What a month for your New York Rangers. Critics and skeptics abound before the start of the season, the Rangers October record has certainly quieted them down. A 5-0 run through western Canada will certainly silence some haters, but it’s more than just wins and losses. The Blueshirts look different this year.
We can call it the system. We can call it the coaching. Even Artemi Panarin’s new hair can be a reason. The defense is humming with structure and controlling the high danger chance trade-off. They are beating bad teams, sure, but good teams do that. Too many times we’ve watched this team struggle and play down to inferior opponents. Not this month.
The Rangers October results are hopefully a sign of things to come:
- 1st in the Metro with a 7-2 record
- 4th most goals scored in the Metro (behind Carolina, New Jersey, and Philly)
- Fewest goals allowed in the Metro
- Best goal differential in the Metro
- 2nd best record and goal differential in the conference (Boston)
- 3rd best record in the NHL (Boston, Vegas)
- 4th best goal differential in the NHL (Boston, Vegas, Vancouver)
Even if we want to ignore the high danger chance differential and all the other puck possession and scoring chance metrics, the Rangers October has been a successful one.
Rangers October is more than just wins and losses
Process process process. That’s been the message here for quite some time. Process breeds results. The Rangers have always been skilled enough to outplay bad process, and they did just that under Gerard Gallant. Now, the process is matching the results for the first time in a long time. If the Rangers October is a sign of things to come, then the Blueshirts are a truly dangerous team.
There is such nuance to a different system and so many inputs into what made the Rangers October so fun to watch. But for all intents and purposes, the good process is evident with the decreasing number of glass-and-outs the Rangers have attempted. Last season, it seemed every zone exit was a glass-and-out. It’s only been a month, but the Rangers October saw only a handful of those exits.
Don’t misunderstand. Those zone exits will happen. They are needed sometimes. But the difference is in the frequency and the timing. Instead of trying to use that approach to start a rush, the Rangers are using it sparingly and only when needed. It’s a breath of fresh air.
There’s still work to do
As fun as the Rangers October has been, this team still has work to do. The defense has been great, but the offense is still looking to catch up, a problem that continues from the last two seasons. We are talking sustained offensive zone pressure and getting looks in open ice, not just goals scored.
As a reminder, all numbers are at 5v5, per Natural Stat Trick.
- CF/60: 54.02 (28th)
- SF/60: 26.38 (29th)
- xGF/60: 2.35 (25th)
- HDCF/60: 8.93 (30th)
- GF/60: 1.68 (27th)
- 5v5 goals: 12
- 4v4 goals: 4
- Powerplay goals: 11
- Shorthanded goals: 1
- CA/60: 54.72 (9th)
- SA/60: 24.85 (1st)
- xGA/60: 2.45 (10th)
- HDCA/60: 10.19 (8th)
- GA/60: 1.68 (5th)
Very clearly, the Rangers October was fueled by defense. That’s fine, given how poor the Rangers were at limiting high danger chances against last season. There was a significant improvement defensively, which is the more difficult aspect of the game to fix. For once, Igor Shesterkin doesn’t need to cover up multiple mistakes per period.
There is still room for improvement, and it’s clearly on the offensive side of things. The Rangers are spending 42.1% of their time in the offensive zone, compared to the league average of 41.5%, which is the 68th percentile. Comparatively, the Rangers are spending 40.5% of their time in the defensive zone, a smidge below the 40.7% average (59th percentile).
Ideally, the Rangers tilt the ice more, spending more time in the offensive zone generating a strong cycle and attacking open ice. They are much improved in their end, but we’d like to see them getting more shot attempts at 5v5. The one-and-done nature of the offense has been a weak spot for some time.
Fixing the defensive zone play and zone exits was a major to-do for Peter Laviolette and company. The Rangers October has been fueled by those fixes and the attention to detail that Laviolette’s teams need. Now, it’s time for the offense to tweak their approach.
One-and-done isn’t working anymore. Just 12 even strength goals through 9 games isn’t going to be good enough for the long haul. The Rangers October has been fantastic and fun to watch. That doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvement. Hopefully, this is just the beginning of a long, long Rangers run.