To start every season there are teams people look at. Teams that have high expectations after their last offseason. Who were those teams this year. In the eastern conference you had the Washington Capitals. Big moves in the offseason for the Caps, trading for Oshie and signing free agent Justin Williams. The Pittsburgh Penguins, trading for Phil Kessel. The Columbus Blue Jackets have started out very bad and now have made a coaching change. Those are some of the teams in the metropolitan division alone that have made headlines.
There is one metro team that has had very little headlines that should probably have a lot more. The New York Rangers. The Rangers are quietly running away with the metro division with a 14-2-2 record for a total of 30 points. The Capitals sit second in the division with 23 points and have played two less games.
It is amazing how quiet this New York team is on the national stage. I did not know the Rangers were this good until a few days ago I was casually looking at the standings and saw the Rangers thoroughly in first place. Then I looked at the last ten games and saw the Rangers had posted a 9-0-1 record. For the idiots out there reading this, that’s as close to perfect as you’re getting.
Looking at some team stats and the Rangers don’t seem like they should be as good as they are. There are a lot of mixed singles. One stat in particular that confused me was the shots and shots against per game. You would think that a team that is so good and putting up great results that they would be winning this battle. The Rangers are 22nd in shots per game at 28.6 and they are third worst in shots against per game 31.3. That also goes to the advanced stats side as well, being bottom five in both Corsi and Fenwick % at 46.1 and 46.9 respectively. A lot of great teams aren’t bad at these stats.
Do a little deeper digging and you could possibly see some things. The shot charts and advanced stats won’t tell you tell you that much and neither will the +25 goal differential they have but this stat might. The Rangers have played the most time in the NHL leading a game. 441:48 is the time spent leading a game for New York. Flip that and they have only spent 99:57 trailing a game. Those two numbers aren’t even close to the nearest team which is the Montreal Canadiens in both, the Habs having led just over 400 minutes and having trailed in a game for a total of 140. Simple put, the Rangers rarely trail in games.
That can contribute to some lopsided shot totals and some one sided possession stats. If the Rangers are usually ahead well, do the math, that means they don’t have to push for more offense, they will get out shot. Another interesting stat to add to that, if the Rangers are getting a lot of shots against that means their goalies are getting a lot of saves since their average goals against is 1.72 (by far the best in the NHL) something to look at is faceoff %. 48.5%, That’s not that great and they could give up some goals off of faceoff losses. Separate the zones, in the OZone the Rangers are just 45.8% on faceoffs, on the DZone they’re 53.2%. The Rangers are 25th in total faceoff % but are 4th best in DZone faceoff %.
If you want some more interesting stats, New York is by far the best team in PDO% (shot and save % combined) 106.6, the next closest team is 102.5 which is the Minnesota Wild. And as mentioned before the Rangers have the best goals against average at 1.72 the LA Kings are the next closest 2.11. 3.11 is their current goals for per game 4th best.
The Rangers don’t even have a superstar. They don’t have an Ovechkin, they don’t have a Crosby, they don’t have a Stamkos, a Toews go on down the list they don’t have a name that a casual fan would know. Rick Nash would be the biggest name they have and he isn’t even scoring right now. Look at the Rangers top 4 scorers right now, Mats Zuccarello, Derek Brassard, Oscar Lindberg and Kevin Hayes. Right now the Rangers have some pretty good scoring depth and Nash, Kreider and Stepan should score at a higher rate sooner or later which will make the scoring even better.
The Rangers don’t have to worry about defense, You have possibly the best or no lower than the 3rd best goaltender in the entire world Henrik Lundqvist and guarding him and his goal are players like Ryan McDonagh, Dan Girardi, Marc Staal, Keith Yandle, Kevin Kline and Dan Boyle. That is a pretty darn good D corps and one that can take them far.
I’m sure the Rangers are content with being the quiet team that is dominating the league but after seeing some of the things they do they shouldn’t be the quiet team for long. If you want an answer to who the best team in the league is answer this. Who hasn’t lost a game in regulation since October 15th? The New York Rangers.