The New York Rangers have had a rough start to the 2019-2020 NHL season. Some question if they are legit Stanley Cup contenders, while others believe that their roster is beyond perfect and they will hoist Lord Stanley this spring.
The “new york hockey team” is the New York Rangers. They are currently in first place in their division and have a record of 18-6-2. This means that they are legitimate Stanley Cup contenders.
Every NHL season, a team’s standings success doesn’t match some of its underlying metrics, prompting supporters to wonder whether they’re “really this good.”
So, how good are the New York Rangers really?
With a 29-13-4 record, they are second in the Metro Division (.674 points percentage). After a quick but successful reconstruction, they have a 92 percent probability of entering the 16-team Stanley Cup playoffs for the first time since 2017.
With a mediocre offensive, they’re also worst in the NHL in 5-on-5 possession measures. Some believe they’ve been carried by goalkeeper Igor Shesterkin, who has 21 of the team’s 29 victories this season and leads the NHL with a.937 save percentage.
Is perception reality, or are the Rangers more than simply their MVP-caliber goaltender’s product?
Here’s what the Rangers’ players are saying, as well as how the analytics community views the club and what the rest of the league thinks about them this season.
What the participants have to say
NHL players like pretending to be unaware of outside thoughts regarding their club.
Ryan Reaves isn’t one of them.
The enforcer for the Rangers has heard the skeptics. He’s conscious of the myth that New York isn’t quite as wonderful as its reputation suggests.
As a result, Reaves responded with a response. And there was no better moment than after he scored two goals in a come-from-behind victory against the Toronto Maple Leafs last month, in which the Rangers overcame two two-goal deficits to win.
On Jan. 19, Reaves commented, “I believe we know [we’re a contender].” “I believe that some members of the league do not believe it, but they should continue to do so. We’ll keep doing what we’re doing. And, you know, the numbers don’t lie.”
The Rangers’ win against the Leafs propelled them into first position in the Metropolitan Division, where they’ve remained for the most of the season, aided by the fact that they’ve played more games than many other teams (46).
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After New York’s shootout win in Tampa, Barclay Goodrow remarked, “We spoke about how if we want to be in the discussion with the best teams in the league or upper tier, we need to start defeating those teams.” “We’ve done well against teams who are out of the postseason picture or in the rankings below us, but not so well against elite teams. We hung in there tonight and made it through.”
The Rangers were thrilled to not only obtain crucial points but also to have handled adversity effectively in two games versus Tampa Bay, which were classic measuring-stick games.
“We’ve said it before: to be a good team, you have to defeat clubs [like Tampa], and we’re learning how to do it,” Fox said. “It’s a steep learning curve, but games like these may assist. We go into games knowing we can win, and we continue to perform well. We’re discovering new methods to win, which demonstrates the group’s tenacity.”
New York, on the other hand, must avoid becoming overly preoccupied with proving itself. The Rangers gave up an egg against the division foe Carolina Hurricanes after an epic comeback victory against Toronto. The Hurricanes, who have been one of the top teams in the NHL this season, stormed out to a 3-0 lead and cruised to a 6-3 victory.
It was a night that focused attention on the Rangers’ goalie. Shesterkin has enjoyed a Vezina Trophy-caliber first half of his season. However, backup Alexandar Georgiev, who is 7-7-2, was in net for Carolina’s defeat. “Don’t ask why,” Rangers coach Gerard Gallant told reporters before the game. Georgiev was chosen over Shesterkin, but it’s possible that he, too, was curious about how his club would perform without their normal starter.
It turned out that without Shesterkin’s game-changing influence, New York appeared lost, albeit against a strong Carolina club. Was it a one-time occurrence? Is the Rangers’ near-top-of-the-Metro standings due to their outstanding goaltending?
