The good and the very good
Yes, Igor Shesterkin’s .938% save percentage versus last years .916% is a big factor to this year’s success, as are Chris Kreider’s career high 41 goals scored. That the team has a power play operating at a 26.29% success rate and ranked second in the NHL also factors in. As does having the ninth best penalty kill (82.22%) to give the Rangers a 108.51 combined special teams score, the fifth best in the NHL. Yet all of this does not equal “it”, each of these factors have occurred because of “it”.
Several of the decisions Chris Drury made in the off season were questioned and heavily criticized. However, to see this team now is to understand that his changes have elevated the team. Gerard Gallant’s reputation as a players coach has allowed the team to flourish and develop organically. For all the complaints about roster decisions and line combinations, his message is heard and the team has bought in. The players brought in, specifically Ryan Reaves and Barclay Goodrow, have brought with them a sense of on-ice character the team was lacking. They are now tougher for it, they fight back.
What’s “it” all about
The “it” factor is not that there are more saves made, it is when they are made, protecting a one goal lead or keeping the score tied. It is not that the power play is dangerous, it’s that it comes through when it is needed to tie a game, or to win it as it did against the Tampa Bay Lightning this past Saturday. This team plays with more than their skates and sticks, they play with heart. They play with moxie and a heavy chip on their shoulder. There is a confidence here that knows they are never out of it and a character that shows no quit.
This is why they are an analytical anomaly. This is why their success has been sustained. This is why they are only three points out of first place and will be a feared team in the playoffs. This is why they win. Simply, they have “it”.