Quick Hits - December 23, 2016

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Dave Rogers

Editor-in-Chief at Cleared for Contact
Writer, photographer and a lifelong New York Rangers hockey fan.
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In this edition of Quick Hits, we’ll look at just how far the Rangers have fallen off their blistering scoring pace of the early season and how, in spite of that, they’re still winning hockey games. And of course, some other stuff, too. As always, down below you’ll find a table with all the Rangers’ stats over the last ten games. Away we go…

Can I Get a Goal Please?
Through the end of November, the Rangers had played 24 games (16-7-1) and scored 88 goals for (3.67 G/GP) while giving up 58 goals against (2.42 GA/GP).  In the 11 games (7-4-0) they’ve played since December 1st, they’ve scored 25 goals (2.27 G/GP) and given up 23 (2.09 GA/GP). Seven of those 23 goals came in a single game against Pittsburgh, though. In the ten games prior to that one, the Rangers gave up just 16 total goals against (1.6 GA/GP). So, while their goal scoring has fallen off a cliff in recent weeks, they have a new commitment to team defense and a healthy competition in net between Henrik Lundqvist, who had tailed off for a while, and Antti Raanta who forced King Henrik off his throne and onto the bench for three straight games. Hank responded, giving up just three goals total in the following three games after the benching, which also included extra work in two shoot-out wins.

Pittsburgh Pounding
Speaking of that game against Pittsburgh, when you look down below these little tidbits, you’ll see that the Rangers went a respectable 7-3-0 over their last ten games. That’s helped them keep pace among the league leaders. Fresh wounds prevail though, as the team that handily ended the Rangers’ playoffs last season scored a touch down and then nailed the extra point against the Rangers in their last outing, defeating the Blueshirts 7-2. There were many factors in the dominating performance by the Penguins, including the many top-six forwards the Rangers are missing due to injury and that the Rangers had less rest and had played nine games in the previous 15 days before the match up (two more than the Penguins had over the same span). Still, when Penguin’s Captain Sydney Crosby took a kneeing penalty against Michael Grabner, the Rangers’ failed to respond then or later in the game when the outcome was no longer in question. That has increased the call for the Rangers to find some toughness anywhere they can, even, as fellow CFC writer Phil Kocher points out that Tanner Glass is not the right answer there.

New Year’s Resolution – Get Healthy
Rick Nash (groin injury) is expected to be out for at least the Rangers’ next three games. Given the Christmas break, that means he’s missing at least 11 days from the time he was injured with the earliest return being the team’s New Year’s Eve tilt against Colorado. Mika Zibanejad (broken fibula) and Pavel Buchnevich (back spasms) are expected to return in the middle of the month. According to the New York Post, they’re both looking to return within a week of the Rangers’ NHLPA mandated five day bye week that ends January 12th. If all goes according to plan, the Rangers will have a tough roster decision to make come mid-January.

To the Shootout We Go
It took 19 games before the Rangers went to their first shoot-out, where they lost to the Florida Panthers. It would be another 14 games until they needed the exchange of skater-on-goalie attempts to decide another match-up, this time against the Nashville Predators. They won that one, and then, the very next night against the New Jersey Devils, won again in the shootout. So by my quick math, that’s one game decided by the shoot-out in their first 33 games (3.0%) and then two in their last three games (66.7%).

Painful Reminder Tonight Against the Wild
At last season’s trade deadline, the listless Rangers, despite a good enough record in the standings, were hanging on by a thread. That thread was largely Henrik Lundqvist‘s elite level goaltending. Probably because of Hank and his advancing age, Rangers GM Jeff Gorton decided to make a move that was questionable at the time and in hindsight, looks worse than anything EA Sports gamers could get the games’ artificial intelligence to accept. They traded for an aging and in dramatic decline Eric Staal from the Carolina Hurricanes in exchange for two second-round draft picks and Finnish prospect Aleksi Saarela (a previous third-round pick). Staal would go on to put up six points in 20 regular season games and was a minus-7 without a point in the team’s five playoff games. As if that’s not enough of a kick in the family jewels, Staal currently leads the Wild in scoring with 11 goals and 15 assists for 26 points through 32 games this season. Raise your hand if you think he’ll probably get on the score sheet tonight, just to twist the knife in a little further.


Stats from 12/2/16 to 12/22/16 (Last 10 games)

The Rangers went 7-3-0 over the last ten games.

They outscored their opposition by a combined 22 goals for to 19 against.

They out-shot their opposition by a combined 299 shots for to 286 against.

Their power play tallied 4 times on 30 opportunities (13.3%) and they gave up 5 goals on 32 times short-handed (84.4%).

They won 258 of 536 face-offs (48.1%).

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