Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Rangers 2, Wild 1

Okay, so, there are two different meritorious perspectives on last night's game. The important thing is that we won. We played a solid, physical game, and we earned the two big points. We unquestionably played a better hockey game than either of our two over the weekend. We pressed deep, we punched people in the face a lot, etc. We won, at home, grabbing points we needed to stay out of the "anyone's game" category of bubble teams and in the "has a good shot" category.

So why might I be unhappy? Torts came in with a goal-scoring mindset. The Rangers under Renney won a lot of 2-1 games, and I get nervous when we win 2-1 games. When I get nervous, I do research (I think), which I what I did last night. I discovered some interesting facts (including: math is still fun):

Since Torts took over, we have played 730 minutes of hockey. If we discount our February 28 6-1 rout of Colorado, of the remaining 670:00, we have held the lead for 312:46, or just under half the time. However, we have only held the lead by more than a goal for 72:18, just about a tenth of the time.

They showed a statistic on Vs. last night (in between moments of being completely terrible at broadcasting a hockey game) that stated that, under Tortorella, we have scored first in 11 of 12 games (the only exception being when the 'Canes shut us out). I found that very exciting. Last night, I looked a little deeper:

Sure we've scored first in 11 of 12 under Torts. But in 9 of those 11, we gave up the next goal to go back to a 1-1 tie. We did so an average of 15:30 after scoring. More prominently, I looked at our March record thus far. In 9 games in March, we have scored first in 8, and we have given it right back in 7 of those 8, a depressing average of 10 minutes and 46 seconds later. The exception is Buffalo, over whom we had a 2-0 lead for all of 27 seconds before they cut it back to 2-1.

So, that puts the "big scoring" thing in some perspective. However, I'm not here to depress you - these statistics are (somewhat deliberately) misleading. The point isn't so much "we're not actually good at scoring goals" as it is "the 'scoring first' statistic isn't as meaningful as you'd like it to be." After all, it's not like we're not scoring goals - under Tortorella, we have outscored our opponents by an aggregate 38-29. That's not so bad. I just hope you understand why I'm at least a little nervous about just winning 2-1 - I've had a rough season.

That said, last night was a bit of a special case in and of itself. The Wild are, of course, coached by the infamously boring Jacques Lemaire, the crown prince of the trap. They manufacture boring hockey games. The Wild are as defensive a team as it is possible to be. They are #2 in the league in penalty killing at 87.1%, behind only us at 87.5%. They are #3 in the league in total goals allowed, at 178, behind only the Sharks at 176 and the Bruins at 171. And yet, they are ranked 21st in the league overall, with only 76 points on 73 games. What does this tell you?

It tells you that they're boring. They thrive on low-scoring games. They create low-scoring games. And in the face of this terrible, terrible brand of hockey, the very-recently-vanilla Rangers managed to create a little excitement (starting with Avery punching a dude), be patient, and secure the win. Why can we feel good about it? Because we can feel like the team gets it. The coach gets it. In a post-game interview, he described the game as "Awful to watch. I thought it was an awful game to watch. But we found a way to get a win."

If that's Torts's perspective on it, then I'm still happy. 86 points. 8 games to go. Let's Go Rangers!

1 comment:

  1. Very informative numbers. This is why I read this blog. Thanks!