After a horrendous 5-3 defeat at the hands of the Nashville Predators, head coach Alain Vigneault called-out his team while meeting with the media.
AV: "We don't have enough guys bringing it."
— Andrew Gross (@AGrossRecord) December 29, 2015
The New York Rangers are in the midst of a free fall with a record of 4-7-2 over the last month. In only a month’s time the Washington Capitals have gone from 17-5-1 to 27-6-2, and in the process they have taken a commanding lead in the Metropolitan Division with 56 points. The Rangers have a record of 20-13-4 and 44 points, after entering the month with a record of 16-6-2 and 34 points.
Vigneault voiced-out against his team more on Tuesday by announcing that sophomore forward Kevin Hayes would be a scratch on Wednesday vs. the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Blueshirts’ bench boss is clearly not happy with the team’s performance and changes could be coming. With him openly issuing a challenge to the team, it begs the question of what players have “brought it” over the last month.
Starting with the forwards, here is how the team has fared in 5v5 situations and adjusted for all situations.
Offensively, the Rangers’ forwards haven’t accomplished much at even strength. Brassard leads the team with six goals, and is tied in total points with Chris Kreider and J.T Miller. Nash comes in with five points and Dominic Moore, Jesper Fast and Mats Zuccarello all come in third place with four points.
The other stat to take note of here is Corsi For percentage, because it gives a picture as to whether each player was driving possession or being pinned down by the opposition. The positives in this regard would include forwards such as Miller, Kreider, Kevin Hayes, Brassard and in a small sample Derek Stepan. Every other forward came in at under 50%, so in other words they were on the ice for more negative than positive situations for the month. A deeper dive could indicate how certain line mates and deployment played a role, but overall the number listed is accurate.
Where things get interesting is when you account for other situations such as the power play, shorthanded time and so on.
This chart is a composite of all situations, and you can see that the results are as to be expected.
The top scorers are those who spent time in the top six and were put in favorable situations to contribute.
- Brassard—13 points | 59.5 CF%
- Zuccarello—9 points | 58.2 CF%
- Nash—9 points |55.0 CF%
- Kreider—7 points |57.1 CF%
- Miller—6 points |60.5 CF%
The one outlier is Hayes, one of the players Vigneault doesn’t feel is giving enough, although the numbers show he’s played well while being unlucky. While he may have only three points over the last month, he has a Corsi For percentage of 54.8 and a PDO of 95.8.
After looking at all the numbers it would be fair to say that players who aren’t getting it done include Viktor Stalberg, Tanner Glass, Dominic Moore and to an extent Emerson Etem although he hasn’t played much. Each player has paltry possession numbers, and this has led to the Rangers being under siege time and time again. This is something that Patrick Kearns brought up in a Washington Post article last year, and the effects are stilling being felt.
An integral part of the successful equation that brought the New York Rangers from middling mediocrity to the Stanley Cup finals is conspicuously absent this year: a possession-strong fourth line that devoured tough minutes. While the team’s injury troubles have been well documented in the first month, its fourth-line ills have gone mostly unnoticed.
Deployment of the fourth line matters, especially for a team that ranked near the top of the league in Corsi, Fenwick and shots on goal last year. The Rangers won with elite goaltending and possession, the latter of which will suffer as their stars take defensive-heavy draws.
Inability to control play was an issue in November in 2014 and it’s been even more of an issue over the last month. This isn’t mutually exclusive to the forwards, and with that in mind here are how the defenders have contributed over the past month.
As mentioned earlier, generating offense at even strength has been tough, and Keith Yandle is the only defender who has been able to do it regularly. He is also only one of two defenders who has been able to continually drive possession, with the other being rookie Dylan McIlrath. Despite a strong performance over the last month, McIlrath was a healthy scratch against the Nashville Predators.
These numbers more or less show that lack of possession has prevented offense from being generated, and the next chart will better illustrate that. Possession is tantamount to overall success, as illustrated by the fact that the top five puck possession teams since 2010 have won the last seven Stanley Cups.
