Even after the reality started sinking in that the Rangers might win yet another game post-selloff, I still couldn’t help but smile. The Chris Kreider pass to Mika Zibanejad for his second goal of the game in St. Louis was just too pretty to be mad about.
The Rangers would end up losing the game in overtime, but they still acquired a very drastic loser’s point, pushing them further up the standings.
Yes, this reads like an opening from the Blueshirt Banter that the crabs of the world will tell you exists all the time (you know, the site that bows at the altar of Henrik Lundqvist — well, that might be true — and wishes the Rangers lost every game). The circumstances, however, are different now. The Rangers should be losing as much as they can, although we’ve already covered the fact that they can’t really do it on purpose.
The reasoning behind these wins are a mix of things. The biggest is the Rangers are getting remarkably lucky. Since the trade deadline the Rangers have gone 5-2-2, amassing 12 points they don’t need, and pushing themselves to 10th from the bottom in the draft lottery. As people yell about the Rangers needed the “kick in the ass” or “this is the team we’ve been waiting to see” allow me to show you just how lucky the Rangers have been. Over that span of nine games the Rangers have a 42% corsi, a -1.95 expected goals, and a PDO of 103.16% (anything over 100% is luck, anything below is bad luck). This isn’t a team that’s suddenly found themselves, this is a team that’s finally getting lucky, when they need it the least, so in a way they’re still unlucky.
The second reason is the number of players who will be restricted or unrestricted free agents this summer. There are a plethora of guys who are playing for a contract this summer — which we discussed on the podcast last week.
Guess what? That last point isn’t going away, either. As soon as Lias Andersson and Filip Chytil can join the Rangers without burning a year of their ELC this season, they’ll be with the big club the rest of the way. Safe to say both want to use this opportunity as an audition to prove they deserve a hard look next year, and safe to say both will be improvements over the players they’d presumably come in for (Cody McLeod, Paul Carey, or even David Desharnais). So you’d have to think the Rangers might get even better the final 10 games of the year.
Now, there is some luck involved with the drafting process anyway. According to Tankathon (who does a projection based off their best estimates) the 10th worst team in the NHL (where the Rangers are now) will have a 4.5% chance of getting the top overall pick, a 4.8% chance of getting the 2nd overall pick, and a 5.1% chance of getting the third overall pick. If the Rangers don’t hit those terrible odds, there’s a 55.9% chance they pick 10th overall, and from there worsening odds to picking all the way back until 13th overall (which has just a 0.1% chance of happening). The important part here is that if the Rangers don’t hit the first three picks, the best they can do is 10th overall. Which is firmly outside of the top-seven window where elite talent resides in this draft.
You don’t need me to explain to you why this is a bad thing. For a team that just spent the past month moving on from familiar names and faces (and a team that will likely do more of that this summer) the hope is to walk away from this disaster of a season with a piece worthy of the failure they put the fanbase through. Winning these useless games down the stretch do nothing more than hurt the team, which in turn could extend the rebuild even further.
Could the Rangers move up into the top-seven with their plethora of picks? Probably, but that can’t be the main strategy unless somehow a top three pick becomes available. Teams know what the top end of this draft look like, which is why the Rangers’ finish makes such a difference. There will be talent available at 10, of course, but the more “sure fire” picks are in the top seven names. Maybe the top nine depending on falling/rising picks that happen every year, but that seems like a stretch.
I would tell you that the law of averages has to win out, and that the Rangers will eventually fall back to earth, but with just 10 games remaining the sample size is too small. The Rangers might have already done too much damage as it is.