When the New York Rangers staggered and staggered into last year’s convention finals (two series seven games to get there, and needed Penguin disguised as a keeper to get past them. fart beer drinker!), it’s getting harder and harder to convince anyone that they’re all smoke and mirrors. As Chris Krieder continues to score and Adam Fox spins magic tricks from the blue line, no one wants to hear that they are built on sand, that is the success of unsustainable power play and goalscoring in the world. is different. Tampa Bay Lightning is most people’s encounter with reality, in the way that one cheek meets a swishing leather glove, and shows Rangers who they are.
However, expectations for this season are still high after Rangers solved one of their biggest freedom issues, making Vincent Trocheck their No. That means Artemi Panarin doesn’t need to keep making the most chicken salad out of the second-row most rancid chicken shit (though he did with 96 points, albeit over a third. some of which is due to his playing prowess where he can play with Kreider, Fox and Mika Zibanejad). The kids Rangers have been looking forward to for a while will gain an extra year of experience as well as a taste of success. It’s lining up for Blueshirt.
It didn’t start that way.
While their neighbors the New Jersey Devils and New York Islanders were keeping their eyes open, the Rangers just staggered from side to side of the street. Whenever it seems like they can finally get things together, something leaks or starts to smoke or make a weird jingle sound. The worst came in early December, when Rangers held head-to-head games against MSG against the Senators and the Hawks of the remedial class, which were eliminated later. It leaves the Rags 11-10-5, with an open gap between them and the knockout points.
The funny thing is that even though their record doesn’t show it, Rangers played better than they all had last season, depending on how you look at those things. They just didn’t see Kreider score in a quarter of his shots in power play.
Prior to December 1, Rangers were fifth in Corsi ratio (52.7) and 11th in expected goal ratio at even (52.6). These are better achievements than what they achieved last season. What they can’t do is buy a bucket. They’re 22nd in shooting rate by December 1st. Deeper for Rangers, they’re particularly fond of power play, where they’re 28th in shoot rate thanks to a man-to-ratio advantage. 10.7 shooting after shooting 16% for all of last season. And the power play has really created more opportunities this season, when their expected number of goals is higher than last season.
Something has changed, because Rangers haven’t lost since.
They won seven games in a row, including taking away two points against Knights, Avs, Devils, and Leaves. And why? Because Igor Shesterkin is back to being the best goalkeeper in the world. Shesterkin isn’t bad in October or November, with savings rates of 0.912 and 0.913. But Rangers are built to be capable of scoring at Vezina level at the back. That’s why Fox can get away with looking like he’s found the ultimate source of the worst for himself. Shesterkin will clean up the mess.
They got that play from him in December, when he scored 0.935 and 1.95 goals against the month averages.
Except, Rangers’ uniform play has gotten worse. Their expected goal percentage has downtrend all seasons. So is their Corsi percentage. But now Rangers can’t miss. They finished second in the league in December in shot percentage (11.4). They are gaining 21% strength in the last three weeks. Everything is going smoothly. When you have players like Panarin or Zibanejad or Kreider, a team will almost always outperform the expected numbers. But by this much?
Rangers watchers are gasping quite heavily for their “Boyz II Men” line, they won’t call them the baby line anymore, by Filip Chytil, Kaapo Kakko and Alex Lafreniére. It’s not a huge shock why, because Kakko and Lafreniére are two consecutive top picks that are said to be the cornerstones of Rangers’ makeover. They haven’t come close to that, but their recent play makes people think they’ve taken a step. They will have any indication that Kakko and Lafreniére are not quite busts.
Eh…not really. Yes, Chytil has six points after seven games. And Kakko six out of nine. The same goes for Lafreniere. Good numbers, and they still only measure who wins by who actually scores. But these kids are being kicked in most shifts. None of these people have figures above 43% in December. They spend most of their time on defense, which is not what you want. It’s just that things are going on the rare occasion they get to the strike zone (Rangers are shooting at least 14% when any of them are on the ice in December).
But Shesterkin makes it all right. Power games make it all right. And we saw how far that can take Rangers last year. Jacob Trouba can run around and forget that the game revolves around a ball and simply injure people, and that’s okay because the Rangers are winning. And we’ve seen Shesterkin do this all season. He will have to, because the backup Jaro Halák has been terrible.
What kind makes the Rangers the perfect New York team. Have you ever argued with a New Yorker about all the issues with New York? And they just look at you and say it’s okay because “it’s the best?” And you have nowhere to go, your logic and reasoning just died in a terrible collision with the stubborn wall? It’s the Rangers. It shouldn’t work, but it did, so welcome to New York, where the local heat makes you uncomfortable.