For all of the rapid development and maturity of the young, hungry New York Rangers this season – currently atop the Eastern Conference – there’s one aspect that is woefully dragging behind: the man-advantage. For years, the Blueshirts’ power play has been one area fans have clamored for to be better and simply hasn’t happened, despite changing personnel, coaches, schemes, and direction.
The Rangers won’t beat you with overwhelming skill; it’s blood, sweat, and a balls-out effort that gets the job done for them every game. However, if they have championship aspirations THIS season, an anemic power play will show them an early exit come playoff time.
The scary numbers and ways to fix the power play after the jump.
Want to know just how bad the Rangers have been with the man-advantage this season? Let NY Post and Rangers’ bet writer Larry Brooks crunch the numbers for you:
The power play has continued to act as a killer, the Rangers 1-for-23 over the last 10 games and 3-for-41 over the last 16. The Rangers have been shut out on the power play in 25 of their 43 games, getting one PPG in 14 games and two in four.
The Blueshirts currently rank 23rd overall (14.5%) on the power play, but are 29th on the road (9.5%). Part of the reason the Rangers’ power play struggles is lack of shots. Consider this: the Rangers have taken 180 shots on their power play opportunities so far. Only Dallas and Phoenix have taken less shots and, consequently, have lower conversion rates: 13.6% and 13.2%, respectively. Bottom line: you need to shoot more and more shots need to be on net (I’m looking at you Del Zotto).
It’s easy to say to get more shots but it’s truthfully the way to turn your power play woes around. The opposition knows exactly what to do against the Rangers: apply pressure quickly and force them to pass around the perimeter thus making it easier to defend. Far too many times New York stands around, looking for the perfect play, rather than passing the puck around to get the defenders moving, getting screens on the goalie (Mike Rupp & Brian Boyle are nice options), and firing shots on net. If the penalty killers are convinced you’ll elect not to shoot, their job becomes much easier. It’s power play strategies 101 and if you don’t believe me, ask The Hockey Suit. It doesn’t help the Rangers don’t have a classic power play “quarterback” to distribute the puck, either.
Brad Richards was brought in to, among other things, elevate the quality of the power play with his vision and exceptional passing ability. Unfortunately, his streakiness this year has coincided with the man-advantage; when Richards has been on, so has the power play. Some semblance of consistency is needed from him in order to change the fortunes of the team’s power play. At the trade deadline, GM Glen Sather should look at players to bring in to help assuming they’re still struggling.
Having a consistent power play can give an edge in tightly-contested games and, as John Tortorella likes to say, gives the opportunity to grab the momentum of the game back on your side. The Rangers have completed half a season admirably without a true man-advantage threat. However, it won’t stay that way for the rest of the season or the playoffs.