New York Rangers are Strong Up the Middle

NYR will be a Tough Out come April.
New York Rangers v Philadelphia Flyers
New York Rangers v Philadelphia Flyers / Tim Nwachukwu/GettyImages

The New York Rangers are getting ready to end the month of January with a Western Road swing. They will be facing the Defending Stanley Cup Champs, Vegas, the struggling LA Kings, Ducks and Sharks. This trip is always tough, let along during the January “Dog Days” of the NHL schedule. It’s -100 everywhere else, soaking up the sunshine and chillin’ at the beach, easing up on that gas pedal, and grabbin' a slurpee for a week, sounds great to me.

However, when you are in midst of a battle with 6 other teams in your Division for a Playoff spot, there is no time to rest. The Rangers plan of attack is to continue applying a tight-checking forecheck combined with proper goaltender support, in the form of air tight Team D. The Rangers are 13-7-2 away from MSG, so let’s continue being Road Warriors and pick up some valuable points along the way.

One of the New York Rangers strengths this year is up the middle of the ice. The Rangers have greatly improved in the faceoff circle this season. And for those of you who read my articles, know my thoughts about the importance of winning the faceoff, it means instant puck possession and you don’t chase the game from the get-go.

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That being said, the New York Rangers as a team, and as of January 17.2024 Rank 2nd overall in the NHL with a Face-Off Win % of 54.6%. This is a huge team improvement compared with how the Rangers fared in the faceoff circle over the last five years.

NYR can now roll out 6 Centermen from their roster, who are all capable of winning over 50% of their faceoffs when called upon.
NYR Centermen Face-Off Win %
Zibanejad #93 – 52.2%
Trocheck #16 – 62.1%
Brodzinski #22 – 58.3%
Bonino #12 – 51.4%
Goodrow # 21 – 54.3%
Chytil #72 - Injured

Now some of you will say, “Have a look at the most recent Stanley Cup Champions, they never led the league in faceoff win %. “ And you would be correct, however with exception of Colorado in 2022, all of the other Cup Champs won over 50% of their faceoffs. The New York Rangers are there now, at least they are in the conversation of immediate puck possession.

Recent Stanley Cup Champions
Vegas – 2023 – 51.4% Rank: 9th overall in the NHL. (NYR: 51.0% Rank: 13th)
Avalanche – 2022 – 47.4% Rank: 29th overall in the NHL. (NYR: 49.8% Rank: 18th)
Lightning 2021 – 50.8% Rank: 11th overall in the NHL. (NYR: 48.7% Rank: 24th)
Lightning 2020 – 50.7% Rank: 11th overall in the NHL. (NYR: 48.2% Rank: 27th)
Blues – 2019 – 50.7% Rank:12th overall in the NHL. (NYR: 48.0% Rank: 27th)

Others will say, “the Penguins have an awesome Faceoff win %, Ranking 1st overall in the NHL at 55.1%, and yet they will struggle to make the Playoffs this year, let alone, they did not even make the playoffs last year, with that same great faceoff win %. “ Again, you are correct. I did not say that the faceoff win % guarantees that you will win the Stanley Cup, it simply means you have a better chance to win a game, if you can immediately control the puck, rather than chasing after it.

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New York Rangers Record as of January 17.2024
28-13-2= 58
1st - in the Metropolitan Division
2nd - in Eastern Conference
3rd -Tied - Overall in NHL

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As former centermen, I’m a firm believer in owning the faceoff circle. I have the attitude and mental mindset that I want the puck, and you can go get your own puck, or try and get it from me. I love how the Rangers have addressed this part of their overall gameplan. I think it will serve them well heading into April, May, and June.
Remember Hockey is about Backchecks and Backdoors, Deflections and Defense. Oh yeah, and we also have Two Beauties back there between the pipes as well. No Quit NY.

Quote of the Day:
“90% of the game is half mental”
Yogi Berra – New York Yankees