It’s time for another edition of More Than Meets the Eye, a series where the Today’s Slapshot readers pick one Thursday night game to break down using advanced statistics. Tonight’s tilt was the New York Rangers, desperate to hold on to their tenuous position in the Metro Division versus the free falling Minnesota Wild.
The Rangers won, 4-2, but as usual, there was more than…
No, there was not. Everything was pretty much as it seemed. This was a well-deserved win by a team that flat-out played better than the other one, but I’ll break it down anyway.
New York dominated possession, which is not a phrase you’ll hear often, as the Rangers are one of the worst possession teams of the season. Still, they took advantage of a “fragile” Minnesota team, and were relentless during 5-on-5 play.
Even though the Wild were up 2-0 going into the first intermission, the Rangers actually had a pretty good first period, owning a 71.4 Corsi For percentage. From there on, the Wild barely saw the puck, with only three even strength shots on goal in second period, and then finally doubling up to shoot six more on Lundqvist in the third.
While this series is titled “More Than Meets the Eye” it doesn’t get much more obvious than that. The fact that the Wild scored two goals with just 18 total shots on net on a goalie as talented as Lundqvist, well, that’s lucky in and of itself.
I’d like to start out by mentioning again that these are Relative metrics, which means it shows the impact of the player on the team. While Matt Dumba’s name appears next to Kevin Hayes, it means that they had similar impacts on their team, not that they ended up with the same numbers.
For example, Hayes had a 5-on-5 Corsi For per 60 minutes of 77.4, and Dumba posted a 43.9 Corsi For per 60 minutes. Their rates were not the same, yet their relative impact to the team was. This is an important distinction when looking at any metric.
The Wild had some very strong defensive showings by their forwards (Nino Niderreiter, Charlie Coyle, Thomas Vanek), which is slightly concerning, as the best offensive impacts came from their defensemen (Dumba, Marco Scandella). It’s difficult to score goals when all of your offense is driven from the blue line.
Not to beat a dead horse, but this chart further illustrates the stark difference between Ryan McDonagh – firmly ensconced in the More & More quadrant – and his most common defense partner, Dan Girardi. Despite playing most of his minutes with a skater who elevated the team’s play both offensively and defensively, Girardi is smack dab on the “team average” axis. He had zero impact on the team’s offense or defense against the Wild.
Honestly, that’s probably an improvement from most nights.
With only 18 total shots on net against, Lundqvist was barely tested, but he also had a good deal of help. As you can see here, his Low Danger Chances area is quite dark – nearly 65 percent of all of Minnesota’s chances were pushed to the outside. They only had five High Danger Chances all night, just 12 percent. Typically, on these charts you see closer to 50 percent Low Danger and 20 percent High Danger, proving once again just how ineffective the Wild’s offense was.
On the other hand, Dubnyk’s chart looks far more usual. 56 percent of chances were pushed to the outside, and nearly 30 percent of the Rangers’ shot attempts came from the Medium Danger zone. The closer you get to the crease, the harder it is to save a shot, which is why looking at these attempts is important.
This analysis doesn’t show anything the fans didn’t see during the game. More often than not really, that’s what you’ll see. Data is simply a numerical representation of the real world. It’s more unusual if the data doesn’t support what your eyes are seeing than it is to get the expected answers.
So enjoy yourselves, Rangers fans. This was a well-deserved victory. Your team dominated in all areas of the ice. Your defense did a great job, keeping shots out of the crease, all while getting pucks up ice so that the forwards could take shots from dangerous areas.
From every angle, this is a good win.