The Rangers are a bad analytic team: Does it matter?

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JANUARY 14: The New York Rangers prepare for their home opener against the New York Islanders at Madison Square Garden on January 14, 2021 in New York City. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JANUARY 14: The New York Rangers prepare for their home opener against the New York Islanders at Madison Square Garden on January 14, 2021 in New York City. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /
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NEW YORK, NEW YORK – JANUARY 14: The New York Rangers prepare for their home opener against the New York Islanders at Madison Square Garden on January 14, 2021 in New York City. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

Since the mid 90s, analytics have become increasingly more influential in sports. The Oakland Athletics were one of the first teams to use analytics and sabermetrics to win baseball games. Analytics have spread to all four major sports here in North America. The NHL doesn’t use analytics like the MLB does, but that hasn’t stopped the media from using them when analyzing the New York Rangers.

The Rangers rank near the bottom in most of the advanced stats, and from just looking at the stats you would think the Rangers were near the bottom of the standings. But they’re not, the Rangers sit in third place in the Metro and are sixth in points in the entire league. The Rangers’ success and their advanced stats contradict each other, so do analytics actually matter?

What are analytics?

The most popular advanced stats used in the NHL are Corsi and Fenwick. Corsi is shot attempts by a team. It  includes shots on goal, blocked shots and shots that missed the net. Fenwick is the same minus the blocked shots.The key statistic is the differential between shot attempts for and against.  That results in a Corsi For % (CF%) or Fenwick For % (FF%).  The goal is to be above 50% in both stats.

The next stat most commonly used is for goalies, and it is goals saved above expected(GSAx). In that statistic, all shots are assigned a value based on the league average.  Then, GSAx is basically the number of goals an average netminder would allow compared to the actual number.  This stat evaluates how well goalies are playing. There are countless other advanced stats available but  these are most the most commonly used.

Team numbers

First let’s break down the team stats. The Rangers have struggled offensively, especially at 5 on 5. The Rangers average 28.45 shots per game, the second fewest in the NHL. The only team more reluctant to shoot are the league’s worst Arizona Coyotes. So the Rangers won’t shoot the puck, what else is new?

At 5v5, the numbers are pretty dreadful.  The Rangers are 24th in the NHL in Expected Goals For (xGF) and are dead last in Corsi and Fenwick percentages.   However, in all situations, they are 15th in Goals per Game, averaging 3.02 GPG.  Defensively, they are fourth best in the NHL in Goals Against per game, averaging 2.57 GPG

The Rangers are the complete opposite on the power play. The Rangers are dominant with the man advantage. They rank sixth in the NHL in xGF,  sixth in CF%, and third in overall FF%.

The Rangers not only struggle offensively at 5 on 5 but get dominated offensively. The Rangers have taken 45.44% of the shots this season, which is only better than the Arizona Coyotes.

The reason why the Rangers defensive stats look better is because of Igor Shesterkin. Shesterkin has a league best 24.62 goals saved above expected.

So does it matter?

So does it matter that the Rangers are bad analytically? The short answer is no it doesn’t, especially when it comes to winning and losing. According to moneypuck.com, the Rangers have a 96.8 percent chance of making the playoffs.

Analytics are a tool to help better understand a teams play. The Rangers are in third place in the metro right now but are skating on thin ice. The Rangers are too dependent on special teams to win hockey games.  When the Rangers score a power play goal they are 20-4-3.  When they don’t they are 12-9-1.

5 on 5 play needs to improve if this team is going anywhere in the playoffs where even strength play is crucial. With five weeks to the trade deadline, the team has time to improve their 5 on 5 play. If not, they may have to make a move at the deadline.

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