Oh, cute, the New York Rangers are doing that thing again

Oh, cute, the New York Rangers are doing that thing again

Ah, the New York Rangers. A favorite punching bag. A team that always generates so much noise and then their lack of royal clothing always gets exposed in the spring. Not after a bunch of articles claiming they’ve saved hockey or that they’ve brought New York together and simultaneously sacked Eric Adams as mayor (though if they want to do that that’s cool). And those of us who look under the hood always end up screaming in Robert De Niro from The Untouchables voice, “They’re nothin’ but a goalie and a badge!”

But here they are, three weeks into the nascent NHL season atop the Metropolitan Division again. They’re scoring goals, they’re piling up wins, and they’ve got the blue-seat faithful once again puffing out their chests and swinging their Adam Graves jerseys over their heads (does the new MSG still have a blue-seat section? Who cares?). So is this any more real than previous seasons? Or is this the same faulty model under Peter Laviolette that it was under Gerrard Gallant that merely relied on Vezina-level performance from Igor Shesterkin and Chris Kreider to never miss on the power play? Let’s do the dirty work.

Is Kreider again scoring an abnormal amount of power-play goals?

You betcha! Krieder has six goals in nine games, four of them on the power play, and has scored on literally half the shots he’s taken with the man advantage. That won’t last.

To be fair to him, he’s taking slightly more shots on the power play than in previous years, though they aren’t necessarily better (xG is down), and none of that indicates that he’s going to continue to, y’know, bury half his power play shots. Even Alex Ovechkin thinks that’s laughable.

Overall, the Rangers have benefited a touch from scoring more 5-on-3 goals than anyone in the league (3, though only in two wins) and the second-most power-play goals in the league behind the Devils (who only score so many power-play goals because they’re utterly brilliant and not a flawed team that can’t score any other way, obviously).

Overall, the Rangers are scoring on nearly a quarter of their power play shots as a team, which will come down. It doesn’t have to come down that much — the Oilers scored on nearly 20 percent of their power play shots last season. But the Oilers have Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, not Mika Zibanejad, and his wonderful hair.

So that must mean the Rangers are a piss-poor even-strength team again?

Not necessarily! I know, I don’t like it either but that’s the deal. Laviolette teams are known for being up-tempo and better at even-strength than Gallant’s charges were, waiting around until it was time for Jacob Trouba to try, and maim someone when it wasn’t working.

The Rangers are middle of the pack when it comes to Corsi- and expected goals-share, both above 50 percent. That’s actually due to being one of the league’s better defensive teams and not being a dynamic offensive team, but hey, however you get there. The Rags rank 7th in attempts against at evens and 6th in expected goals against per 60. These are both improvements on last season.

Which is generally not what fans think of when it comes to a Laviolette team. He’s known for cayenne-pepper-on-the-balls pace from his D-men especially, and loves to get aggressive in the offensive zone. But he’s clearly settled on K’Andre Miller and Trouba being a shutdown pairing, with Adam Fox, and Ryan Lindgren the get-up-and-go one. It’s working so far, as Miller has the lowest xGA of his career so far.

OK, but surely Shesterkin is still the reason this all works…

Actually, no. Shesterkin has been pretty mediocre to start the season, with just a .902 save percentage so far and just 1.7 goals saved above expected.

Somehow, Jonathan Quick — whom you’d be forgiven for thinking had retired or just walked off into the sea— has been marvelous in two starts, letting in one goal in two starts, and turning away the other 47 shots. You want things that are unsustainable, here you go.

So what’s really going on?

The schedule has certainly helped. The Rangers had a western swing that got them looks at Seattle, Calgary, and Edmonton, who are all very wayward at the moment. Throw in a home date with the Coyotes, and a couple OT wins over the Jets, and Canucks, who are playing better than they will eventually be, and you get what we’ve got here.

So no, the Rangers aren’t going anywhere if Shesterkin doesn’t become SHESTERKIN again sometime soon. Their power play numbers will deflate. There’s more of a base with their even-strength play than there’s been, but not enough to declare them three-dimensional.

But, we’ve seen them Shesterkin-and-power-play their way pretty far before.

Follow Sam on Twitter @Felsgate and on Bluesky @felsgate.bsky.social

Original source here

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About the Author

Anthony Barnett
Anthony is the author of the Science & Technology section of ANH.