Ranger fans are alarmed because we find ourselves outside the playoff picture 18 games into a shortened season when expectations for the team we’re sky high. In classic Ranger fan fashion, we have developed a slew of explanations, theories and treatments (fire him, trade him, buy him out) for this ailing team.
Here’s why I think we’re in 11th place:
While it might feel like our team is being completely dominated in it’s losing efforts, our shot differential t thus far is positive, and very similar to what it was for the entirety of last year. In both years, we get about 1 more shot on our opponent than they get on us, on average.
So why are we consistently being outscored?
Rick Nash, prior to his injury, has played well and developed a ton of offensive opportunities. Unfortunately, or fortunately, his 5.3% shooting percentage is unsustainably low. Shooting % is largely luck driven and generally levels at between 10% – 11% for a player like Nash. If Nash’s % this year was 10.6%, he’d have 3 more goals this season.
The same is true of Brad Richards. While he has looked visibly bad on the ice and is getting slightly less shots per game than last year, his 5.3% shooting percentage is unnaturally low. If he shoots at a more expected 10.6%, he has 2 more goals this season.
Marian Gaborik has taken a lot of flack around here, but he is getting more shots per game then he averaged last season, and with 7 goals in 18 games, would be on pace for another 40 plus goal season if a couple post shots, had trickled in.
Henrik Lundqvist hasn’t been bad, but he certainly hasn’t been Vezina quality. If you apply his .93 save % to the shots he’s faced so far in this 18 game season, the Ranger’s would have given up 6 less goals.
So, already, if Richards and Nash’s shooting percentages we’re normal and Lundqvist’s save percentage was similar to last year, the rangers have 5 more goals on the season and have given up 6 less – which surely equals a few more hashes in the win column and a playoff spot.
The powerplay wasn’t good last year, but it wasn’t this bad. If the Ranger powerplay converted at last year’s 15.7%, we’d have 3 more goals this season.
Alot of people say the Ranger’s aren’t “tough” or “gritty” enough this year. These intangible qualities are difficult to measure but, and I know it’s a flawed and subjective stat, but the Rangers have more hits per game this year then they did last year. They are, on average, blocking only one less shot a game than they did last year. They are fighting less than last year – but I’m skeptical fighting correlates much with winning.
All this evidence is reassuring, and calms my worried soul. I deduce that the Ranger’s expectations we’re a little inflated this year due to an unrepeatable performance by Henrik last year. Despite this, if the Rangers get healthy and make the powerplay just a little more productive, the law of averages will prevail for a few struggling players and the Rangers will have no trouble making the playoffs.