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Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Are the NY Rangers a One-Trick Pony?

Bennett/Getty (NY Daily News)

In a word, YES. One third of the way through the season, the New York Rangers find themselves 10th in the Eastern Conference, with a record of 13-13-1. They're scoring a respectable 2.89 goals/game (tied with Edmonton for 13th in the NHL), but giving up a disturbing 3.11 goals/game (24th). The Blueshirts' bloated GAA can be traced in part to backup goalie Stephen Valiquette, who has a save pct. of .852 and a GAA of 3.74 in six appearances this season. Valiquette was waived Wednesday, and will try to rediscover his game in Hartford if he clears waivers. New York's biggest problem, however, lies at the other end of the ice.

Off-season acquisition Marian Gaborik has been both outstanding and (mostly) healthy so far this season, and he's the reason the Rangers are at .500 today. Gaby has 21-16-37 in 25 games. How huge is that? Without Gaborik's 21 goals, the Rangers would be averaging a pitiful 2.19 G/gm - good for 29th in the league (and just .01 ahead of Carolina). Gaborik is not the problem: Almost every other Ranger forward is.

While Gaborik is on pace to score 67 goals this season, no other Blueshirt is projected to score more than 19. In fact, after Ales Kotalik (projected goals: 19) and Vinny Prospal (p.g.: 18), the scoring pace for Ranger forwards drops deep into the numbers expected of 3rd or 4th line skaters: Anisimov - 15, Avery - 14, Callahan - 12, Dubinsky - 12, Lisin - 10, Drury - 7 (that's SEVEN (projected) GOALS for a guy who's never scored less than 18 in a season), and Chris Higgins, who has three 20+ goal campaigns under his belt, and who is projected to score a pitiful 6 goals in 2009-10.

The list above contains five proven 20+ goal scorers, and three potential 20+ men. Right now, NONE of them are on pace for 20 goals. In fact, the only player on that list who seems to be playing up to his statistical potential is Sean Avery, who is on pace for 14-24-38 - one goal short of his career best season.

Part of the reason the Rangers aren't scoring is because they're not putting pucks on net: With an average of 29.0 shots/game, New York is tied with Phoenix for 22nd in the NHL. Beyond the low number of shots, shot quality seems to be an issue, as well - just compare New York (29.0 S/gm, 2.89 G/gm) to Atlanta (28.8 S/gm, 3.46 G/gm). The Thrashers are shooting less, but scoring more. Both the reason behind Atlanta's success and the solution to New York's goal scoring woes lies in a quote from the immortal Herb Brooks (as Tweeted by @MikeMcKenzie11 earlier this week):
"If you want money, go to the bank. If you want bread, go to the bakery. If you want goals, go to the net."

The Rangers need to find their inner Pat Verbeek. 'Beeker understood that so-called "garbage" goals count the same as the highlight-reel variety, and was willing to pay the price to get in close, screen the goalie, and send those rebounds to their rightful home. Sean Avery understands, and so does Ryan Callahan...but the understanding seems to stop there. The Blueshirts better figure it out - and fast - because the season is quickly slip slidin' away.

Take me back to On Goal Analysis.

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