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Rangers Can't Rely on Hot Shooting and Goaltending Forever

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How long can the Rangers ride their hot shooting percentage and hot goaltending? They should tighten up the ship before they have to find out the answer to that question the hard way.

Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

What do Derick Brassard, Mats Zuccarello, and Oscar Lindberg all have in common this season? They are all off to a hot start, are among the team leaders in scoring, and all of them have rather unsustainably high shooting percentages.

  • Mats Zuccarello: 9g, 9a, 25.00 S%, 25.93 ES S%
  • Derick Brassard: 6g, 7a, 18.20 S%, 14.29 ES S%
  • Oscar Lindberg: 7g, 5a, 21.20 S%, 22.58 ES S%

They aren't alone, either. Five other Rangers are shooting above 12% past the halfway point of November. Now, this should hardly come as a surprise given the Rangers' early success and New York certainly isn't alone in having players who are off to hot starts and have exceedingly high shooting percentages. The NHL currently has 21 shooters who have played a minimum of 100 minutes and have shot at least 20 shots that are shooting above 20% according to stats.hockeyanalysis.com. Jamie Benn of the Dallas Stars, for example, has 12 goals on 47 shots with a 25.53 S%.

So, no big deal, right? The Rangers have some hot shooters just like everyone has some hot shooters and we're still early enough in the season to see some high shooting percentages in unexpected places on the roster (looking at you, Dan Girardi). However, the Rangers are the hottest shooting team in the league. Through 18 games the Rangers are shooting 10.68% at even strength which is a full 1.65% higher than the highest shooting percentage team from last season (the Tampa Bay Lightning) and 0.71% higher than the second-hottest shooting team this season: the Minnesota Wild. The Blueshirts' balmy shooting is reflected in the fact that they are the fourth best team at GF/GP in the NHL and that has a whole lot to do with luck. A lot of luck.

When you're hot, you're hot.

It's not particularly entertaining getting distraught and vexed with issues that seem somewhat inconsequential with a hockey team that is currently finding itself on the top of NHL power charts in various publications, but the good times will not last forever because they cannot last forever. Our shared reality, for all of its flaws and nonsense (honestly, the platypus? Honestly?) does have a law of averages that eventually applies a proverbial cinder block to the even the must stubborn of walnuts. The Rangers' molten hot shooting percentage must eventually regress to the mean. Nothing gold can stay, Ponyboy.

During 5 on 5 play the Rangers allow 29 shots against per game and put 27.9 on the opposition's net and at even strength the team's CF60 is a full 8.2 points lower than their average CA60. In other words, it's fortunate that the Rangers have been shooting the lights out and are enjoying some early brilliance from Mats Zuccarello and a few other players. It's also a huge part of why they have been winning hockey games. Luck.

In addition to the team's untenable blistering shooting they have also benefited from a scintillating start from Henrik Lundqvist that has driven the Rangers to a 9-0-1 record in their last ten games.

Are we sure he's human?

How long can the Rangers possibly hope that Henrik Lundqvist will continue to play at levels that go beyond typical Lundqvist brilliance? Lundqvist currently has a .947 SV% and a 1.69 GAA. Those numbers are staggeringly good. In 14 games he has allowed just 24 goals on 451 shots.  However, the most amazing statistic that Lundqvist has attached to his name through the first quarter of the NHL season is his even strength saving percentage. According to Puckalytics.com Henrik Lundqvist has a

96.08 ES SV%

The ridiculously hot Reto Berra of the Colorado Avalanche currently has a 97.30 ES SV%, but he has played less than half of the minutes that Lundqvist has played this season. Lundqvist has been nothing short of brilliant this season at the age of 33 and his understudy Antti Raanta has also been absolutely amazing posting a 95.24 ES SV% in his four appearances. The goaltending provided by Hank and Raanta through the halfway point of November is likely the best the Rangers have ever seen in the history of the franchise across this volume of games. However, just like the shooting, it can't and won't last forever. I'm sorry, Ponyboy.

With all of the Rangers success it has been easy to overlook Chris Kreider and Rick Nash not getting pucks into the back of the net and to shrug at the high volume of high quality scoring chances that the Rangers regularly surrender to the opposition. Winning certainly feels good, but it can also make us overlook significant shortcomings and issues that will eventually step out from the tall shadows that this winning streak has created and cause some significant issues for the Rangers.

At even strength the Rangers are 26th in the league at CF60 and, it should come as no surprise after a cursory look at their shooting percentage and save percentage numbers, they lead the league in PDO during even strength hockey. Not to take anything away from players like Henrik Lundqvist and Mats Zuccarello and their outstanding starts to the 2015-16 season, but lady luck has been on the arm of the New York Rangers for quite some time now. It would be a very good idea for the Rangers to tighten up the ship and get all systems operating as they should before she decides to move on.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to call me a jinx.

Let's go Rangers.