The New York Rangers have had an unexpectedly slow start to the regular season, but not in the departments most expected. While their team defence has improved drastically from last season, the goal-scoring has taken a step down. Less contribution from their top scorers and defencemen along with less shooting luck has led to a dip in production from the New York Rangers offence.
Analyzing The New York Rangers Lack of Production on Offence
Regression From Top Players
It is no secret that the Rangers’ top forwards are struggling. Mika Zibanejad, who was due for major regression has three points in 13 games this year compared to 15 points in his first 13 last season. Chris Kreider tallied seven points in his first 13 games last season but has only four points this year. Ryan Strome had 13 points in his first 13 games in 2019-20 compared to just six points in 2021. Analytically, Zibanejad, Kreider, and Strome have all seen decreases in their rates of scoring and possession metrics. All three were having career years before the COVID pause, and their struggles have resulted in less scoring for the team.
On the surface, Artemi Panarin appears to have improved with 15 points in 12 games this year compared to 12 points in as many games last year. However, he has also been far less dynamic and has seen massive decreases in his xGF/60 and GF/60. Unlike the other Rangers forwards above, he is still performing excellently, albeit not at the same level as last year.
Less Offensive Contributions From The Blueline
Last season, the Rangers received 36 points from defencemen in their first 13 games. This year they have received 19 points in 13 games from their defencemen. This major decline in offensive contribution from blueliners has resulted in an overall decrease in production. For example, Jacob Trouba had seven points in 13 games last year, but only 2 points this year. Rookie K’Andre Miller has been impressive but has seen a slight slump with no points in his past 5 games. Tony DeAngelo’s offensive abilities have certainly been missed as well.
With the defence corps being more defence-oriented this season, number one defencemen Adam Fox has taken on more of a shutdown role. His offensive game is still excellent, but the increased responsibility and tougher competition have taken a major toll on his finishing abilities (demonstrated by the discrepancy between his xGF/60 and GF/60 on the RAPM chart below).
Poor Finishing And Encounters With Hot Goalies
Overall, the Rangers’ offensive generation has actually improved from last season. Their xGF/60 has improved from 0.048 last year to 0.088 this year, a significant improvement. This means that the Rangers are controlling more of the quality scoring chances in games than they did last year. However, their GF/60 has decreased by a lot, from 0.023 to -0.554. This is indicative of their inability to finish on chances and convert them into actual goals. This trouble in finishing on chances is due to a lack of shooting luck and several encounters with streaky goaltenders.
This struggle is exhibited by the fact that only 31 of their 410 shots on goal have ended as goals. With 379 out of 410 shots having been saved, opposing goalies have posted a cumulative save percentage of 0.924 against them. This percentage ranks 3rd highest in the league. This suggests that the Rangers have been given the 3rd toughest time by goalies so far. Additionally, in nine out of 13 games this season, opposing netminders have posted a positive GSAx (goals saved above expected). This signifies that opposing goalies have saved more goals than what would be expected of them on most nights (based on the quantity and quality of shots they have faced).
Moreover, the Rangers have not experienced any of the shooting success which they did last season. Their shooting goals above expected/60 is -0.45 this season, compared to 0.39 last year. They rank 29th in the league in this stat now compared to 7th last season. Where their shooting abilities would have earned them an additional 0.39 goals per game last season, their inabilities are losing them 0.45 goals per game. In terms of PDO (shooting plus save percentage), they have a 98.6 which is below the standard of 100, further indicating unluckiness. Clearly, the problem lies in the lack of shooting luck they are experiencing and not in their offensive playstyle.
Outlook Of Optimism
The New York Rangers struggles on offence is very frustrating from a fan perspective. However, with all the concerns, there are also many positive takeaways. Unlike last season, the Rangers are effectively generating quality scoring chances and dominating the expected-goals share. When the scoring returns, it will actually be sustainable and not reliant on finishing talent. With veterans who are primed to bounce back and such a talented group of youngsters, the goals will start coming soon enough. All it will require is some patience and commitment to the process from the players and coaches.
Thanks to EvolvingHockey and Andy & Rono (@HockeyStatsCZ on Twitter) for the stats and charts used in this piece.