On January 10th, 2014 Martin St. Louis rifled a shot past Antti Niemi of the San Jose Sharks off of a Derek Stepan faceoff win to score the first goal of the game in the Rangers' 3-1 victory over the Sharks.
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Gorgeous, wasn't it?
That was the last shot that Marty St. Louis has taken in a game that has beaten a goaltender for a goal. Which means that it is has now been 10 games since St. Louis has scored a goal for the New York Rangers. For someone with Marty's skill and record of consistency in regards to scoring throughout his Hall of Fame career, 10 games without a goal is an eternity. However, this isn't the only goal-scoring slump we've seen him go through this season. In his first 10 games this season Marty scored just a single goal and he had to wait 6 games in to get it. He also had a stretch of 7 games without a goal from December 6th to December 24th. It seems like it has been a bit of a roller coaster season thus far for the Rangers' oldest player in regards to when the puck is going in and when it simply won't.
Since his goal against the Sharks, St. Louis has registered 20 shots on net. This season Marty's shooting percentage is currently sitting at 14.9%, which means that he should have picked up a few goals over the last 10 games but, of course, things are never that quite that simple.
St. Louis is currently playing on the Rangers' solid second line which is centered by Derek Stepan with Chris Kreider on Marty's opposite wing. Both Stepan and Kreider have picked up 3 goals since playing the Sharks (I should point out that Kreider also scored a goal and picked up an assist in that game), and both of them have also picked up 3 helpers apiece. Well, how about Marty? Since scoring his last goal a week and a half into January, Marty has 5 assists- including an assist on Rick Nash's goal against the Bruins that broke a 4 game pointless streak for the diminutive superstar winger. Of course, the Rangers' offense went missing for a few games in late January which might explain why everyone not named Rick Nash has cooled down a bit. Perhaps the rest of the team should look into getting their names changed.
St. Louis is currently stuck at 14 goals, which means he is on pace for a 23 goals and 38 assists in his first full season with the New York Rangers. Now, those numbers aren't exactly dazzling considering what we all know what Marty is capable of. Even after a rough end to the 2013-14 regular season, St. Louis picked up 69 points in 81 games with the Lightning and the Rangers. So, is his scoring down from where it should be? Yep, it certainly is. Is it time to panic? Nope.
So, what's the deal? A big part of St. Louis' inconsistent production of late is directly tied to the Rangers' power play and its recent struggles.
Even with his inconsistent contributions to the score sheet, St. Louis is still leading the team in power play goals with 5, and his 14 power play points is second on the team only to Derick Brassard. However, the Rangers power play has been a bit of a shambles of late. It seems like it was just a couple of weeks ago when the Rangers had one of the league's elite power play units, but things are quite different now.
Since January 10th, the Rangers' power play has gone 3 for 28 (10.7%), which has knocked them down to the twelfth most effective offense on the man advantage in the league. Another factor that isn't helping is the Rangers' dearth of power play chances. The Blueshirts have the fourth fewest total power play opportunities in the league. You might think that the team's speed would cause havoc for defenses and earn the Rangers some more time on the PP, but only the Devils, Sabres, and Bruins have had fewer chances on the man advantage.
Rick Nash doesn't score many power play goals for the Rangers, which is a very good thing because if most of his offense came on the power play advantage I'm not sure where the Rangers would be getting their goals right now. On the other hand, Marty St. Louis has been a power play specialist ever since he became a household name. In fact, one could say that St. Louis has been dependent on the power play to make an impact on his team's offense. In the abbreviated 2012-13 season St. Louis had 20 points on the man advantage in 48 games which was good for ninth in the league in that category and prior to that he was even more prolific at scoring on the PP. A lot of that had to do with getting pucks to the human rifle that is Steven Stamkos, but that wasn't the whole story. St. Louis has always done heavy damage on the power play and right now, the Rangers power play is slumping and, unsurprisingly, so too is St. Louis' scoring.
This is a sight that has become very familiar to all Rangers fans; St. Louis with his back to the boards and the puck on his stick looking to make things happen on the power play. The Rangers, for better or worse, seem to always try to feed the puck to St. Louis and ask him to be the catalyst on the man advantage. On this particular play St. Louis made a move towards the net, dipped his shoulder to fake a shot, and then quickly moved the puck to Derek Stepan who came in from the left point to rip one past Marc-Andre Fleury. This happened on January 18th. What's so special about this play? It's MSL's most recent power play point and it happened 7 games ago.
Here is Marty against the Kings on January 8th in the same position we are used to seeing him in on the PP, although this time he is closer to the net in area that he can actually score from. When attackers move around on the power play, good things happen. When you go to the net on the power play a lot of good things happen.
The Rangers get the shot on net and hammer away at the loose puck until, eventually, St. Louis buries it for the game winning power play goal. This just so happens to be Marty's most recent power play goal which was his team-leading 5th of the season. This was by no means a pretty goal, but the funny thing about goals is that the nasty, toothless ones count just as much as the gorgeous ones. The Rangers need St. Louis to start going to the net more on the man advantage and being more than just the puck moving winger with his back to the boards looking to set everyone up. They need him to attack.
We'll see St. Louis bounce back and start scoring again this season because, quite simply, he's too good not to bounce back. The fact that he has 14 goals despite enduring several crippling scoring slumps really says a lot about just how gifted and effective he is when he's on his game. The best thing that Martin St. Louis can do right now is pepper the net with shots. Prior to the emergence of Steven Stamkos as a superstar in Tampa, Marty was a guy who would regularly eclipse 220 shots in a season. It is unrealistic to expect him to do that now, but on a team with so many pass-first players St. Louis is one of the guys you need pulling the trigger and getting the puck on net. Good things happen when you put the puck on net as we can see from the Rangers' power play goal against the Kings on January 8th.
We all know that this is a contract year for St. Louis and we also all know that the Rangers, the fans, and Marty all want to see "St. Louis" on the back of a Rangers jersey for the 2015-16 season. Is that a distraction for him? It could be, but I don't think he is the kind of guy that would have that negatively impact his game. It's been a strange season thus far for the 39 year old veteran, but by no means has it been a bad season. As much as the fans and the Rangers want more out of Marty there is no one that wants that more than Marty himself. No one player is responsible for the power play working or failing, not even a Martin St. Louis. However, the big names on the ice have to make things happen when they have the advantage and extra space and St. Louis has the perfect skill set to be a nightmare for opposing penalty killers. We say it all the time, but the Rangers need to move around more and take more shots on the power play. Too often we see them searching for the perfect play with cute passes and infuriating unselfish play that leads to hiccups, turnovers, offsides, or almost no shots put on net. The Blueshirts' top power play unit almost always flows through St. Louis, here's hoping he can kick it into gear and get the Rangers and himself doing more damage when they get the man advantage. No matter what the situation is, a shot on net is never a bad thing. So, it's time to start shoot, Marty.
Let's go Rangers.
Note: Video stills taken from NHL.com