Halfway through the season, the Rangers are good, just not that good
The Rangers hit the midway point of their season defeating the Coyotes in a shootout 2-1. After a slow start, the Rangers climbed out of the Metro basement and hold 3rd place in the division. They also enjoy a 4 point playoff cushion over Pittsburgh with 2 games in hand.
Impressive when you think about the start of the year, but many of the defensive problems that plagued them early in October persist today. The Rangers continuously get outshot and outchanced on a nightly basis. If not for their otherworldly goaltending, and high conversion rate on scoring chances, they’d be a bottom feeder team.
Good, But Not Good Enough
The Rangers at a high level view are pretty bad when it comes to shot attempts against. They rank 30th in a 31 team league in the CF% department at 46.5 (corsi measures shot attempts), where they hold a measly .25 advantage over the Wild. If you don’t like corsi, the Rangers rank 28th in straight up shots for percentage at 47.33%. Like I said earlier, night in and night out the Rangers see more rubber than roadkill on the I95.
So why are they good? One word answer here: LUNDQVIST. He saves them almost every night. Of course, Henrik isn’t the one scoring. The Rangers don’t have any elite scorers, but have a nice collection of good offensive players that make the most of their chances. They score at a 51.41% clip on those chances, which is 16th best in the league. When coupled with their goaltending save percentage of 93.07 (8th in the NHL), they will win more often than not.
Sadly, that just won’t cut it to win a Championship.
Danger, Danger, Danger
The high amount of shots isn’t the problem, it is the type of shots they give up. Alain Vigneault likes to deploy a system that results in the Rangers being a counterpunching team. Too bad they aren’t the NJ Devils under Jacques Lemaire that would keep almost all chances to the outside.
This Rangers team ranks 4th in the NHL with 416 high danger scoring chances against. Arizona who ranks 1st with 425, took it to them last night. Which indicates to me, the problem is likely to get worse, not better.
Let’s go a step further. When you break it down to high danger chances per game, the Rangers rank 2nd in the NHL at 10.15. Only the Capitals are worse at 10.32, but at this rate, the Rangers are likely to claim the top spot soon.
So Why Don’t They Change How They Play?
Ever hear the saying, “live by the sword, die by the sword”? That’s exactly what AV’s system does, and he wins more often than not because his goaltending bails his team out. Call it a coach playing to the team’s strength.
You see, the Rangers even though they get outshot, lead the NHL in high danger chances for with 427! More importantly, they convert on those chances at a rate of 56.12%, good for 6th in the league. So as long as they keep getting these high danger chances and scoring on them, why would AV change anything?
The main reason to change is because the Rangers lapse into sustained moments of chaotic frenzy in their own. I think that’s a great reason, but when your goaltending is stopping 89.66% of high danger chances, good for 3rd best, why bother? The Rangers simply don’t have an elite scorer or top shutdown defenseman to change their style. Especially one that has been successful playing to their strengths: Balanced scoring and ELITE GOALTENDING.
Why They Aren’t Good Enough To Win The Cup
Winning a Stanley Cup using this formula simply doesn’t work in the playoffs. When you play a team in the post season, it is easier to scout, plan, and execute it in 7 games. Add to that defenses playing tighter and scoring chances coming at a premium, and you could see this being a real problem.
The Rangers last year lost to an inferior team in Ottawa, simply because they couldn’t tighten up late in games. It cost them dearly. A look at the personnel shows they added offensive punch on the blue-line in Shattenkirk but still lack a shut down top pairing defenseman.
New York will have some big decisions come trade deadline this year. Any shot to win the Cup in June will require a change on defense. The likelihood they find that top shutdown d-man is low. So expect more of the same from the Blueshirts.
Hey! At least they will be exciting to watch.