There are many, rightly so, who believe that the New York Rangers defenseman should be playing a little harder on… that’s right, defense. However, the Rangers are just following a trend in the NHL that is seeing an increase in actual vs. expected scoring this season, and it is paying off for their defenseman. Rangers defensemen have 133 points (38 goals, 95 assists) this season, the most goals and points by defensemen on any team.
How the New York Rangers Defense Have Excelled on Offense
The first and most obvious choice for this is that the Blueshirts tend to play a more wide-open style of hockey than many other teams. Not only is this going to create opportunities for your forwards, but it will also lead to increase chances for a defenseman who join that rush up ice.
This has paid off big for their defense. For example, when Tony DeAngelo tallied his 12th goal of the season a few nights ago, he became one of only a handful of Ranger defensemen who have recorded at least 12 goals in the team’s first 46 games of a season within the past 40 years. The others on the list include Leetch (three times), Greschner (twice), and Ruotsalainen (twice). Remember that hat trick D’Angelo netted a little more than a week ago? That hat trick is the ninth instance of a Rangers defenseman recording a hat trick in franchise history. His five-point game is the third by a defenseman in franchise history and the first by a defenseman other than Brian Leetch. He is not the only d-man scoring.
When Adam Fox picked up a point on Jan 15, he has registered nine points (one goal, eight assists) over the last seven games. Since Dec. 31, Fox’s eight assists and nine points are both the second-most among NHL defensemen.
The New York Rangers are following a trend
So we don’t bore you too much and send Tony DeAngelo into an analytic style frenzy, the upward trend is scoring has been well analyzed and documented. If you like this stuff, check out Larry Yost’s column at TSN.com, where he goes into much more detail. The best takeaway from this was that there are several on-ice theories as to why scoring rates have increased, and/or why expected goal rates are underwhelming relative to those numbers. The goaltenders did experience a downsizing in equipment.
Teams did get more sophisticated with matters like power play deployment (and the associated four forward approach on those power plays), or when to pull the goalie when trailing late, or the emphasis of hockey skill over toughness and physicality in the bottom-six of Forwards and to some extent, defensive groups. All are contributing factors, and all have led to an increase not only all across the league but certainly a factor in the offensive prowess of the Blueshirt defenseman.