New York Rangers: The house of cards comes crumbling down

LAS VEGAS, NV – JANUARY 07: New York Rangers center Vinni Lettieri (95) moves the puck during the second period of a regular season game between the New York Rangers and the Vegas Golden Knights at T-Mobile Arena Sunday, Jan. 7, 2018, in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by: Marc Sanchez/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The New York Rangers are hanging onto a playoff spot for dear life. Without Chris Kreider, the team is waiting for an impending disaster.

The Rangers hold the first wild card spot by a single point over the Pittsburgh Penguins. Just beyond the two time defending Stanley Cup champions are the Philadelphia Flyers who are just three points behind the Rangers. In the tight Metropolitan Division, the Rangers have drawn the short straw.

The team had a weak roster to begin with, the Kreider injury makes things impossible. The Rangers have several glaring problems as a team that is going to hold them back. As it currently stands the Rangers are a lucky team that is over-dependent on quality goaltending and the power play.

The great goaltending of Henrik Lundqvist is keeping a pretty bad team’s playoff chances afloat. Rangers coach Alain Vigneault is going to continue to make perplexing decisions and it is going to make the season come apart.

Badly outshot

The basic premise of possession stats is that if a team has a majority of the scoring chances they are more likely to score. When a team has a majority of the scoring chances they have the puck and the other team doesn’t. The Rangers struggle to control the puck and to generate scoring chances.

Opponents typically outshoot the Rangers by at least two shots per game. The Rangers only have two players in their entire lineup, Pavel Buchnevich and Mika Zibanejad, that are positive possession players. This is even more concerning when you take into account the fact that Buchnevich plays minutes comparable to a fourth liner on an average night.

The Rangers Corsi for percent to Corsi against percent of 46.5 CF% to 53 CA% is the second worst in the league. The only team with a worse ratio are the Arizona Coyotes, the worst team in the NHL. This alarming stat confirms that the Rangers are winning in an unsustainable way.

Puck Luck

Hockey is a sport of bounces, angles and yes luck. PDO is the closest stat that exists to quantify a team’s luck. The stat is quantified by adding a team’s even strength shooting percentage and its save percentage. As of their most recent game against the Vegas Golden Knights, the team’s PDO is 101.4.

Whenever a team’s PDO is above 100, that team is considered to be playing better than they actually are. Being that the Rangers’ have struggled to score as of late, it’s Lundqvist’s save percentage that is buoying the team’s PDO. The veteran goaltender is 35 years old and he’s already started 35 games this season.

There is pretty much no way that Lundqvist can maintain a .930 save percentage with the defense that plays in front of him on a nightly basis. This year more than others in recent memory will be all up to Lundqvist.

Stiff competition

The Metropolitan division getting even better than last year means that a fringe team will have an even tougher path to qualify for the playoffs. The last place New York Islanders are only 11 points back of the first place Washington Capitals.

The tough division has two effects on the Rangers. First, they don’t have any cupcake teams in the division to pounce on. Even though they have easily handled the Carolina Hurricanes both times the teams met, they’re far better than teams in the Atlantic. It also means that just making the playoffs will be more difficult.

The better the teams that you are in a race with, the more regular season games you have to win. The Rangers are an okay team in a great division, that’s a recipe for missing the playoffs or a first-round loss. The team’s ghastly play of late is a sign of things to come, this is a flimsy house of cards waiting to fall down.