Discover how the New York Rangers’ fourth line is adapting to new challenges while striving for improved offensive contributions.
At 7-2, the first-place New York Rangers are buzzing. While things have been going well, it’s essential to acknowledge that it hasn’t been a flawless ride.
The defensive improvements have been remarkable, and we can expect more consistency from the offense as the season progresses. However, one area that hasn’t been up to par is the fourth line of Jimmy Vesey/Tyler Pitlick, Nick Bonino, and Barclay Goodrow. It’s not time to hit the panic button, as it’s early in the season. Yet even though they play five minutes a night, it’s not something that should be overlooked. To win a Stanley Cup, you need all of your lines playing well.
To understand what’s happening with the fourth line, we must look at their roles and responsibilities, which have evolved this year. It’s evident that they need to get an equal share (Subscription required) of five on five minutes, and that’s a good thing. The fourth line shouldn’t be on the ice regularly.
Analyzing Fourth Line’s goals and defensive aspirations:
So, what should we expect from the fourth line? Refrain from holding your breath for spectacular offensive numbers. Their primary task is to shut down the opposing top line and transition play to an offensive zone faceoff.
Statistically, the fourth line ranks last among NHL lines with a 15.6% expected goals for (xGF), primarily due to their defensive responsibilities. After all, 95.8% of their draws are in the defensive zone. Reigning coach of the month Peter Laviolette acknowledged their challenge in getting to the offensive zone but wants to see more offensive output from all lines.
“They are getting a tougher duty. It is more difficult for them to get (to the O zone). When they get there, I would like to see them generate more, but I would like to see all of our lines and our defensemen trying to figure out a way to get more in the offensive zone.”
It’s still early. We can’t draw definitive conclusions from this small nine-game sample. The hope is for their defensive numbers to improve. The Rangers have enough skill within their top six. If the fourth line can improve, this team will quickly become a wagon.
Currently, Igor Shesterkin and Jonathan Quick have covered some of the high-danger chances the fourth line faces. As the season progresses, either the fourth line will improve, or goals against will start to come.
Despite Nick Bonino’s impressive 59% faceoff win rate, the fourth line needs help to exit the defensive zone consistently after winning faceoffs. It raises questions about the importance of faceoffs, as it only sometimes lead to adequate zone exits. Let’s keep a close eye on the fourth line’s performance as the season unfolds.