After the defeat against the Hurricanes, forward Mika Zibanejad commented, “I didn’t feel like we got up to the level that we needed to.” “We’ve had games when we’ve spoken for a whole 60 minutes and not done it. That was maybe the finest squad we’ve ever faced, and they took full advantage of the things we did wrong and made errors with.”
The Rangers were back on the ice less than 24 hours later, defeating Arizona 7-3 with Shesterkin in net. Perhaps a great answer, but it came against one of the league’s weakest teams.
“We try not to see it as an opportunity to [prove ourselves]. We aim to have the same mentality to every game “Ryan Strome, a forward, said. “Sometimes it just messes with your head a little bit if we get too focused about who we’re playing or [what’s a] measuring stick.”
“It doesn’t matter whether it’s two points versus Carolina or two points against the worst teams,” Gallant said. “In this league, any squad can defeat you. You will lose if you are not prepared to play.”
That’s all fine and dandy. However, doubt about the Rangers’ standing as a real championship contender will persist until they turn their preparation into additional victories against playoff-caliber opponents.
Will they be able to persuade the skeptics to change their minds? Only time will tell whether this is true.
“By defeating teams who aren’t in the playoffs, you can’t [inspire confidence],” Reaves said. “You have to play playoff opponents tough, and you have to play them physically.” And sometimes you simply have to shove them out of the building to show that you have a little swagger about you.
“Now that we’re nearing the end of the regular season, it’s time to start thinking about the playoffs. We have to put our best foot forward. We need to show ourselves that we’re not just a playoff club based on the standings, but that we’re also capable of making a run at it.”
What the numbers show
The Rangers were fourth in the NHL in team goals-against average (2.59) and 16th in goals per game after their victory against the Seattle Kraken on Sunday (2.98). When playing 5-on-5, they were ninth in goals against (119) and 15th in goals scored (84), although it just looks at the surface.
When you look at the data, it’s a different story. At 5-on-5, the Rangers have the lowest proportion of shot attempts (44.1%) in the NHL. When they’re ahead (40.6 percent), they’re 31st, and when the game is tight, they’re 31st (44.8 percent ). They are 20th in the league in terms of puck possession (18:59 per game).
This is when the “Are the Rangers Really That Good?” discussion begins: In terms of points percentage (.674), they’re second in the division and fourth in the conference, but in certain key underlying metrics, they’re in the cellar, or just above it.
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“Don’t get me wrong, I still believe the Rangers are a terrific team,” he remarked. “But can they be deemed a top-tier squad if they don’t defeat more of them? Or at the very least, outperform [some of] the other top-tier teams? That’s where most of the doubts in the league stem from.”
Shesterkin is the other common denominator in every Rangers dispute. Where would New York be without him? On the other hand, where would any team be without its finest player, as one notable expert put it? It’s a case of the chicken or the egg. Is it true that the Rangers play better when Shesterkin is in net because they have faith in him? Is Shesterkin making New York look to be a greater squad than it really is?
The prevailing agreement is that the Rangers’ reality is likely somewhere in the center.
One scout suggested, “Put it this way.” “I feel the Rangers have the ability to go as far as Shesterkin can.”
Others were more forthright in their criticisms of the Rangers. One NHL official was questioned whether the Rangers are “simply” Igor Shesterkin’s team.
They responded, “Yes.”
Is there any other factor that contributes to New York’s success?
They responded, “No.” “They’re not up to par.”
Internal data used by opponents to judge the Rangers imply that they are weaker defensively than standard stats would suggest. However, behind the scenes in the league, the Rangers seem to be exactly where they should be offensively, based on their performance rather than the expectations for their players.
The Rangers are in the center of the pack, averaging roughly three goals per game, but they have the fewest shots per game in the league (averaging fewer than 30). Although the amount of their possibilities is limited, the quality seems to be great. With top-end offensive zone time, New York does a good job of keeping the puck out of its own end.
For a handful of the individuals we questioned who are still waiting to see whether the Rangers are, in fact, this excellent, building on that in the second half of the season might shift the needle on New York.
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