Laviolette’s Rangers: A Promising Start to a New Era

COLUMBUS, OHIO - OCTOBER 14: Will Cuylle #50 of the New York Rangers is congratulated by Vincent Trocheck #16 and Artemi Panarin #10 after scoring his first career NHL goal during the third period of the game against the Columbus Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena on October 14, 2023 in Columbus, Ohio. Columbus defeated New York 5-3. (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)
COLUMBUS, OHIO - OCTOBER 14: Will Cuylle #50 of the New York Rangers is congratulated by Vincent Trocheck #16 and Artemi Panarin #10 after scoring his first career NHL goal during the third period of the game against the Columbus Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena on October 14, 2023 in Columbus, Ohio. Columbus defeated New York 5-3. (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images) /
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Diving deep into the Rangers’ impressive start to the 2023-2024 NHL season, uncovering the stats, strategies, and the promise of a bright future.

The 2023-2024 NHL season has kicked off, and it’s been quite a ride so far. The New York Rangers currently possess a 2-1 record, and before you start sharpening your pitchforks for that loss to the lowly Columbus Blue Jackets, let’s dig deeper into what’s been going on.

I may not have a Ph.D. in rocket science, but it doesn’t take a genius to see that our Blueshirts are skating with an extra pep in their step this season. They’re more engaged faster and are playing a tighter, more structured game across all three zones.

Good process usually leads to great results down the road, which is what Peter Laviolette has preached to the team.

The Blueshirts have often been the cool kid in the room with fancy gadgets, and they’d wing it to victory. We’re talking pure talent, making things happen. It worked great, especially in the 2021-2022 season when they had an elite squad up front, on defense, and the Vezina Winner between the pipes.

Let’s talk about those other “process” teams, like the Carolina Hurricanes. They play the control game, owning the tempo and shot share.

When the playoffs arrive, if they meet a team with similar skills, they’ll prevail with their hunger for the trenches. That opponent who dangled their way through 82 games might be in for a surprise. Yes, the Rangers were just the latter.

Remember how they rocked Carolina in 2022? That’s when New York adapted to that hard-working playoff mindset. Mostly under Coach Gerard Gallant, the Rangers’ style was like a “see what sticks” approach. They relied on our sheer talent rather than tactics.

Don’t get it twisted; Gallant was a good coach. He became the first Blueshirts bench boss to accrue back-to-back 100-point seasons. However, his East-West style didn’t quite cut it in the postseason. The secret behind the 2022 run to the Eastern Conference Final was the skill, not disposition. Do you doubt that? Watch the tape.

Stats, Strategy, and Success: Analyzing the Rangers’ Stellar Start:

And so, the Rangers, who were a bit lost regarding strategy, found themselves locked in a seven-game duel with an equally finessed team in the New Jersey Devils. Imagine what they can do now that they’ve got both talent and a straightforward process!

So here’s a sneak peek behind the numbers through these early games, which, to be clear, is like predicting the next flavor of ice cream to melt in a heatwave. Stats can be deceiving, but let’s peek at Natural Stat Trick anyway:

The Rangers rank fourth in the league for Corsi per 60 minutes (CF/60) with 68.58 and second for Corsi Against per 60 minutes (CA/60) at 46.7.

In Corsi For Percentage (CF%), they have the second spot with 59.49%. Moreover, they lead the NHL with Expected Goals For per 60 minutes (xGF/60) at 3.48 and stand third in Expected Goals Against per 60 minutes (xGA/60) with 2.05.

Their dominance extends to Expected Goals For Percentage (xGF%), where they are the league leaders at an impressive 62.92.

That 63% expected-goals rate and a 59% shot-share rate? It won’t stay that high. Remember, it’s a tiny sample size, like comparing your hockey skills to Wayne Gretzky after a week of stickhandling in your garage. (We’ve all done that a few times, right?)

Now, the shooting rate is just 6.17%, ranking 20th. However, as the possession stats drop, expect an uptick in scoring.

Yet here’s where it gets interesting. The Rangers are showing some new tactics. They bring out an aggressive 2-1-2 forecheck snappier than a slapshot when they’re behind.

When they’re ahead, they switch gears to a more conservative 1-1-3 approach, focusing on blocking passing lanes and being an overall nuisance in the neutral zone with their 1-3-1 trap.

They’re playing a more direct game (subscription required), pushing the pace up the ice instead of dilly-dallying with D-to-D passes. It means we’re seeing more “dump and chase,” and it’s working. The Blueshirts are pressuring opponents in the offensive zone, forcing turnovers, and creating more scoring chances. It’s hockey. It’s not a dance-off!

So, those naysayers who said the Rangers were too slow? Well, think again. They were never slow. It’s all about how they play, not how fast New York skates. The Blueshirts don’t need to be the quickest team; they need to have a clear game plan, and that’s what they’re showing. That’s what Laviolette is teaching.

Things are looking up. Yes, the Rangers will have their fair share of clunkers and nail-biters as they grow accustomed to their coach’s system.

Yet they’ll keep close and win most because of their new structure. And when all fails, there’s Igor Shesterkin between the pipes to save the day.

Now, in terms of win-loss records, that’s the mystery bag of hockey. It’s only been three games. There are 79 remaining.
However, if one thing’s for sure, this isn’t the same Rangers team as last year. It’s a better, more refined group that’s eyeing the ultimate prize, the Stanley Cup.

So, Rangers fans, fasten your seatbelts and prepare for an exciting season. This team has skill, strategy, and some New York grit.

It’s a winning recipe, and as fans, we’re looking forward to savoring it all season long.