Can The New York Rangers Power Play Become Lethal?
We all know the story already.
1) You're out with your friends, going to some event or doing something you don't want to do. You end up missing the New York Rangers game. You try to keep up on your phone, but the stupid building you're in doesn't have service and you end up missing everything. You rush home, turn on the computer, head to Blueshirt Banter (I'm guessing) and check the score. The Rangers lost. You look through the box score and you see that the Rangers went 0-for on the power play. You silently cry to yourself.
2) Same situation, except when you turn on Blueshirt Banter you see the Rangers won the game. You check the box score and see that the Rangers went 3-for-4, or 4-for-7 on the power play. You smile, and then wonder why the team can't do this every game.
That's the way it's been for the Rangers' power play. It's either working at a lethal pace, or it's not working at all. Period. When was the last time the Rangers had a 1-for-4 or a 2-for-5 night with the man advantage? (I don't actually mean those exact numbers, but you know what I'm taking about. A game where the Rangers didn't dominate or completely flop on the power play).
Join me after the jump for more.
The main issue I have with the way the power play looks is that I don't know how to read it. Against the New York Islanders it was potent. The passes were crisp, the Rangers broke into the zone cleanly, set up the power play and generally made the right decisions in terms of whether or not to pass or shoot the puck.
Then sometimes it's the complete opposite. The Rangers can't get into the zone clean, and when they do they turn the puck over against an aggressive penalty kill because they panic and try to become too fancy. That, or the players on the point give into the crowd screaming "SHOOOOOOOOOT" every time the puck gets there (if you do this, please stop) and it's blocked and cleared/taken for a breakaway.
Right now the Rangers' power play is converting 14.8% of the time -- a number that ties them for second-worst in the NHL with Dallas and Minnesota. Just for clarification purposes: The best team is Edmonton at 21.8%, the middle team is New Jersey at 17.2% and the worst team is Phoenix at 12.7%. The number 10 team -- always good to see what it would take to crack the top-10 -- is Colorado at 18.4%.
Here is the scary thing: The Rangers power play can be lethal, it can. There's too much talent for someone to say, "no way, that group of players will never make it work." Here is what the Rangers power play looks like when everyone is healthy:
The First Unit: Brad Richards and Michael Del Zotto on the point. Marian Gaborik along the halfboards. Ryan Callahan in front of the net. Derek Stepan on the opposite halfboards from Gaborik. This unit gives you a heavy shot from the point along with two players who see the ice as well as anyone else on the team. At any point and time, if pressured, Del Zotto and Richards can feed the puck to Gaborik and Stepan (another two players who see the ice at a different level than everyone else). And all four players know they can bomb the puck at the net and let Callahan do his work there to get rebounds and deflections.
The Second Unit: Mark Staal/Dan Girardi/Ryan McDonagh on the point. Brian Boyle/John Mitchell in front of the net. Carl Hagelin on the halfboards. Brandon Dubinsky (last year)/Artem Anisimov on the other halfboards. This unit grinds the puck more (less talent on the ice significantly) but still has players that can put the puck into the back of the net. Hagelin's speed plays a huge role in the dump and chase (which needs to be employed), and Boyle and Mitchell are big bodies who can handle the puck and screen the goaltender. Anisimov can also be very dangerous if he has room to work with.
It's two significantly different units, who both bring different skills and dangers to the table. But even as I read the names and think "my God how can this first unit not work around 17-19%," the reality is that they haven't been, for whatever reason.
Still, the win over the Islanders has to be a big confidence boost to the team, and should make themselves and the coaching staff realize that the power play can be effective. It just has to click.
Making it click is the problem. And making it click has been the problem all year. Hopefully that changes sooner rather than later.