New York Rangers rolling despite lack of 5-on-5 scoring
There’s no discounting the New York Rangers‘ start out of the gate. Many, including this writer, anticipated a bumpy start under a new coach with a new system. Growing pains were going to happen. Or so many thought.
What’s not to be excited about at 8-2-0, with strong defensive numbers, great goaltending and a potent power play?
The power play is operating at 32.4%, good enough for third in the NHL. They’re averaging more than a goal per game with the man advantage and their 12 power play goals are second behind New Jersey.
But there also feels like a cloud hanging over this team in the form of offensive scoring woes at 5-on-5, where the Blueshirts have just 13 goals, good enough for 27th in the NHL. For perspective, Los Angeles is tops at 29 and the winless San Jose Sharks are last with eight.
The teams around the Rangers in 5-on-5 GF? Calgary, Nashville, St. Louis, Chicago and Washington, all of whom are not currently in a playoff position.
New York Rangers need more at 5-on-5
Chris Kreider has seven goals but just one at 5-on-5 this season. Mika Zibanejad has nine points in 10 games, but has mustered just one assist at 5-on-5. They combine for $15M against the cap.
On the flip side, the much maligned Kaapo Kakko’s overall numbers look worse compared to those two, with just one goal and an assist. But neither of those came on the power play, where Kakko (1:38/game) gets much less time with the man advantage than Kreider (4:02) and Zibanejad (3:55).
The struggles go beyond the top line. Vincent Trochek has one assist at 5-on-5 while Blake Wheeler has yet to record a point in any situation. The fourth line of Jimmy Vesey, Barclay Goodrow and Nick Bonino have combined for three assists.
And sure, you don’t expect your bottom line(s) to produce much offense — although Trochek and that contract would say otherwise — but look around the League and at recent Cup winners and you’ll find teams with bottom six contributors. Thus far, the Rangers haven’t been the beneficiaries of that.
It hasn’t been all doom and gloom, though. Artemi Panarin has put his name into the MVP discussion with 16 points in 10 games. The Breadman has contributed six points at 5-on-5, while his linemate Alexis Lafrienere has three goals. Filip Chytil has four assists at 5-on-5, and the trio has strong underlying numbers.
Rookie Will Cuylle has a pair of goals while averaging 12:55 per game.
The power play will cool off at some point. Just one team (the 2022-23 Edmonton Oilers) has finished a season with a power play over 30% in the last decade. That was going to happen even before the team announced Adam Fox was heading to long-term injured reserve on Friday.
It’s felt like scoring away from the power play has been an issue for this club for several seasons through multiple head coaches. But there’s no doubt other areas have improved under Peter Laviolette, namely on the defensive side of the puck where the Rangers’ 19 goals against is second-best in the NHL behind the Boston Bruins. The penalty kill has improved of late as well, and the team has allowed the second-fewest shots per game.
Trust in the system says things will turn around at 5-on-5. Players like Zibanejad and even Lafrienere and Kakko have historically produced at even strength.
Laviolette said there’s peaks and valleys throughout the season in all aspects of the game.
“We’re in the offensive szone,” he said Thursday. “We are there. we just have to do a better job of making things happen when we’re there.”