Quick Hits – January 31, 2017

Phil Kocher
@ me

Phil Kocher

Managing Editor at Cleared for Contact
I believe in Nate Silver, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Christopher Hitchens, and hockey analytics.
Blogging between diaper changes.
Phil Kocher
@ me

In this edition of Quick Hits, we’ll be looking at how Henrik Lundqvist reclaimed the crown he probably never actually lost in the first place, and why that’s so important for the Rangers’ playoff hopes. 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…

A Crown Reclaimed?
Much of the talk this season has centered on Henrik Lundqvist‘s rather pedestrian stat line. And for good reason. Despite his 21-13-0 record, the King simply hasn’t looked very royal this year. The .907 SV% and 2.73 GAA he’s sporting are a far cry from the Hank of old and he’s been in net for multiple blowout games with a little less than half the season still to play. But there’s reason to hold out for hope. In his last four starts since the meltdown against Dallas in which he gave up seven goals against, he’s averaged a .948 SV% and a GAA of 1.5 and pitched a shutout against the Red Wings on January 22nd.Perhaps the rumors of his demise really have been exaggerated?

This is especially important as the Rangers gear up for what should be their seventh consecutive playoff run this spring. Given the state of the Rangers defense and how small the ice gets in the postseason, having the soon-to-be 35-year old on his A-game could be all the difference needed to make up for that imbalance.

Cleared For Contact
The Rangers appeared to be approaching a full and healthy roster with the returns of Mika Zibanejad, Rick Nash, and Pavel Buchnevich this past month, but those hopes were dashed with the announcements of injuries to Marc Staal, Kevin Hayes, Antti Raanta, and Jesper Fast. Staal, who has a rocky history with concussions, hasn’t played since January 3rd due to post-concussion symptoms. As the Rangers enter Tuesday night’s contest against the Sabres, however, he, Fast, and Raanta are all expected to return, restoring the Rangers roster health to almost full capacity again for the first time since the early months of the season.

McDonagh the Lackluster All-Star?
Alright, that’s a little click-baitey, I’ll admit, but if you watched the NHL’s All-Star festivities this past weekend (which were far less interesting without John Scott’s involvement), you may have noticed the same thing my colleague Dave Rogers and I did—Ryan McDonagh looked a little out of place skating alongside world-beater talents like Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin. I know it wasn’t a real game, but seeing as the All-Star game is designed to highlight the NHL’s premiere offense, it also showed how limited his offense can be. Sure, he’s on pace for 40+ assists, but how much of that is the work of the talented forwards he’s playing with this season and how much of that is directly attributable to his driving the play? It’s an interesting thought experiment to keep in mind as the Shattenkirk to Rangers rumors ramp up as we approach the trading deadline.

Grabner is Still in Orbit
Inflated by a high shooting percentage, his 21 goals lead all Rangers skaters this season, yet the proverbial process of “coming back to Earth” is a process he’s yet to begin. Not only does he lead the Rangers in goals this season, but he dominated the month of January with seven of them in ten games played. The next highest scoring player was J.T. Miller with four, also in ten games. His 20.6 shooting percentage is the highest on the team among players who have skated in 40 or more games, but he’s showing no signs of letting that stop him from continuing to find the back of the net with regularity. That may partially be because a lot of his goal scoring comes from a seemingly endless string of breakaway attempts, which naturally have a higher success rate than other shot attempts. He may still come back to Earth, but I wouldn’t advise holding your breath waiting for it to happen.

Is the Wild Card a Winning Lottery Ticket?
No, not that lottery. There’s plenty of unwatchable fight left among the league’s bottom feeder clubs to interminably determine who Nolan Patrick or perhaps Nico Hischier will get to suffer with for years to come. In the case of the Rangers and the first Wild Card position they currently occupy, an argument can certainly be made that finishing exactly there would be an opportunist’s dream. If things play out as they are likely to, given the Blueshirts’ seven-point lead on the second Wild Card (currently held by the Flyers), they’d open the playoffs facing the would be Atlantic Division champions, the Montréal Canadiens, surreptitiously avoiding a first-round match-up with the titans of the Metropolitan division and, should they prevail, facing an Atlantic Division team in the second-round, possibly with home ice advantage. Sure, the team will never admit to gunning for that kind of finish, but they’d be wise to nonetheless. It’s what “happened” to the Islanders last season by a single point in the standings, with the Rangers facing the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round, while the Islanders squared off against the Florida Panthers.

Stats from 1/1/17 to 1/31/17 (Last 10 games)

The Rangers went 5-5-0 over the last ten games.

They tied their opposition in goal scoring with 32 goals for to 32 against.

They out-shot their opposition by a combined 307 shots for to 288 against.

Their power play tallied 3 times on 29 opportunities (10.3%) and they gave up 7 goals on 28 times short-handed (75.0%).

They won 271 of 594 face-offs (45.6%).

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