The Rangers are riding high, sitting pretty atop the Metro Division with an impressive 18-4-1 record. Red flags are tough to come by, aside from injuries, but one area of concern is the Rangers rush chances against. No team is perfect, and every single NHL team can be beaten.
Just ask the Arizona Coyotes, who just knocked off the last 5 Stanley Cup winners in a row. On any given night, a team can win. It’s about identifying where improvements are needed, and either adjusting or mitigating that risk.
Right now, that weakness for the Rangers is rush chances against.
Odd Man Rushes against.
How are you feeling about your team? pic.twitter.com/EPZIGvKgjC
— Meghan Chayka (@MeghanChayka) December 5, 2023
Per Meghan Chayka, the Rangers are actually one of the worst teams in the league at allowing rush chances against, allowing close to 5 per game. Of the likely playoff teams, only Pittsburgh is worse. The Rangers rush chances against have been especially bad of late, allowing 38 in their last 10 games, most in the league, per Steve Valiquette. While it’s an improvement on their 4.52 average above, the rest of the league is improving at a faster rate.
Is there a solution to the Rangers rush chances against problem?
Identifying the issue is half the problem, but solving the Rangers rush chances against issue is the other half, and there is no easy solution. Part of the answer is time. And perhaps the other part of the answer is simply just getting healthy.
The Rangers are adjusting to a new head coach, which leads to growing pains. There will be holes in the overall team performance while they adjust. For now, it appears that Rangers rush chances against are a big defensive issue. They’ve been finding ways to win, but good teams that are quick to move the puck up the ice will pose problems.
That adjustment appears to be more in the 2-1-2 offensive zone forecheck. If/When F1 and F2 are beat, F3 should be backing up to avoid odd man rushes. This is just to the naked eye, but it appears F3 is getting beat a little too often, leading to 3-on-2s against. It’s a read/react adjustment that simply takes time. It’s only been 23 games, and it’s been an injury plagued 23 games.
Which brings us to the second piece: Injuries. There is no doubt that missing Filip Chytil, one of their better two-way forwards, has impacted the Rangers rush chances against. With him skating, although no time table, help does appear to be on the way. Losing Kaapo Kakko, easily their best defensive forward, hurts too, but perhaps not as much since the center is usually F3 in this scenario.
Does this matter?
Does the Rangers rush chances against issue truly matter? This early in the season, not so much. It’s just an area to keep an eye on. However it does correlate to Stanley Cup winners, who are usually in the top-five in this category.
The Kings, Hurricanes, and Devils, three other expected top teams in the league, are the top-three in rush chances against. While they excel here, they aren’t without their imperfections (scoring depth, finishing, and goaltending, respectively). Aside from the Kings, the difference between the Rangers and the top teams in the league is 1 rush chance per game. That’s not much.
So is rush chances against a concern? Of course. The Rangers do need to correct course. However for optimism’s sake, it’s not a huge issue, and the Rangers have the firepower and goaltending to mask it, if needed. The Rangers find ways to win, and they will continue to find ways to win. As of today, this is an identified area to watch, but perhaps not be overly concerned.