With a greater than 99 percent chance of making the playoffs (according to the FiveThirtyEight forecast), the New York Rangers can safely look forward to their first trip to the NHL’s round of 16 since 2017. And in fact, this season is shaping up to be one of the franchise’s most exciting in recent memory. New York’s .670 points percentage is on pace to be its second-best in any season since the 2005 lockout (trailing only the 2014-15 season, when the team came within a win of making its second Stanley Cup Final appearance in a row), and the Rangers’ current 1544 Elo rating ranks among their 20 best seasons ever through 53 games:
And yet, despite all of this, there are a surprising number of major question marks surrounding New York’s potential as a Stanley Cup contender. From their reliance on outlier star performances to the sustainability of how they’ve been playing the game itself, the Rangers are a far more perplexing team than the rest of their peers atop the NHL rankings.
To the former concern, it may seem odd to worry about any team having too much star power. But few teams this season have been as top-heavy as the Rangers, in terms of a small number of stars driving most of their success. According to Modified Point Shares per 82 team games, New York’s five best players — defenseman Adam Fox; forwards Chris Kreider, Mika Zibanejad and Artemi Panarin; and goalie Igor Shesterkin — have collectively produced 57 percent of the team’s total value, the fourth-highest share by any top five in the league. That group has also generated the third-most combined value of any team’s top five (trailing only the Colorado Avalanche and Calgary Flames). And while teams like Colorado and Calgary have received plenty of contributions from outside their headline stars, New York has gotten the league’s 14th-fewest MPS per 82 from players beyond its top five — and very few of the teams ranked below the Rangers in that regard are headed for the playoffs.