Are the Rangers true Cup contenders?

Last night’s 6-3 defeat at the hands of the Tampa Bay Lightning just felt different than your garden variety road loss. It felt like a playoff game. If you haven’t read Dave’s thoughts on the contest, where he provides some very helpful analysis and – most importantly – perspective, get on that. But with the loss, are the Rangers true Cup contenders?

Speaking of perspective, I often find it helpful to step back and look at a team holistically, especially after a particularly difficult loss. We know this about the 2023-24 New York Rangers: they’re a good team. They’ve been in first place in the Metropolitan Division since October. They have star players, elite goaltending, a threatening power play, and one of the best coaching staffs in the league.

They are also considered by many to be a cut or two below the “true” Stanley Cup contenders.

Some of that perception is likely due to a nearly two month stretch where the Rangers played mediocre-at-best. Their recent surge has been driven by Igor Shesterkin’s return to form, prompting the seemingly age-old question: are the Rangers good enough at 5 on 5?

As I write this, the Rangers have played 66 games, so let’s have some fun with arbitrary endpoints, shall we? Below, I break down the Rangers season into three 22-game segments. I decided to look at a few key, team-level metrics: 5v5 xG%, all-situations xG%, 5v5 SV%, all-situations SV%. All data from Natural Stat Trick, 5v5 stats are score and venue-adjusted.

Games 1-22 (October 12 – December 2)

  • Record: 17-4-1
  • 5v5 xG%: 50.52% (16/32)
  • All-situations xG%: 50.17% (18/32)
  • 5v5 SV%: 0.923 (9/32)
  • All-situations SV%: 0.918 (4/32)

Games 23-44 (December 3 – January 18)

  • Record: 11-10-1
  • 5v5 xG%: 49.77% (18/32)
  • All-situations xG%: 52.76% (9/32)
  • 5v5 SV%: 0.892 (31/32)
  • All-situations SV%: 0.883 (28/32)

Games 45-66 (January 20 – March 14)

  • Record: 15-5-2
  • 5v5 xG%: 45.56% (27/32)
  • All-situations xG%: 49.79% (19/32)
  • 5v5 SV%: 0.939 (2/32)
  • All-situations SV%: 0.925 (2/32)


It’s easy to see why the Rangers got off to the start they did. They pretty much followed Rob Luker’s Formula in every game, and stormed out of the gate to a 0.795 pts%, which led the NHL through games played on December 2. Not only were they an average-to-above 5v5 team (led mostly by their team defense and ability to play “low event” hockey), they got superior goaltending. Ideal.

The middle 22-game segment is fascinating. The goaltending went into the tank, but the Rangers held steady at 5v5 and the power play excelled (which explains the near 3% difference in xG share between 5v5 play and all-situations). It’s fair to say that the Rangers carried their goaltenders – and particularly Igor Shesterkin – through that rough stretch. That 11-10-1 record, which felt so bad at the time, could have been a lot worse. Don’t underestimate that.

The most recent run of success has been highlighted by Igor’s return to form. From the All-Star break onwards, he’s been the best goalie in hockey, bar Sergei Bobrovsky. However, the 5v5 xG share is a slight cause for concern. Simply put: that won’t cut it down the stretch, and especially in the playoffs.


The Rangers are capable of being a solid 5v5 team, especially with a healthy and balanced lineup. The trade deadline has already paid dividends, as the Rangers’ xG share in the 4 games played since March 8 is 50.98%, good for 13th in the league. If that trend continues, the Rangers are dangerous. If Igor continues to be Igor, they are true Cup contenders.

It could be a special spring.


More About: