Monday, November 14, 2011

What the Deuce? The Rangers Defense allowing less than 2 goals per game!

It's not Rocket Science.  There are two ways to improve as a hockey team. One is to score more goals. And so far, despite the high priced addition of Brad Richards – and the bounce back year of Marian Gaborik – and the unexpected offense of Ryan McDonagh, the Rangers offense is not scoring more goals than last year. After 15 games, the Ranger attack is performing more or less the same as we did in 2010-2011. Our Goals Scored Per Game average is 2.74, just a few Dubinsky facial hairs above last season's 2.69.

So then, why have we won 6 in a row?

No one else seems to be talking about this - but the big difference this year – surprisingly – has been the Ranger defense. (And remember - you heard it here first). This defensive surge is occurring even though:

1 - The Rangers have been playing without their top defenseman Marc Staal (who has been suffering from post concussion syndrome ever since s nasty blow to the head by his evil brother Eric), and

2 – Henrik is a year older, and

3 - Top four defender Mike Sauer missed five of the current fifteen Ranger games games due to injury, and

4 – the Rangers have been outshot in the majority of their games.

In spite of all of this, somehow, the New York Rangers have let up, on average, LESS THAN 2 GOALS PER GAME.

It's true. The current average sits at an amazing 1.95 GAA. They've only allowed 30 goals in 30 games (plus some overtime periods). That 30 goals ties them with Edmonton for the league's fewest goals allowed this year.

This stellar defensive performance is, so far, the best GAA the Rangers have posted in at least 6 years. And you can't just attribute the whole thing to Lundqvist, because, incredibly – in three starts – back-up backstop Marty Biron's save percentage and GAA is BETTER THAN HANK's

Why is this happening? Here is what we're seeing:

1 – The Ranger defense is forcing their opponents to the outside – clearing the middle of the ice – and pushing shots to the edges where the angles are worse and the goalies have a better chance to see the shots and control them.

2 – The Rangers appear well coached – organized - and resilient in their own zone. They are rarely out of position and efficient at clearing the puck.  (I know, it's hard to believe, right?)

3 – Our shorthanded minutes are down while our Penalty Kill success rate is up at over 88%.

4 – Dan Girardi, finally out from under Marc Staal's shadow, is quietly turning in an (mostly unrecognized) All Star caliber season, routinely shutting down the opposition's best lines and logging an unreal 30 minutes of Ice Time a night.

5 – the whole team, including the forwards, are just plain hustling back and working hard on defending every shift.

Put this all together and you get the best defensive hockey I have ever seen our Rangers play. It's still early but the 2011-2012 Rangers have already put together an identity – and that identity is about keeping their opponents off the scoreboard.

It may not be Rocket Science - but Defense wins hockey games and if our Blueshirts can keep their blue-liners playing at this high level, there's no telling how high this team can fly.

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