Key area Rangers must improve upon against best NHL teams

NHL: New York Rangers at Philadelphia Flyers
Eric Hartline-USA TODAY SportsCredit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Rangers sit at the NHL mountain top with 102 points and just nine games left before the Stanley Cup Playoffs. While they have a great chance of winning the Metropolitan Division and the Presidents’ Trophy as the regular-season’s best, they are not considered the team to beat.

According to Covers, they aren’t even one of the favorites. That honor goes to the Florida Panthers at +650, followed by the Colorado Avalanche and Carolina Hurricanes at +700. Matter of fact, the Rangers come in sixth at a +1000, behind the Edmonton Oilers (+800) and Dallas Stars (+900).

Wait a minute! Aren’t the Rangers the best team in the League right now? It begs a deeper dive into why oddsmakers and even some hockey experts simply don’t believe in them.

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New York Rangers need to step up 5-on-5

NHL: New York Rangers at Vancouver Canucks
Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports

It’s been their Achilles’ Heel all season, but anyone that analyzes the numbers can’t ignore the Rangers’ lack of 5-on-5 scoring. Looking closer at the NHL’s Top 10 teams to date, the Blueshirts have scored the second-lowest amount of 5-on-5 goals (148), and have the worst 5-on-5 goal differential (+6).

While the Cup-favored Panthers have the lowest amount of 5-on-5 Goals For (133), they still have a better differential by 18 goals over the Rangers. They also have a +5.6 shots per game differential with a CorsiFor of 55%, to the Rangers +1.2 and 49.3 respectively. Usually, better possession numbers and shot counts translates well in the playoffs, when every inch of ice is a battleground.

Sometimes, it’s these underlying stats that are not always easy to see beyond the wins and points that raises your probability to claim Lord Stanley’s Prize. Especially in the eyes of prognosticators.

More often than not, the best regular-season team doesn’t win. You can simply look at the list of Presidents’ Trophy winners to see that the last one to raise the Cup were the 2012-13 Chicago Blackhawks.

TEAMPTSPTS%GFAGAADIFSF/GPSA/GPDIF5V5F5V5ADIF
NEW YORK RANGERS1020.6993.372.710.6630.929.71.21481426
DALLAS STARS1010.6823.652.950.7031.529.02.517615026
CAROLINA HURRICANES990.6693.382.620.7633.125.97.216013129
BOSTON BRUINS990.6693.282.740.5429.431.0-1.616212537
COLORADO AVALANCHE980.6713.702.950.7533.029.53.517414430
VANCOUVER CANUCKS980.6713.452.640.8128.228.8-0.617211953
FLORIDA PANTHERS970.6643.212.440.7733.427.85.613310924
WINNIPEG JETS940.6443.042.470.5730.629.70.915310746
EDMONTON OILERS920.6483.582.870.7133.728.55.216113328
TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS910.6323.633.130.5033.029.93.117314330
All Stats via NHL.com (Leader of each category in BOLD ITALICS)

Rangers can still go all the way

Everyone knows that when the real dance begins, referees call the game differently. What is a penalty during the regular season isn’t one in the playoffs. Even more frustrating, what’s a penalty in the opening round, isn’t one when you reach the Conference Finals.

That being said, good special teams matter, and the Rangers have the third-best power play and second-best penalty kill among the Top 10. However, the Carolina Hurricanes, who are behind them in the standings are considered a better Cup contender. That’s likely due to the Hurricanes sporting the top penalty kill and second-best power play in this field. If that’s not enough, they also lead in Shots Per Game differential (+7.2), CorsiFor% (58.9) and 5v5OZ% (55.8).

TEAMPP%PK%FOW%CF%5v5OZ%
NEW YORK RANGERS26.0%83.5%52.5%49.351.6
DALLAS STARS23.7%81.4%53.6%53.049.9
CAROLINA HURRICANES26.5%85.6%52.4%58.955.8
BOSTON BRUINS23.4%82.2%49.4%47.645.2
COLORADO AVALANCHE24.3%81.9%48.1%52.451.1
VANCOUVER CANUCKS22.0%79.3%51.8%50.748.8
FLORIDA PANTHERS25.7%82.2%51.3%55.054.4
WINNIPEG JETS17.9%76.6%47.3%51.753
EDMONTON OILERS27.7%79.9%52.7%54.853.5
TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS25.2%76.5%54.0%50.551.5
All Stats via NHL.com (Leader of each category in BOLD ITALICS)

Amazingly enough, the Rangers actually have a winning or even record against all the top teams in the NHL, except for the Panthers (1-2-0).

Overall, New York is 13-8-1 against the other nine elites and continue to find ways to win. What is concerning come playoff time, is they’re dead even in Goals Per Game For and Against at 3.02 versus the field.

HEAD TO HEADRECORDGFAGAADIF
DALLAS STARS1-1-033.5-0.5
CAROLINA HURRICANES2-1-01.332.33-1
BOSTON BRUINS3-0-04.672.332.34
COLORADO AVALANCHE2-0-02.51.51
VANCOUVER CANUCKS1-1-03.54.5-1
FLORIDA PANTHERS1-2-033.67-0.67
WINNIPEG JETS1-1-02.53-0.5
EDMONTON OILERS1-1-0321
TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS1-1-13.674.33-0.66
TOTALS13-8-13.023.02Even
All Stats via NHL.com

At the end of the day, the Rangers are still one of the upper-echelon teams entering the playoffs. Although, if they want to win the Stanley Cup, they’ll need more than the line of Artemi Panarin, Vincent Trocheck, and Alexis Lafreniere scoring at 5-on-5.

This is a call to Mika Zibanejad, who has struggled this season to score at 5-on5. Of course, the Rangers need more than their best two-way player to step it up when the games get tighter. Chris Kreider, Jack Roslovic, Alexander Wennberg, and Kaapo Kakko need to bring their best as well. It’s the only way this Rangers team can end another long Cup drought that’s going on 30 years.

Anthony Scultore is the founder of Forever Blueshirts and has been covering the New York Rangers and the NHL... More about Anthony Scultore

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