The New York Rangers are off to a torrid start to the 2016-17 NHL season, with 65 goals through the first sixteen games of the year. That puts them on pace for 333 goals, which would be the most goals in the past twenty years for any NHL team, let alone the Blueshirts. You have to go back to the 1971-72 season to find a Rangers team with an equivalent goals per game of 4.06.
You have to go back to the 1995-96 Pittsburgh Penguins who amasses a staggering – in today’s terms – 362 goals, or 4.41 goals per game, and that too was before there were shootouts or 3 on 3 overtime to help pad the goal totals. Not that the Rangers have made it to OT yet this season.
As of today, New York is one of only four teams with a 10+ goal scorer Michael Grabner. Winnipeg has two, while Pittsburgh and Boston have one apiece. New York also has two 7 goal scorers – Rick Nash and Jimmy Vesey, and is the only team with three or more with 7+ goals. Washington, Winnipeg, Chicago, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia each have two.
If you further expand your search to six goals, then the Rangers are tied with the Blackhawks with five each, two better than any other team. In fact, there are six teams – Red Wings, Flames, Wild, Canucks, Islanders an Devils – who are yet to register a SINGLE player with six or more goals.
The force behind this sudden offensive explosion has largely been driven by four lines of forwards who can score – the blueliners account for just 5 of the 65 goals scored to date, or around 7.5%. Newcomers Grabner – 10, Vesey – 7, Buchnevich – 4, Brandon Pirri – 4, Mika Zibanejad – 3 and Josh Jooris – 1 have scored almost half – 29 of 60 – of the goals scored by forwards. Meanwhile Nash – 7, Mats Zuccarello – 6, Kevin Hayes – 6 and J.T. Miller – 5 have all had solid starts to the year after last season’s failure.
In addition the Rangers have cut down the penalties per game, averaging almost three minutes less a game than last year, and lead the league with a remarkable 5:45 per game on average. They’ve also turn their weakest period – the second – into their strongest one. Last year they scored 71 goals in the middle stanza, but also allowed that many. This year they’re a remarkable 29-8, first in the league in terms of most goals scored, as well as fewest goals allowed, on pace for 149-41.
To be honest, it’s hard to see how the Rangers can sustain this pace over an entire season. There are 66 games remaining in the year, and it would require another 260 or so goals to be scored, 24 more than they scored in the entire 2015-16 season. It’s also unlikely that Keving Hayes – 28.6%, Michael Grabner – 27.8%, Jimmy Vesey – 25.0% and even Pavel Buchnevich 22.2%, are going to be able to sustain those sort of shooting percentages.
Although there is some room for improvement. Chris Kreider is down 3.5% off his career average and 4.5% off last year’s pace, Zibanejad is 2.8% off his career average, and 5.8% off his career high set two years ago, and finally Derek Stepan is 4.6% off of career average 5.0% of last year’s pace and 10.2% off his career high year back in the lockout season of 2012-13.
Whatever the case may be with the individual players, the Rangers do have a shot at reaching 300 goals for the first time since the 1992-93 season when they registered 304 goals in 84 games. They could also beat their franchise record of the 321 goals scored in the 1991-92 season, when the Rangers won the President’s trophy – also over an 84 game schedule.
They could also finish the year with an average of four goals per game or more for just the third time in franchise history, last achieved in 1991-92 with a 4.01 average, or even the franchise mark in 1971-72 when they set a 4.064 pace, slightly ahead of the current 4.063 rate they’re scoring at now.
2.6060 – Pace required to surpass last year’s total of 236 goals scored
2.8030 – Last year’s pace from games 17 to 82
3.0732 – Goals per game from 2014-15 season, when NYR went to Cup Final
3.5606 – Pace required to reach 300 goals for 15th time in franchise history
3.8939 – Pace required to set new franchise record of 322 goals in a season
4.0625 – Current goal scoring pace after 16 games
4.0758 – Pace required to set a new franchise record for goals per game
5.5750 – Pace of 1983-84 Edmonton Oilers when they scored league record 446 goals