It’s Dan Mount again with the return of the Three Periods blog. This week I take a look at the recent hot streak of the New York Rangers, how to answer the scoring crisis and the rookie of the year race without Connor McDavid.
Since I was gone last week, let’s dive right into it.
Despite the New York Rangers playing in the largest media market in the world and being one of the most well-known teams in all of the National Hockey League. The Broadway Blueshirts have quietly won seven straight games and are making a push to get themselves a cushion in the tough Metropolitan Division.
The hot start has been unlike what the Rangers have done the first two seasons with Alain Vigneault at the helm. New York struggled out of the gate early while AV figured out what line combinations and defense pairings would be the best going forward. The Rangers would eventually figure it out, but the cold start two years ago arguably cost them home-ice in the 2014 Stanley Cup Final. However, that doesn’t seem like it will be that much of an issue.
New York also has done it despite not having the best advanced statistics. The Rangers were one of the best possession teams the last couple of seasons, but it’s not trended that way so far. They’ve also been accurate with their shots, as they scored on two straight attempts against Carolina on Wednesday and three out of five Thursday against St. Louis.
The Rangers also haven’t needed Henrik Lundqvist to be his superhuman self every game. Hank gave up three goals to a very good Blues team, but he and backup Antii Raanta have combined for a .965 save percentage so far. This could be very good for the Blueshirts if they want to bring the Cup back to MSG for the first time since 1994.
If there’s one thing you’ve noticed during the early part of the NHL season, it’s that goal scoring has been down. The average goals per game as of Nov. 10 was 5.32, which is down from 5.46 in the 2014-15 season. It’s still nowhere near the offensively-challenged 5.14 goals a game in the 2003-04 season.
There are many reasons why the goals have decreased this season. The goalies are better and have bigger and better equipment, the defenses are very good and players just can’t seem to finish.
There have been a few different ideas bandied about to try to get the goals flowing. Some people like Toronto Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock and Colorado Avalanche coach Patrick Roy feel there needs to be bigger nets, while others think that shrinking the size of goalie equipment could do the trick.
Whatever the case, the NHL should look into some of these options. However, they shouldn’t drastically change the game to increase goal-scoring. We have seen plenty of 1-0 and 2-1 games, but we also saw a 7-5 game by the Ottawa Senators and Nashville Predators. It will average itself out sooner or later.
Last week saw a devastating injury to all-world rookie Connor McDavid when he broke his collarbone in a game against the Philadelphia Flyers. The injury is an unlucky break for a snakebitten Oilers franchise that has not made the playoffs since they lost in the seventh game of the Stanley Cup final to the Carolina Hurricanes. GM Peter Chiarelli said the McDavid will be out for “months.”
Edmonton was once known as “The City of Champions,” but has struggled to get near the playoffs despite their stockpile of top draft picks. Their defense and goaltending have been the bane of their existence. McDavid seemed to be leading this team at only 18 years of age, but the Oilers now look to be also-rans once again.
However, the race for the Calder Trophy for top rookie is going to get interesting. There are guys like Max Domi of Arizona, Jack Eichel of Buffalo, Artemi Panarin of Chicago and Colton Parayko of St. Louis are all going to make claims for the best rookie. Domi leads the scoring race, but Eichel has done has best to make the young Sabres a threat. If McDavid can get back sooner rather than later, he can still be a factor. However, I’m not counting on that.
Did I miss anything this week? Just let me know by tweeting me @DanMountSports. Thanks for reading.
Dan Mount is a producer for Spadora on Sports and writes for The Hockey Writers and NHL on the Ice at Fantasy Sports Warehouse.