The Rangers special teams play has been under the spotlight, and dissected left and right by media and Ranger blogs across the Internet. The poor powerplay, especially last year where in the series against Boston went a miserable 4 for 44, Ranger fans were looking for change.
“Keep Del Zotto off the powerplay!” “Where is Hagelin?”
Well for one, former coach John Tortorella though that Carl Hagelin couldn’t handle the powerplay, as he likes to skate around and jump around a lot, would make silly dumb mistakes (mainly offsides). But, one of the major questions was:
“Why doesn’t the point shoot on the powerplay?” Yes, that’s what I was wondering as well, the point is where most teams succeed on the powerplay, as chances that generate from there, usually end in a goal.
I’m sure John Tortorella and his 23rd ranked powerplay didn’t help his chances at staying with the team, but one thing we have to look for with Alain Vigneault, is the defense jumping in on the play. Pinching in and creating chances. Most importantly, we’re going to see the defense, shoot the puck. Something that really, needs to be a little more emphasised as it was greatly missed from their powerplay last season.
One defenseman I want to see on the powerplay is youngster John Moore. He’s been highly regarded as someone who can skate into the zone and has the speed and stick handling ability to really change a game, all by himself. Moore has been considered a “light” version of Ryan McDonagh someone who can play strong defensively but can also skate very well. Speaking of Ryan McDonagh, I expect him to get some powerplay time. He’s talked about wanting to be more of an impact offensively, and what better way then to get some crucial powerplay time to pad your offensive stats.
Scott Arniel stated as training camp started that he looked at the powerplay, he saw a group that needed a lot of work, and expects to involve power forward Rick Nash a lot more. Arniel told Pat Leonard of the Daily News:
I just think we’re gonna try to get Nash in the best place possible, and more than likely that’s somewhere to be out in front of that net. Whether that’s in that high slot or around the front of the net area, he’s got one of the best quick releases in the game, and he’s a big man, and he knows how to protect that puck and keep it away from people.
And we can only hope that’s true. The Rangers were an offensively challenged team, and their lack of powerplay success really hurt them. If the team wants to be successful, the powerplay needs to click.
I expect the powerplay to look something like this:
Nash – Stepan – Callahan
J. Moore – M. Staal
Hagelin – Boyle – Brassard
M. Del Zotto – R. McDonagh
The Rangers will follow up their skill line with something more with size and speed. Boyle will be perfect to sit in front of the net, while Hagelin and Brassard will provide speed, and skill that needs to be successful.
Ulf Samuelsson will take charge of the teams penalty kill, one that finished in the middle of the pack last year, with an 81.1%. I don’t expect much to change, as they played really well on the penalty kill, and are expected to be a little more aggressive on the penalty kill as well.
The team is still expected to block shots, the team is still expected to be aggressive and force things to come from the sides, rather then the slot or right at the points. Yet, the Rangers will need to be a little more aggressive and attack more on the penalty kill. Get more chances at the net, and score a few if they want to be successful. Yet, I do expect the Rangers to improve on the penalty kill, and be a better look team then they did last season.
The penalty kill lines should look at little something like this:
Boyle – Callahan
McDonagh – Girardi
Powe – Pyatt
Staal – Stralman
The onus still comes on Alain Vigneault, he’s the head coach. If the special teams fail, its on him to fix it. Time will tell if we will see any big changes.