Through 25 games of the 2013-14 season the New York Rangers are right in the middle of the pack when it comes to goal scoring. The Blueshirts are currently 14th in the league in total goals scored which is an improvement over where they finished at the end of last season, in 18th place. However, I am not at all encouraged by where the Rangers are in regards to their goal scoring because of how dependent they are on the offense of the three highest scoring players on the team- Rick Nash, Martin St. Louis, and Derick Brassard. The lack of depth scoring on the Blueshirts is fast becoming a serious problem that is making a lackluster power play all the more disastrous and infuriating.
It's worth pointing out that all teams are dependent on their big guns to score a large portion of their goals, but what we are looking at here is the lack of goal scoring from players like Chris Kreider, Mats Zuccarello, Derek Stepan (2 goals in 13 games), the bottom six forwards, and the Rangers' blue line. The fact that Lee Stempniak and Kevin Klein have more goals than Zuccarello and Kreider is something that none of us expected at the start of the season, and for good reason. Last season Kreider had 17 goals in 66 games played and Zuccarello had 18 goals in 77 games played. That they now have just 8 goals between them is more than a little bit alarming. When the Rangers watched Benoit Pouliot and Brad Richards leave via free agency they had a serious need to replace top six scoring and depth scoring in the lineup and with the exception of a precious few players in the top six, the scoring just hasn't been there for the Rangers.
The Rangers are currently 11th in the league in shots registered per game, which is not bad at all. So, where are the goals? A big part of the answer to that question is the Rangers' power play, or lack thereof. The Rangers' 13 power play goals puts them 21st in the league in scoring on the man advantage as well as 21st in the league in power play efficacy, with 15.8%. It's not difficult to find excuses and explanations for the shortcomings of the Blueshirts' power play- Dan Boyle, the new power play quarterback, has missed 16 games, Derek Stepan has missed 12 games, and Rick Nash, the Rangers' monster goal scorer, has never been a great goal scorer on the man advantage.
The Rangers get fewer power play opportunities than the league average and their penalty kill, which was third in the league at the end of last season, is now in the middle of the pack. In other words, the Rangers special teams, in general, just haven't lived up to expectations. But you can only make so many excuses before they start to sound meaningless in the face of a power play that just isn't working and recently failed the team in disastrous fashion against the Detroit Red Wings. There are more playmakers and great passers on this team than you can shake a stick at, but somehow the Rangers just can't get it done on the man advantage. Is it the personnel? The strategy? The coaching? The decisions made on the ice? Whatever the issues are, the Rangers need to get to the bottom of their power play woes as soon as possible because we have seen just how hard it is to win games in the regular season and postseason when you squander power play opportunities in close games.
We could attribute the lack of goal scoring to bad luck, key injuries, or a lack of talent, but the bottom line is that key players for the Rangers just aren't producing in the way that they need to. There might soon come a time when Martin St. Louis and Rick Nash struggle to put the puck in the net and when that time comes the Rangers will be in serious trouble. The need for goals to come from other places in the lineup is a serious one.
However, the Rangers' lack of depth scoring isn't completely on the shoulders of Zuke and Kreider. Before Jesper Fast, Dominic Moore, and J.T. Miller put four goals on the board over a span of a few games a week or so ago, the Rangers have had absolutely no offense coming from their fourth line and there wasn't a great deal coming from the third line either. When you think about how exceptional the Rangers' third line last year was, it isn't hard to understand why it feels like all of the Rangers goals are coming from the sticks of the same three players in the Rangers' top six forwards.
It's time that the coaches start pushing the players to put pucks on net and start attacking the dangerous scoring areas of the ice both at even strength and on the man advantage. Only Rick Nash has more than 52 shots for the Rangers and on a team that has players like Martin St. Louis, Chris Kreider, and Derick Brassard. That just isn't good enough through 25e games. The best way to get out of scoring funks, win games, and produce depth scoring is by putting the puck on net. At even strength, on the man advantage, on odd-man rushes, and in every other conceivable situation, it doesn't matter. Put pucks on net and go get some ugly goals because they count just as much as the goals the Rangers have been trying for on the power play, where two or three players pass up great scoring opportunities in the slot to look for the perfect play.
"You miss 100% of the shots you don't take." -Wayne Gretzky