This chart takes into account all situations, and you can see that Dan Boyle led the defense in scoring with eight points, and he had a favorable Corsi For percentage of 52.9. His PDO of 102.4 suggests it may be unsustainable, but the Rangers will take what they can get from the 39-year-old rear guard. McDonagh comes in with seven points, and has a Corsi For percentage of 48.8. He has been dragged down a great deal by Dan Girardi, and that’s why he comes in as a negative in this regard. Once again Yandle appears with a favorable seven points and a team best 57.5 Corsi For percentage.
The Rangers haven’t utilized Yandle enough, his 19:18 a game is fifth among NYR defenders, but he has still managed to contribute in meaningful ways. McIlrath is the final positive with a Corsi For percentage of 52.2, and his PDO of 99.3 suggests that he’s been more unlucky than lucky.
All in all Boyle, McDonagh, Yandle and McIlrath were positive over the last month, and the biggest drags from a statistical point of view were Marc Staal and Dan Girardi. In 13 games Staal added three points and of all his time on the ice, 56.6 percent of his Corsi events were negative. Girardi appeared in only eight games, and of all the time spent on the ice 61.8 percent of his Corsi events were negative. Both of these are major red flags, especially when you look at where the other defenders match up, and it is even worse if you take a look at Girardi and Staal’s impact to the rest of the roster when they are on the ice.
The long story short is that the Rangers are losing games because teams are finding ways to mount numerous offensive chances against them with frequency. The two defenders who are surrendering the most are Girardi and Staal, and it is troubling since they play the third and fourth most minutes among all defenders. This is not to scapegoat them for the Rangers’ struggles, but they haven’t done much to help the team’s cause.
The last piece of the puzzle is goaltending, and all that can be said is poor Henrik Lundqvist. Shortly after the loss this graphic circulated, and while it is factually true it doesn’t tell the whole story.
#NYRangers have slumped badly over the past month. Their superstar goaltender also hasn't looked like his usual self pic.twitter.com/Kn66kjPs8j
— StatsCentre (@StatsCentre) December 29, 2015
The best way to assess how Lundqvist has played is break down his play by situation.
There are a lot of numbers to digest, so here are the important takeaways:
- Rangers’ inability to kill penalties is driving down Lundqvist’s overall numbers
- 4 medium danger goals and 4 high danger goals over last 30 days
- Estimated 56.93 shots against for each 60 minutes of opposition power-play time.
- Players are left wide open
Roman Josi cross ice to Filip Forsberg. Wowza. #Preds pic.twitter.com/i5dFUjeOZB
— Mark Harris (@MCHisTweeting) December 29, 2015
- 5v5 Lundqvist is getting it done
- .965 save percentage on low danger shots, .950 save percentage on medium danger shots but a paltry .779 save percentage on high danger shots.
- All while facing 31.56 shots a night 5v5
- All Situation Lundqvist is average for the exception of being dragged down by Power plays against
- .958 on low danger shots, .916 on medium danger shots and .769 on high danger shots
This may seem like a rationalization of Lundqvist playing poorly, but it isn’t. He’s bailed the team out all season long, and his current save percentage of .922 is tied for fourth best of his career. He is simply in a situation where he’s being asked to stand on his head, make save after save after save and eventually he gets scored on because of a blown coverage or lack of support.
The Rangers are playing bad hockey right now, and the numbers don’t look good. The makeup of the roster isn’t great, and it doesn’t help that Vigneault is mixing and matching lines with frequency and keeping productive players on the bench. Overall the team hasn’t played well and there have been moments in which each player has been culpable. It is impossible to document these micro instances, but that’s were the “fancy stats” help. They highlight the trend of what is happening and the temperature of players.
They are not the be all end all, but have been dead on for documenting the Rangers decline to date. It is understandable that Vigneault is trying to send a message by scratching Hayes, because he feels it is warranted.
"We have to make decisions based on best interest of the team"-AV shakes up #NYR lines: https://t.co/rVeSqGOKWb pic.twitter.com/tmceadwFqh
— New York Rangers (@NYRangers) December 29, 2015
However, failing to make a change to a defense that has allowed five or more goals in six of the last eight games is very questionable, and if the skid continues he should be held to the same standard he is currently holding his players to.
Stats via War-on-Ice.