For the first time in a long time, the results in the standings are matching the process on the ice. The Rangers have solid underlying numbers to start the season. They are also first in the division and one of just three teams with a positive goal differential in the Metro. So far, so good for the Rangers.
Yet there is always something for a certain sect of fans to complain about. This time, it’s the schedule. The Rangers have faced just two playoff teams from last season, beating them both by a combined score of 7-1. The Rangers may not have had the toughest schedule, that we know. But good teams beat bad teams. That’s what the Rangers are doing.
Focusing on this year’s standings, even though they will change, the Rangers are 1-1 against playoff teams, beating Vancouver and losing to Nashville. They are 5-1 against all other teams. Generally speaking a .500 record against playoff teams is fine, and it can get to 2-1 tomorrow night in Winnipeg.
It’s the 5-1 record against non-playoff teams that matters, as that’s where the good teams bank their points. There are 32 teams in the NHL and exactly half make the playoffs. This isn’t an exact science since the schedules aren’t fully balanced, but let’s go with half of the time the Rangers will face a non-playoff team. That’s 41 games against non-playoff teams, currently sporting a .833 winning percentage.
That .833 winning percentage over 41 games (half the schedule) is a 34-7 record. If the Rangers go 21-20 against playoff teams, a hair above .500, that’s a 55 win season. Good teams beat bad teams. That’s how this works. The Rangers won’t go 82-0, they won’t go 80-2. They will lose games, but they will win far more.
It’s ok to be skeptical of this team. It’s early, and we’ve seen this song and dance from the Rangers before. But to be upset that the Rangers “haven’t beaten anyone” seems misguided and very shortsighted, as it’s not until the playoffs that the Rangers won’t face any bad teams at all. Good teams beat bad teams. Boston didn’t get to 60 wins last season without facing bad teams.
Good teams beat bad teams. The Rangers are a good team, and they are doing their jobs beating the bad teams in this soft spot to open the season. We will get a better idea of how they look when they start facing teams like Toronto, Carolina, and the Devils, but for now, this is what we expected them to do.