Why the Blueshirts Are Better Than You Think

Power Rangers

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.

New York Rangers left wing Rick Nash (Photo Credit: Andy Martin Jr)
New York Rangers left wing Rick Nash (Photo Credit: Andy Martin Jr)

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.

New York Rangers left wing Chris Kreider   (Photo Credit: Andy Martin Jr)
New York Rangers left wing Chris Kreider (Photo Credit: Andy Martin Jr)

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:

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.

13 thoughts on “Why the Blueshirts Are Better Than You Think”

  1. This is a repeat, to a great degree, of last season for the NYR. They had lots of trouble getting going from Oct thru Dec last season; new coach, new system, contract disputes and key injuries. The Rangers are now healthy and they look it. Their team speed has been very difficult for bigger teams to handle, ask Daryl Sutter. The PP and PK are quickly climbing in rank and Lundquist has been stellar. Expect more from them this season. They will deliver.

    • Bill

      I agree with almost all of your assessment, although I want to qualify your comment and reference point to the LAK game and “ask Daryl Suter” (I live in SoCal and every single player on the LAK lives within 2.5 miles of me). The Kings are NOT playing well (that’s OK, IMO we went 3-0 on the trip winning games 3 different ways). What doomed the Rangers in the Finals last year (aside from the reality that the Kings were in fact a better team and absolutely built for the playoffs) was that we had:
      1. NO ANSWER to the King’s superiority at Center – size, power and skill — whatever team speed edge Rangers had did not apply at Center — and we still don’t and won’t match up well against teams that have big, powerful and mobile centers.
      2. A lack of all-around physicality – in game after game, Rangers wore down.

      I think this year’s team IS DIFFERENT – and I think something that’s received less attention and gotten lost in the shuffle is the contribution of Hayes, JT and Fasth — with JT you are getting a great combo of speed and physical play, Hayes is getting better and better with decent speed for a guy his size, and Fasth’s hockey IQ is REAL HIGH. I still have concerns as to several guys not contributing offensively up to expectations but I really like the all-round cohesiveness’ of the team, especially when they concentrate getting the puck deep and forechecking.

  2. The Rangers are right at the point where we will soon know if they are about to blow the doors off the league or if they are simply peaking in the backstretch. Many good teams can put together a very solid month or two. But, this team could prove to be a great team.

    The Rangers have experience. They got within a handful of goals in three game losses in the finals. Three of those losses came within overtime. That’s only one goal in each of three very tight games. You can get closer but not all that much in hockey.

    The Rangers have a great coach. AV is one of the very best. He is always steady and he knows how to get the best out of his guys. He has also been to the finals dance twice now. That means a lot too.

    The Rangers are having a breakout year from Nash. His production is at the top of the league and is leading the team and others are feeding off of Nash’s success. Everyone is better because of what Nash is creating.

    The Rangers have added more speed and more fire power than they had last year with the talented rookies, Hays, Miller, and Fast.

    The Ranger defense is still solid and Dan Boyle seems to be playing about as well as Stralman played last year. Kevin Klein is having a banner year. Staal is having a better year. McDonough is playing at about his same high standard. Perhaps Girardi and John Moore might be a bit under their top performance levels so far but there is not a huge fall off. And, Matt Hunwick has been a solid addition to the team. In comparison to last year, I think the Ranger defense is somewhat improved.

    Lundqvist is still a top three goalie in the league. Cam Talbot is probably a top five back up goalie.

    The Rangers still need to find a top quality face off man for the playoffs. He doesn’t even have to skate. He just needs to win face-offs.

    The Rangers success will come down to the issue of tenacity and the player’s willingness to outwork other teams in as many areas of the game as possible. This is not something that we really can point to with statistics as much as it is an example of winning character that comes in a championship team.

  3. A couple of things to consider about this Ranger team…..compared to everyone ahead of them in their division, they have played 3 less games. If you look at the Islanders, a team with very few injuries so far to key members, their top players have played at least 40 games each…..the Rangers on the other hand have been devastated by injuries early, other than Rick Nash, most of their core top players have played about 30 some odd games. I expect another deep playoff run by the Rangers this season. They seem to eat up the West, other than 1 or 2 bad early games this season.

  4. I dunno. They’re second in the league in PDO and average possession wise. That doesn’t predict an elite team in the future

      • first, let me laugh at you for using advanced statistics to determine whether or not a team can be great.. second let me point out that it is solely… solely because they aren’t winning faceoffs.. that need will be addressed.

  5. Real good piece. Rankings in all sports are subjective and they pretty all much trail – they make for a wonderful opportunity for interested fans to debate but in the end the only thing that will matter are the playoffs.I think the measureable CUMULATIVE ratings on GD, GA/G & GS/G are illustrative of the Huh??? – is anybody REALLY paying ACTUAL attention???

    However, as you point out ( the “In spite of…” comment of a bad November), averages can be skewed and they don’t account for a SUSTAINED level of excellence – it’s human nature to come into these exercises with pre-existing expectations – coming into the season, there was NO ONE who rated them as anything other than a middle-of-the-pack team (I think for very good reasons). In the Rangers’ case, they simply didn’t play good hockey for the first 20 games of the season that would have prompted anyone to change that mindset.

    To change that mindset, you have to continue to win and move up in the standings; Games in Hand are only valuable if you WIN the GIH. Having beaten the Ducks and LAK puts us in a position to get greedy & I expect, particularly if the Rangers win tonight against the Sharks that the NYR, will find themselves something like 7-8 in the Power Rankings but Tuesday’s Isles game is IMO actually quite a bit more important – they shown they can beat the Pens but they haven’t shown they can beat the Lightning. If they pull that off, the way they’ve been playing (and WHY they’ve been winning) suggests they are, at the moment, the best team in the East and deserving of a Top 4/5 Power Ranking.

  6. Their team speed and fore checking have to be top 5 in the league. In addition, this is the first time all season that they are healthy. Their younger players (Kreider, Miller, Haglin, Brassard, McDonough) are also contributing more than last season. More reasons not to discount this team.

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