown lead and loss of the season, losing to Detroit 3-2 in overtime. Following that one bad period, Gerard Gallant blew up the Rangers lines that, up to that point, had been playing well, with confidence, but were a bit snakebitten. Since that period, the Rangers have been statistically worse in every facet of the game. One bad period changed everything for the Rangers, and until they address it, nothing will change.
Before that period, the Rangers were running Chris Kreider-Mika Zibanbejad-Kaapo Kakko and Artemiy Panarin-Vincent Trocheck-Alexis Lafreniere in the top six, with Jimmy Vesey-Filip Chytil-Sammy Blais on the third line. The only remaining pieces from the fourth line at that time are Barclay Goodrow and Ryan Carpenter, as both Dryden Hunt and Ryan Reaves are gone.
Most importantly, that top nine was good at generating quantity and quality chances. Generating quantity and quality chances regularly was great process, even if the shooting rate wasn’t cooperating with the Rangers early on. But since the one bad period, the Rangers have been worse in every major offensive stat.
The above is from Natural Stat Trick, simply taking the game logs before 11/6 and after 11/6 against Detroit. That particular game was omitted, since the lines were juggled in the game. The primary takeaway is that the Rangers aren’t generating the quality chances anymore. Their expected-goals, scoring chance, and high danger scoring chance rates all fell rather significantly, from a top team in the league to a mediocre team in the league.
Seems to match the results on the ice, doesn’t it? No longer dominating, and appear to be a mediocre team at best.
One bad period goes beyond the stats
What’s interesting is that aside from the stats above and the barely hockey-.500 record since, it’s the demeanor and the vibes that seem to have taken the biggest hit for the Rangers. One bad period, a non-stop blender of lines, and you have a team that not only can’t score and can’t generate offense, but has no confidence and keeps “digging up” to get out of the hole.
When there’s no confidence, constant lineup changes, and no chemistry on the lines, teams start thinking more on the ice. The more a team thinks, the slower they are. Reaction times are slowed, decision making is slowed, and reading the play is slowed. The game itself speeds up to the point where they can’t keep up, and they start making more bad decisions that lead to blown leads, should they actually have one.
Effort isn’t the issue. It’s confidence, chemistry, and overthinking. Teams that think less and act on instinct are the teams that rise to the top during the playoffs.
Go back to what worked
The personnel has some minor changes, notably Hunt/Reaves out and Julien Gauthier in, but the overall theme should stay the same. One bad period shouldn’t have as big of an impact as it has, and it’s gone too far. The good thing is that the most recent lines are close to what they had originally. A simple quick fix of moving Kaapo Kakko back to the top line and moving Jimmy Vesey down to the third line is all that’s needed.
Vesey has been great this year, and a pleasant surprise. But there’s no reason why he should be on the top line over Kakko, especially when the Kreider-Zibanejad-Kakko line was one of the best in the league at generating offense. The shooting was going to come around, if you gave them enough time. This gives you a three-zone line of Lafreniere-Trocheck-Vesey, and you can even sub in Julien Gauthier if you want even more of an offensive punch up there.
Keep it simple. Go back to what worked. One bad period has completely changed the Rangers, and now Gallant is at risk of losing the team if things don’t change quickly.