Inside Statistics: The Rangers and Face-offs

Well the start of the 2013 NHL season is just around seven hours away. The Rangers will take the ice in their first regular season game of the year in Boston tonight. I don’t know about everyone out there but I am excited and can’t wait. It’s going to be a mad dash of a season so don’t look away, you might miss something!

Everyone knows the Rangers have had a hard time scoring goals the last few years. It seems like its been a problem for as long as I can remember, they score 1, 2 goals a game, and try to survive on defense and goaltending. Every now and then they throw up a crooked number, but generally speaking they have had a hard time finding that goal that puts them over the top into a comfortable lead and victory.

Mar. 4, 2012; New York, NY, USA; New York Rangers center Brad Richards (19) and Boston Bruins center Patrice Bergeron (37) face off during the third period at Madison Square Garden. Rangers won 4-3. Mandatory Credit: Debby Wong-USA TODAY Sports

Now to address this issue, the Rangers brought in a dynamic scorer in Rick Nash. This should, and hopefully will help. Ultimately however, the Rangers’ system is one of puck possession, dump and chase, hustle hard into the corners and grind. The key to adding scoring in this system is making sure you have plenty of puck possession and are generating shots on goals through an effective cycle. This also is an effective defensive scheme as you limit opponents time of possession. One key element to increasing time of possession, and thus hopefully leading to more shots on goals and more goals, is face-offs. If you’re not consistently winning face offs, you’re not controlling the puck as effectively as you can, you’re are increasing the opponents time of possession and limiting your opportunities to score. Seems pretty obvious eh?

Yet if your me, and I think many Rangers fans will agree, the Rangers always seem to be lousy in the face off department. They never seem to be consistent and always seem to lose the big draw. Is this true? Well let’s take a look at some statistics. Here is the Rangers’ face off percentage and ranking for the regular season the last 3 seasons:

2011-2012: 18th, 50%

2010-2011: 25th 47.7%

2009-2010: 21st 49.2%

Ok, so there not awful in the strict sense of the word, but they are certainly not good. Three times in three years in the bottom half of the league, twice in the bottom third.

However, the Stanley Cup champions from those three years we’re markedly better in the face-off department, the Kings last year, ranked 7th, at 51.5%. The Bruins in 2011, ranked 5th at 51.9%. The Blackhawks in 2010 ranked 2nd at 52.6%.  Certainly there are a multitude of other factors involved in winning the Stanley Cup, but those numbers do seem to resonate.

In fact, only one  team in the last 10 years has won the Stanley Cup, with a face-off percentage of less than 50%, the 2009 Pittsburgh Penguins. The only other team close to the 50% mark to win the cup was the Tampa Bay Lightning, who won the cup in 2004 with a face-off percentage right at 50% (with John Tortorella at the helm).

This is by no means a strict correlation, cause and effect, but it’s certainly enough to get the wheels turning, and make one think the Rangers will have to be better than they have been in the past few years. Mark Messier was rumored to have been helping the centers with this over the last few years, but Stepan, Richards and Boyle, presumably the Ranger’s top 3 centers, simply have to improve one way or another. Let us know what you think, and don’t forget to follow me at @jeffgonewild and like us on Facebook!

 

Topics: Faceoffs, Rangers, Statistics

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