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Taking a Look at the Rangers Power Play

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NHL: New York Rangers at Colorado Avalanche Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Throughout the playoffs last year, I collected a lot of my own data on team’s power plays and penalty kills. And while I’ve written about more general topics using the data (like here and here), before the season starts I want to take a detailed look at how the Rangers performed throughout the postseason. As a part of the data that I tracked, I recorded the breakout formations used by the Rangers on the power play and penalty kill formations used in the defensive zone.

Here are diagrams of the Dallas Cut, Canuck-Center Lane, Drop Pass, and Five Back formations used during power plays:

Terms:

-Suc% = The percentage of entries that were successful

-Control% = The percentage of entries that were controlled

-# Pass = The number of passes completed before entering the zone

-InForm% = The percentage of how many times the team successfully got into formation in the offensive zone

-Time into Form = The total time it took to get into formation in the offensive zone

-Time to 1st SA = The total time it took for the offensive team to register their first shot attempt

-Time in Zone = The total time the offensive team spent in the zone

-SA = Average shot attempts per entry

-SC = Average scoring chances per entry

-S = Average shots per entry

PP Breakout

Teams Success% Controlled% # of Passes 4 Forward% Drop Pass% Dallas Cut%
Teams Success% Controlled% # of Passes 4 Forward% Drop Pass% Dallas Cut%
NYR 85.90% 68.80% 1.34 86.30% 23.40% 31.30%
Playoff Avg. 85.90% 64.00% 1.17 54.80% 29.40% 24.10%

A lot of Rangers fans are usually frustrated with the power play but during the postseason, New York did a perfectly fine job at entering the zone. They were right in the line with the league average at successfully entering the zone and controlled the puck better, entering the zone with control 68.8% of the time compared to the postseason average of 64%. Out of all players, Mika Zibanejad and Derek Stepan entered the zone most often for the New York (with Kevin Hayes a close third) while Ryan McDonagh was by far the leader in entry assists.

What’s maybe most interesting about the Rangers breakout though was the amount of times they elected to use four forwards on the power play. Even though in the postseason teams on averaged used four forwards only 54.8% of the time, the Rangers almost always elected to go that route, sending out four forwards 86.3% of the time. I’m in favor of using a four forward power play unit as opposed to a three forward unit but it’ll be interesting to see what happens now that Kevin Shattenkirk’s on the team. With Shattenkirk, Ryan McDonagh, and Brady Skjei all being excellent puck movers, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Rangers start using three forwards and two defensemen a little more often than they did last year.

But as far as Shattenkirk joining the Rangers power play goes, I think he’ll be a decent fit. Similar to McDonagh, Shattenkirk l was very involved with the Blues’ entries, usually being the person to pass the puck to the entry player and leading his team in entry assists. The Blues were also very similar to the Rangers in that they used four forwards the majority of the time, opting to go with four forwards 94.3% of the time, and used a 1-3-1 formation once in the offensive zone a lot of the time.

NYR PP Ozone

Teams InForm% Time into Form Time to 1st SA Time in Zone SA SC Shots
Teams InForm% Time into Form Time to 1st SA Time in Zone SA SC Shots
NYR 72.90% 6.3 s 8.8 s 11.4 s 0.629 0.209 0.349
Playoff Avg. 74.20% 7.9 s 11.5 s 14 s 0.76 0.305 0.37

Here’s where we start seeing the problems with the Rangers power play. Once they enter the zone, they start having trouble getting into formation and generating offense. While they did get into form much quicker than the average team in the postseason, their InForm% was (slightly) below the playoff average. And their shot metrics were even worse, as they were well below the postseason average in shot attempts and scoring chances. The Rangers averaged only .629 shot attempts and .209 scoring chances per entry, despite the average in the playoffs being .760 and .305 respectively. Their shot totals weren’t as bad but were still below average, as the Rangers only averaged .349 shots per entry compared to the .370 shots per entry average. While they didn’t struggle too much at getting shots off, their scoring chance and shot attempt numbers were significantly worse.

It’s interesting to see how quickly the Rangers were able to get into form and register a shot attempt though. By being able to execute this quickly, the Rangers wasted little time being out of formation or waiting to get off a shot attempt. However, despite this, the Rangers shot metrics are still relatively low compared to the league average. Going into the project, I wasn’t completely sold on the value of the time it takes to getting the first shot attempt off and even time in zone in general. It’s great not to waste time but what if, by taking a shot quickly to save time, you’re only just taking a very easy shot for the goalie to save? Or what if, by trying to get into formation so quickly, you’re more prone to failing to even get into form (like how the Rangers time to get into form is quick but their InForm% is low)? I think it’s still interesting to look at this data as it provides a more detailed description of what’s going on but, in terms of analysis, I don’t know how much value it can bring.

And that brings me into my next point. Hopefully I’ll be able to continue this type of tracking throughout the regular season this year (if there’s interest) but throughout the summer I’ve been trying to refine the different things I track. While I have it for the postseason, it’s unlikely I track the data involving time during the regular season. But, if anybody has any ideas for what would be good things to track (or suggestions on improvements), I’d love to hear them.

By the way, if you liked this piece, I’ll have a write up on the Rangers penalty kill in the coming days. I was originally going to put it all in one article but figured it would be easier to split it up into two, as I’ve already gone over a lot of stuff.