Rangers’ recent improvement illustrated in this one stat

Their attempt-share numbers are an analytical nightmare and so is the Rangers’ amorphous expected goals percentage. But nearly a quarter of the way through the season, there is one rather important number of which they can be proud.

That is the eight regulation victories the club will take into Friday’s game at Ottawa, a total surpassed by just seven other teams through Wednesday’s competition.

“We’ve been preaching brotherhood in this room and I think that’s something we’ve had this year that was missing last year,” Brendan Smith told The Post before the Rangers embarked on a two-game tour north of the border that will conclude Saturday night at Montreal. “It’s a mentality that you’re doing it for the next guy, so you take that extra hit, you block that extra shot.

“And I think that’s been a factor in why we’ve been much better at being able to close out games than we were last year. You can feel it on the bench when we’re protecting a lead. There’s more confidence.

“When you stick to the system, the system will protect you,” No. 42 said. “We’ve been up and down, and a little inconsistent in that aspect. We’ve been a big momentum team with swings both ways within games. We still need to get better in maintaining from shift to shift and period to period.”

The Rangers, 9-8-2, were within the games-in-hand margin of the final wild-card berth heading into Thursday, four points behind Philadelphia while having played two fewer games than Alain Vigneault’s squad. The Sabres, Maple Leafs, Senators and Lightning were between the Blueshirts and the Flyers.

The Senators, expected to vie for the league’s worst record, also had eight regulation victories and they paddywhacked the Rangers 6-2 at the Garden on Nov. 4.

“There’s a little bit of a bitter taste there,” said Smith, one of a dozen Rangers to skate at Thursday’s optional. “It’s pretty fresh in our minds.”

For one, the game was just over two weeks ago. For another, coach David Quinn raised the issue in a meeting with the club before practice.

“I hope it’s as fresh in [the players’] minds as it is in ours, the coaching staff,” he said. “They’re a good team. They play hard. It really started with our game, and they’ve built off that. We’re going to have our hands full.”

The Rangers have won five games by three goals or more, but have lost six by at least three goals. They have played only six one-goal games, two of which were decided in the three-on-three overtime, with another settled by the shootout. Their record in one-goal games is 2-2-2. The Blueshirts have lost only one game in which they held the lead in the third period, Saturday at Florida, when they were up 3-2 at 5:47 before losing 4-3.

“I think when you play a structure and everyone is playing with the same mindset, you’ve got a real team concept and can rely on each other and trust each other,” said Quinn, whose team will play its 11th straight without Mika Zibanejad, who will continue his work at the MSG training facility. “Being a great teammate isn’t going out and buying a guy dinner or buying beers. Being a great teammate is understanding that ‘I’m going to do what I’m supposed to do and you’re going to do what you’re supposed to do.’

“If I’m a great F1 on the forecheck, being a great teammate is being a good F2 so you can retrieve the puck. And I think when we have that mindset, we have success because I think we have enough talent to complement that type of hockey.”

The Blueshirts are coming off a 4-1 victory Wednesday over the Capitals in which they gave pretty much as good as they got physically throughout their most complete performance of the season. The trick now is to maintain that level of intelligent, detail-oriented play. The Rangers are not good enough to play to the level of their opponents and succeed on any consistent basis.

“I think with our group and our youth, sometimes you have to suffer to really learn something,” Quinn said. “The thing I like — and I know we lost against Florida, but I like what we did against the Panthers — is that we followed it up with a strong game against Washington and now we have the opportunity to hopefully continue this trend.”