Will The Rangers Fall-Off In The Second Half?

In writing for ESPN.com today, Rob Vollman from Hockey Prospectus looks at the numbers and the advanced stats and comes up with four teams that are likely to fall-off in the second half.  Not surprisingly, the Rangers are the first team on his list:

Overall, the Rangers will be down 15 goals for and 15 goals against when the percentages regress, and that would lead to a 10-point drop in the standings. So what accounts for the other two points? Given that their puck luck could change, their 9-2-4 record in one-goal games figures to dip a little — in this case, costing them at least one win.

I say “not surprisingly” because, well, I think we all knew this, right?  Even anecdotally, without even glancing at the numbers, the Rangers just look to be playing with fire all the time.  The D is stout, but Lundqvist (or Biron) seems to have to make a few amazing saves every game.  The power play is nothing short of atrocious.  And it seems like the offense, particularly Richards and Gabby, have stagnated.  This seems like a classic case of regression to the mean.  Leveling off, as they say.

However, I’m not sending the panic flag up the pole just yet.  Puck possession, one of the big stats that Vollman sites, is improving every game.  Instead of looking at the first half of the season, what if we looked at the second third of the season, the last 20 games or so?  I think we’d see markedly improved numbers that are being dragged down by some ugly play early in the season.  I suspect we’d see the same thing manifest itself in their shots on goal number.

I’m not familiar enough with these metrics generally, so I can’t really say what is and isn’t sustainable, but we’ve seen a bunch of articles written about how Hank is in his prime as a goalie and might possibly be having the best season of career because he’s at the point in his career where it’s not uncommon to have the best season of his career.

Even if this scenario is correct and the Rangers regress to 46 points in the their final 41 games, I think we’re all comfortable with a 104 point season in a division that’s eminently winnable with a very banged up Penguins team and an inconsistent Flyers team.


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