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Thursday, October 2, 2008


2 October 2008

07-08 was the third consecutive season in which the Rangers qualified for the Stanley Cup playoffs, and the second consecutive season in which they were eliminated in the second round. General Manager Glen Sather signaled his desire to win the Stanley Cup by dismantling a good New York team, with the goal of assembling a great team. Will Sather’s efforts pay off in 08-09?

The Rangers are one of only nine teams to have secured a playoff berth in each of the last three seasons. In doing so, they have averaged +2 against the Playoff Qualifying Curve (PQC). In 05-06 and 07-08, New York was called IN the playoffs by OGA in mid-NOVEMBER, while in 06-07, the call came in early DECEMBER.

Some statistics of note from last season:
  • Defense, from the goal line up, was key – the Rangers finished 4th in the NHL in Goals Against/Game (2.32), 3rd in Shots Allowed/Game (25.9) and had the 6th-ranked Penalty Kill (84.6%)
  • Henrik Lundqvist led the NHL in shutouts, piling up 10 clean slates in 07-08
  • Puck possession is a critical factor in team defense, and New York helped their cause greatly by winning 52.3% of faceoffs (T-2nd in NHL)
At the other end of the ice, the Rangers put far too many shots where the goalie was, rather than where he wasn’t – despite finishing 3rd in the league in Shots For/Game (31.5), New York had a stultifying Goals/Game average of 2.50 (25th in NHL), as well as the league’s 22nd-ranked Power Play (16.5%)

Given the Rangers’ offensive woes, Head Coach Tom Renney should be commended for getting the entire team to buy into his defensive system. Had Renney been unable to do that, 07-08 would’ve been disastrous for the Broadway Blueshirts. Instead, New York circled the wagons and rode one of the league’s hottest goalies into the 2nd round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. In the end, however, the Rangers’ inability to “put the biscuit in the basket” sealed the teams’ postseason fate.

One of the most significant issues faced by the Rangers last season was the lack of chemistry between team captain Jaromir Jagr and either Scott Gomez or Chris Drury. When your star winger can’t play with either of your top two centers, you’ve got a problem. GM Glen Sather’s first step towards rectifying the problem was declining to re-sign Jagr. With Jagr gone (and probably Brendan Shanahan, as well), the door is wide open for a top-flight sniper. If Coach Renney can motivate him to give 100% every night, Nikolai Zherdev could fit the bill. If not, New York will enter the 08-09 campaign without four of their top eight scorers from last seasons’ low-scoring squad, and with plenty of playmakers, but no finishers. Could it be time to “circle the wagons” again on Broadway?

The Rangers’ first ten games are played 4 – 24 OCTOBER. Our research indicates that in the first ten games, New York earns an average PQC rating of 4.67 and about 9 points in the NHL standings. Last season, the Rangers began the campaign on the wrong foot, going 3-6-1 through Game 10. In Games 11-20, New York rebounded in dramatic fashion, going 9-1 and putting together a six-game win streak in the process, which culminated with OGA calling the Blueshirts IN the playoffs on 17 NOVEMBER. Much has been said about the Rangers’ struggles last season without Sean Avery in the lineup, and this is evident in the above graph – Avery missed most of Games 21-46 with various injuries, but was healthy and in the lineup from Games 47-82.

Statistics of note for the first month of the season:
  • Post-Lockout, the Rangers have a combined record of 12-14-4 in the first ten games
  • They begin the season with two games in Prague, CZ, against the Tampa Bay Lightning
  • After opening the season in Europe, New York will have four days to readjust before their home opener 10 OCTOBER against Chicago
  • The Blueshirts are the only team in the NHL without a homestand of more than three games this season. One three-game homestand occurs 13 – 17 OCTOBER
OGA will be measuring the Rangers against their average PQC rating of 4.67, as well as against other NHL teams, in order to provide you more in-depth analysis with New York’s Game 10 Report, due to season subscribers by 2PM CST on 25 OCTOBER, and available for order from ongoalanalysis.com by 2PM CST on 26 OCTOBER. (See a sample G10R here…)

After all of Glen Sather’s summertime machinations, the areas of greatest concern for New York are, in order: Team Chemistry, Scoring, and Toughness/Physical Presence. OGA believes that the Rangers’ time spent in Europe will aid in the development of team chemistry, and the Blueshirts’ prolific scoring in the pre-season Victoria Cup tournament, while not against NHL-caliber teams, should certainly provide a much-needed confidence boost. Toughness remains an issue, but should be addressed by Aaron Voros (provided he can crack the lineup and play significant minutes). While the Rangers’ defense corps is top notch, fans would probably feel better with a Barry Beck-style thumper patrolling the blueline. Does Glen Sather have another trick up his sleeve, or is what you see in Prague on 4 OCTOBER what you’re going to get for 08-09? Time will tell, and so will OGA...Check out The OGA Blogs for updates, and the RangersG10R on 25 OCTOBER for a comprehensive progress report.

One more day before GAME ON!, and one more report – check in Friday for the Vancouver Canucks SPR. Until then, Big Tex says, “Try the grilled alligator kabobs.”

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