The Rangers power play has been awful

What has gone wrong with the Rangers power play?

Last season the Rangers finished with an 18.6 percent power play. Today they sit at 18.4 percent. So what’s the big deal?

At the close of December the New York Rangers had the fifth-best power play in the NHL. The Rangers had a 22.4 percent success rate on the man advantage and 26 power play goals in the first 38 games of the season.

Things have changed since then.

Prior to last night’s three power play goal outburst the Rangers had an 8.1 percent power play in 2017. The team now has nine goals in their last 80 power play attempts, which is the second-coldest power play in the league since the second half of the season has begun. Only the Anaheim Ducks have been less effective on the man advantage since January.

At the Garden the Rangers have a 5.9 percent power play success rate in the New Year. On the road, thanks largely in part to last night, the team carries a 15.2 percent power play. Those are brutal numbers.

In the preseason and in October the Rangers’ power play looked lethal. Mika Zibanejad was set up in the circle with his big right-handed shot, Brandon Pirri looked like a difference maker and we all missed Keith Yandle just a little bit less.

But October’s been over for a long time now. The playoffs are fast approaching and the Rangers can ill-afford to head into the postseason without at least an average power play.

Last year the Tampa Bay Lightning carried a 15.4 percent power play into the postseason and they got as far as the Eastern Conference Final. But Tampa was the exception to the rule and the Lightning also improved to 16.1 percent once they got Steven Stamkos back in time for the playoffs.

This year there was no big addition at the deadline to bolster the power play. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t potential answers or players who might spark the team’s special teams available.

Adam Clendening (when he’s in the lineup), Brady Skjei and Pavel Buchnevich have all shown potential and ability to move the puck. Since the beginning of the New Year Buchnevich leads that group in PP TOI/g with 2:03. Skjei has seen 1:01 PP TOI/g compared to Ryan McDonagh’s team-leading 2:57.

Only 35 players in the NHL have been deployed on the power play more than the Rangers’ captain since the start of 2017 and only 14 of those players are defensemen. McDonagh averages more power play ice time than Duncan Keith, Shea Weber, Aaron Ekblad and Roman Josi do for their teams.

McDonagh is a lot of things and above all he’s a great balanced defenseman. But he is not a guy who can effectively pull the strings on a top power play.

The Rangers aren’t going to find a power play quarterback better than Clendening available to them now that the deadline has come and gone. Still, it is a hole that needs to be filled in the offseason. One more thing for a “to-do list” that seems to be growing with each passing game.

As for today, the Rangers don’t need a miracle fix. Turning things around is not impossible. The team just needs a power play that isn’t a disaster.

Perhaps there is something to the theory that the team has too many pass-first forwards. Maybe J.T. Miller and Kevin Hayes need more time on the power play. Or maybe the Rangers just don’t have the cast of characters to put together a great power play.

With any luck the good puck luck from the loss in Carolina will spark New York’s man advantage. A confident Zibanejad certainly isn’t going to hurt the cause either. At the end of the day, he and Mats Zuccarello feel like the keys to getting some life back into the Rangers’ power play.

Alain Vigneault and Scott Arniel need to figure the power play out before the regular season comes to a close. Whether it’s a confidence issue or a systems issue or has something to do with the Rangers having a high turnover ratio on the man advantage is unclear. It is likely a little bit of everything.

There are 14 games left in the regular season to turn it around. It’s time to shake the Etch-a-Sketch and get back to square one.