When you think about the New York Rangers’ strengths, you think of their speed, their goaltender and their solid back end. You don’t think about their power play.
The man-advantage is a sore subject for the Rangers as the team, year in and year out, struggles to design and execute a potent power play unit. It seems as if whoever is behind the bench for the Rangers, he has a tough time getting the team going on the power play. While the Rangers still find ways to win—they made the Stanley Cup Finals with a power play that was ranked 15th in the league and was nonexistent throughout the playoffs (the team set a playoff record recording an 0-for-36 stretch)—they would be considered more of a threat if they could find a way to take advantage of PP opportunities.
During last season, the Rangers totaled 48 power-play goals, but only had nine goals in their last 22 games in 69 opportunities. This has been a trend for some years. The Rangers have a decent start on the power play, but production drops off as the season goes on. This season has been a bit different. The Rangers were 0-16 on the power play and had the fourth most PP minutes in the NHL at 29:19 in the first five games. The team attempted 41 shots in that time, but could not find the back of the net. The Rangers have too much talent on the team to be this inconsistent on the power play. The struggles may have to do with the absence of Dan Boyle, who was brought in to help the power play, and Derek Stepan, whose presence in the middle has been sorely missed this season.
The struggles also may be a result of the Rangers having trouble stringing together sequences. They can enter the zone and set up decent pressure, but the team always makes one pass too many or the players aren’t being selfish enough. Yes, that’s right the Rangers aren’t being selfish enough. Derick Brassard, Mats Zuccarello and Martin St. Louis are all excellent passers and also have a tendency to give up the puck when they have the chance to shoot. While those extra passes do work on occasion, the Rangers need to be more aggressive and take the shot. Wayne Gretzky said it best, “You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.”
Throughout 12 games this season, the Rangers have recorded five power-play goals on 35 attempts. The success rate is 14.3 percent and the Rangers rank 21st in the league. While those numbers are nowhere near what the team needs, the Rangers have improved on the power play in the past two games.
On Monday night against the St. Louis Blues, Chris Kreider recorded his second power-play goal and the team’s third, and on Wednesday night against the Detroit Red Wings, the Rangers scored two more power-play goals, including the game-winner in OT. The Rangers have now scored three power play goals on seven chances in the past two games after going 2-for-28 in the first 10 games.
By no means does this prove that the Rangers power play woes are over; it just shows progress. The Rangers moved the puck well throughout the game versus Detroit and had consistent pressure in the offensive zone for the majority of their opportunities. The team got good looks and, even when they didn’t score on some opportunities, the extra pressure tired out the Red Wings who were playing their second game in as many days. The power play actually helped the Rangers swing the momentum of the game in their favor.
It also helps the Rangers that Rick Nash is a completely different player than he was in the playoffs last year. He did get quality chances throughout last year’s run, but couldn’t find the back of the net. Against Detroit, Nash recorded his 10th goal of the season. He has been a tour de force this season, finding open ice and taking advantage. Along with Nash, St. Louis has started to break out. He only has four goals on the season, but has recorded three in the last two games. With these two offensive powerhouses scoring, the Rangers’ power play and record will likely improve.
Consistency is the most important piece of the puzzle for a successful Rangers power play. Is this mini stretch the start of a turnaround for the team’s power play struggles? We shall see.