In NHL playoffs, New York Rangers need to ‘put on the big-boy pants’ vs. Pittsburgh Penguins


(Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

The New York Rangers find themselves down 2-1 in their second-round Stanley Cup playoff series against the Pittsburgh Penguins. It’s a tough spot to be in.

“It’s first to four wins, we just need to take a deep breath here and regroup tomorrow and just get ready for the next one,” Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist said. “That’s going to be a very important game for us.  This is definitely not over.”

According to WhoWins, the lower-seeded teams in this predicament have won the series just 29.7 percent of the time.  And if the second-seeded New York Rangers want to have a chance, they are going to need to start putting some points on the board.

The Rangers’ three leading scorers during the regular season – Mats Zuccarello, Derek Stepan and Brad Richards — have combined for one goal in the series, a wrister by Richards in Game 1.

“Their big boys put on the big-boy pants,” Rangers Coach Alain Vigneault said of the Pittsburgh Penguins. “I need mine to do that.”

But here is the thing: the Rangers are generating shots: At even strength, they have put 61 shots on net. However, they have just three goals to show for it (4.9 percent). The power play has seen none of their 19 shots light the lamp. That’s just some bad puck luck. During the regular season, the Rangers were converting at 6.7 percent and 10.4 percent, respectively.

Some coaches don’t, but the more successful ones certainly do. When Los Angeles Coach Darryl Sutter, who guided the Kings to a championship in 2011, was asked about Mike Richard’s scoring slump he responded: “He’s second on our team in shots, next to Gaborik. That’s significant.”

Shots are significant because it is impossible to generate a scoring chance without firing the puck at the opposing goaltender — there is a strong correlation between shot differential and scoring chance differential. That doesn’t mean that the Rangers can afford to slip to a 3-1 deficit, but relying just on the scoreboard doesn’t tell the whole story either.

“You might be frustrated right now, but it does no good,” forward Brad Richards said. “We are in the middle of a series, and out of those three games, we played two real good ones.”

If they keep putting pucks on net there will be a few more good games before the lights go out on Broadway.

Neil Greenberg analyzes advanced sports statistics for the Fancy Stats blog and prefers to be called a geek rather than a nerd.
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Neil Greenberg · May 7

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