If you thought the Rangers offense was bad in Sunday’s loss to the Canadiens, you were not imagining things. It was as bad as it gets — and Steve Valiquette has the data to prove it.
“I had never seen a game like that in three years,” the MSG Network analyst and former Rangers goaltender said before Game 4 of the Rangers’ first-round playoff series Tuesday. “Worst ever as a company that we’ve charted.”
Valiquette’s three-year-old company, Clear Sight Analytics, studies every shot — tens of thousands of them — in every NHL game, regular season and playoffs, to measure the quality of scoring chances.
“We know exactly what happens before the shot, meaning where the puck was passed from in direction, and then where the shot comes from and then where the rebound goes,” he said.
“So I’m able to value exactly how often a two-on-one goes in the net or a breakaway or a three-on-two or a pass from below the goal line to the slot, every such sequence you can imagine, off of giveaways, off turnovers, off odd-man rushes — anything.”
After the Rangers’ 3-1 loss in Game 3, Valiquette called his business partner and asked him to look into where the woeful offensive effort ranked. Dead last, it turned out.
“We surfed our data base and could not find a single game [worse],” he said.
The Rangers mustered 21 shots on goal, had 15 blocked and had 11 misses, and they did score one goal after they pulled Henrik Lundqvist late in the game, by Brady Skjei on a long shot that deflected past goaltender Carey Price and did not count as a high- or mid-percentage scoring chance by Valiquette’s standard.
“In Game 3 the Rangers had two passes across the slot, Mats Zuccarello involved in both, and those were the first two high-percentage chances in the game,” Valiquette said. “They had one mid-percentage chance in the game, so they only had three chances total, two of which came six-on-five.”
The regular season tends to have more good scoring chances than the playoffs because the style of play is looser. But Valiquette said typically a team has four or five mid-to-high percentage chances at the very least.
Valiquette acknowledged that it did not take advanced analytics to know Game 3 was bad for the Rangers, but it’s nice to have it confirmed.
“We already know a lot of what we’re talking about because it’s just hockey,” he said, “but it really quantifies.”