So we’re at the end of the first month of the season, the Rangers have collected 12 out of 18 possible points through nine games. Let’s check and see how the Rangers are stacking up against the rest of the league so far:
- 1st in Goals For
- This should come as no surprise as the team is loaded up front. Even before they added Jimmy Vesey in free agency, they were going to be one of the top teams in the league in offense.
- The part about this stat that should get you excited is that the fourth line is dangerous once again. They can beat any goalie and cause havoc, no reprieve for any team out there. It’s almost as if going back to the formula that got the team to the Stanley Cup Final is a good idea!
- 11th in Goals Against
- A huge departure from last year’s struggles, we hope. The defense has played relatively well in their own end so far, how they hold up over an 82 game season remains to be seen.
- Henrik is off to one of his slow starts, only holding a .901 save percentage, I’m not sure where to put my expectations this year. We’re used to seeing him around the .930 but my guess is it’ll be closer to .920 for where he is in his career.
- 13th in Power Play %
- This may be the most promising and surprising bit for me: The Rangers have a power play that is clicking at a 22% (7/32) rate. They’re making good reads, crisp passes, and I’ve barely heard any fans in MSG yelling “shoot!” so far this year!
- Anyone here remember the last time the Rangers had a Power Play on the north side of 20% for an entire season? It was 1999. Yeah, ouch. I can’t help but have that cloud in the back of my head that feels like raining on this one, I expect a regression at some point during the season. Even if it is unfairly gleaned by the play of this group so far this year.
- 16th in Penalty Kill %
- I’m honestly surprised it’s this low in comparison to the rest of the league. They sit at 80% (20/25) for the year and you know what? This might be right about where they finish. The defensive group has kept its head above water while Hank has struggled a bit, but their best bet is to do what they’ve been doing: stay out of the box (leading the league in that category). They took only 1 penalty each against the Coyotes, Bruins, and Hurricanes; only Carolina beat them for a goal.
- They took four penalties last night against Tampa and only surrendered a garbage time goal; tough to count it against them, but stats are stats.
- 11th in Face Off %
- We often say that face-offs are almost a useless stat, (much like +/- ) but when it comes down to needing to win a draw in the last minute of a game in the playoffs, you need someone you can trust to get you possession. In the past it was Brian Boyle, of fourth line glory, having to scurry off the ice right after the draw was won. There’s no question that the best man at the dot is now Zibenejad at 55% with Lindberg at 59%. To all those that say that face-offs aren’t that important, I’ll respond with this:
- Fancy Stats
- Not to be left out, the Rangers’ best players so far possession percentage-wise have been Adam Clendening, Pavel Buchnevich, Chris Kreider, Mika Zibenejad, and Ryan McDonagh. The oldest player here being McD at 27. Only Clendening has been sheltered with offensive zone starts (69%). The whole “window closing” bit may have been premature with this forward group.
- Not to just gloss it over, but the bottom five in Corsi % on the Rangers are also have a massive differential starting in the defensive zone: McIlrath (100%), Pirri (62%), Lindberg (66%), Jooris (64%), and Holden (55%). How Holden continues to hold down a spot over Clendening is beyond my comprehension, you’re going to have to go straight to AV for those answers.
So to sum up: The first month of the season has gone rather well. The real question remains to be seen is if Hank rounds into form and if the defense can sustain their play through the course of the season.
I have a suspicious feeling that this won’t be the roster we see at the end of the year, I still feel an upgrade on the back end is coming at the expense of someone like Miller or maybe even Stepan if a team can fit him into their cap situation.