The Rangers find themselves well within striking distance of a playoff spot, but after a strong start to the season the Blueshirts have regressed dramatically. Here’s where they stand heading into the second half of the season:
Despite being only 17th in shots per game at 29.3, the Rangers have accumulated the fourth-most goals per game in the league at 2.86. That disparity may explain the Rangers’ prolonged cold streak that has seen them drop further and further away from the scorching Washington Capitals in the Metropolitan Division, but the blame does not solely belong to this unit. Derick Brassard and Mats Zuccarello have been leading the charge on offense, tallying 36 and 35 points, respectively, and Rick Nash has peppered opposing netminders with a team-high 149 shots while chalking up 12 goals and 21 assists. J.T. Miller has had a breakout year, already eclipsing the 23 points he put up in 58 games last year. He has 25 points through 49 games this season, and has been on the ice for over 14 minutes per game, a career-high mark at the moment.
Poor play in this area has resulted in the Rangers allowing 30.0 shots per game, the fourth-worst mark in the league among playoff-eligible teams. Keith Yandle, who is shooting just 3 percent on the year, has given the puck away 46 times, the 12th-worst mark among NHL defensemen. Ryan McDonough has also been careless with the puck (40 giveaways), and Marc Staal and Dan Girardi have had down years, collecting only 23 points combined. The Rangers have also not seen much on the ice from Dylan McIlrath, a former first-round pick who has spent plenty of time in the Rangers’ farm system; he has just five points in 20 contests while amassing 42 PIMs, which leads the team.
Henrik Lundqvist continues to be brilliant in net, and Antti Raanta has been serviceable in his limited starts behind the Rangers’ cornerstone netminder. Lundqvist has a 2.41 GAA and a .921 save percentage heading into the All-Star break, while Raanta has a 2.30 GAA and a .909 save percentage in nine starts. These spiffy stats come despite some shaky defense in front of them.
The Rangers only just won their first back-to-back games since November on Jan. 19 and 22, then promptly dropped a 3-0 decision to the Senators on Sunday. This lack of consistency is certainly not the product of a well-coached team. The Blueshirts have also been dreadful on special teams; they rank 19th in power play at 17.5 percent and 21st in penalty kill at 79.5 percent. With relatively similar personnel, the Rangers are regressing in these areas from year-to-year. Alain Vigneault and Ulf Samuelsson have a lot of work to do to get this team turned around and stringing together victories as the playoff push is set to begin.