The Rangers’ first ten games: A tale of two teams

Leon Halip

A retrospective on the Rangers' first ten games of the season that tells you why you should be optimistic going forward.

With the 2-0 loss to the Canadiens in the home opener, the Rangers concluded their first 10-game stretch of the season with a record of 3-7-0. Not the start we were expecting and definitely not the start we were hoping for. But considering the long road trip and the numerous injuries to key players there are definitely some mitigating circumstances. But let's delve into the underlying numbers, are the Rangers likely to continue to lose while waiting for the return of their injured players, or is their record an unfair reflection of their play? What we will be looking at is the Rangers' puck possession 5v5 while the games have been close, as this has been proven as the best predictor for future success.

5v5 Close

W-L-OTL Record

FD60

FF%

FSh%

FSv%

FPDO

Total

3-7-0

-3.57

47.89%

2.35%

93.51%

959

First 5

1-4-0

-21.37

37.27%

3.33%

92.08%

954

Last 5

2-3-0

+11.38

56.70%

1.82%

95.24%

971

Overall their possession play has been poor, their 5v5 Close FF% (percentage of unblocked shot attempts taken 5v5 while the game is considered close) of 47.9% and their FD60 (unblocked shot attempt differential per 60 minutes) of -3.57 both rank them 21st in the league. But looking at the five game splits, one can see a clear difference. The 37.3% posted during the west coast road trip would be good for worst in the league, while the 56.7% over the subsequent five games against Eastern Conference opponents would rank them 5th and their FD60 of +11.38 over the same period would rank them 3rd. Quite the difference! There are several reasonable explanations for this difference; the players figuring out the new system or the vast difference in difficulty of the opponents. Look at the aggregate possession numbers of the opponents outside their games against the Rangers:


Adj FD60

Adj FF%

First 5

+7.9

54.68%

Last 5

-1.4

49.18%

Luckily for the Rangers their remaining schedule has more games against lesser EC teams than powerhouse WC teams, but it wasn't ideal to face off against some of the best teams in the league when the Rangers were at their worst.

In any case, it seems more likely that the Rangers of the past five games are closer to the "true" Rangers than the team of the first five, especially when considering their good possession play in 2012-13. The FPDO (FSh% + FSv%) is still abysmally low, making their record over the past five misrepresentative. While they without question deserved to go 1-4-0 through the first five and the low FPDO just sunk their goal differential, they should probably have been closer to 4-1-0 in the last five if we consider their underlying play. Even with the improvement in 5v5 Close FPDO, the 971 over the past five would only rank them 28th in the league where their current total of 959 ranks them 29th.

Still, this should be seen as a very positive indicator. Where I was very worried after the first five games considering their abysmal territorial play, I'm quite optimistic now considering their significant and consistent improvement in possession play. Only in the Devils game that only was close for 10 minutes of 5v5 play were they under 50% in FF%. If they can keep this up they should still be able to mount a challenge for the division title despite the slow start.

Base statistics from extraskater.com

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