The latest NHL Power Rankings show the New York Rangers in 14th place. Evidently, their recent stretch of fantastic play hasn’t turned many heads-and that’s a crying shame. While this team has had trials over the first half of the season, they are now much better than these rankings would have you believe.
Even though the Power Rankings have a disclaimer stating that they are not based on standings, the Rangers’ ranking is similar to where they stand in points–prior to the Rangers most recent win against the Los Angeles Kings, they were tied for 13th overall in the NHL (the win jumped them over the Vancouver Canucks and San Jose Sharks).
So, if both of these measures (points and power ranking) are in agreement, what’s the big deal? Simply this–these measures don’t tell the whole story. The deeper we dig into the numbers, the more they tell us that these Blueshirts are better than both of these indicators show. This is not a “middle-of-the-pack” team any more–even though they certainly were at the start of the season (if not worse).
Why the Standings Lie
Another difficult start to the season has given the Rangers another hole to dig themselves out of. But since a rough November where they went 6-4-4, this Rangers team has been among the league’s best.
Don’t believe it? Then let’s explore the numbers and see what they tell us.
In spite of being tied for 10th in points so far this season, the Rangers are ranked #3 in the NHL in Goals Scored/Game (3.13) and tied for #6 in Goals Allowed/Game (2.37). They are also #5 in Goal Differential (+27). They are right up there with the elite offensive and defensive teams. Only the Toronto Maple Leafs and Tampa Bay Lightning score more goals per game, and they both allow more goals per game than the Rangers.
Defensively, the Rangers were hurt by some awful games in that forgettable November mentioned above. In spite of that, they are only 0.07 shy of third place in Goals Against/Game (the Montreal Canadiens hold that spot with 2.30).
This is a team that should be higher in the standings than tenth–so why the discrepancy? Part of it has to do with their rough start, but the schedule is also causing their position to look worse than it actually is. In the 11-day stretch from December 2 through December 12, the Blueshirts played a grand total of two games. They only played 12 times in the entire month of December.
As of January 9, the Rangers have played the fewest games of any team in the NHL (38 – tied with Florida and Columbus). Every team ahead of them in the standings has played at least two more games. Some, like Anaheim and Tampa Bay, have played four more (42). That equates to a potential 8-point swing if the Rangers can win those games-in-hand.
Hot On (and Off) Broadway
The way the Rangers have been playing lately, it’s not a stretch to believe that they should collect most of the available points from their games-in-hand. They have the best record of any team in the NHL over their last ten games. Yes, you read that right–the New York Rangers are the hottest team in the NHL based on their last ten games.
The Rangers’ recent record of 9-1-0 is better than the Nashville Predators (7-1-2) and Montreal Canadiens (8-2-0). Even Washington (7-1-2), Tampa (7-2-1) and Columbus (also 7-2-1) can’t match what these Blueshirts have done lately. They also own the longest current winning streak at 4 games, and they travel to San Jose on January 10 to play the Sharks before heading back home to face the Islanders on January 13.
And finally, there’s this:
The @NYRangers are 12-1-0 in their last 13 games, the first time they've won at least 12 of a 13-game stretch since Jan. 7–Feb. 10, 1973.
— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) January 9, 2015
Let that sink in for a moment. Even the President’s Trophy and Stanley Cup-winning 1993-94 Rangers didn’t put together this kind of a stretch. Don’t look now, but the Rangers are winning consistently. Their current stretch with recent back-to-back wins in Anaheim and Los Angeles prove that this team deserves to be higher in the league power rankings than they are. Hopefully more people will start to notice.
Kevin has been covering the Florida Panthers and New York Rangers for The Hockey Writers since the 2013-14 season. Before that, he has written about, played, and coached hockey at all levels. He grew up a Rangers fan in the Southern Tier of New York State, but now lives in the Atlanta area with his wife and two sons. You can reach him on Twitter as @kmizTHW , or via email (firstname.lastname@example.org).