This is getting ridiculous. The New York Rangers’ power play has become completely ineffective and it is costing them points. It’s time for a change.
It’s been overlooked by the fact that the Rangers have gone 14-4-2 since Jacob Trouba called out his team in that loss to the Blackhawks on December 5. The shame is that the record would be even better if the power play was able to score.
Okay, let’s point fingers where they need to be pointed. It’s the first power play unit that has been unable to score. We’re talking about you: Artemi Panarin, Mika Zibanejad, Vincent Trocheck, Chris Kreider, and Adam Fox.
Mollie Walker in the New York Post made a solid argument for the second unit to be getting more time, citing the inordinate amount of power play time the top unit gets. Each of the players on the top unit is averaging over four minutes of power play time per game. Players on the second unit average barely a minute. We’ve seen it over and over. The first unit plays the first at 1:40 and the second unit barely gets any time. All that time for the top five and their numbers are scary.
In the 20 games since that Chicago loss, the Rangers have been awarded 60 power plays. They have scored 14 times and one of those was on a 5v3. Four of the 14 goals came from the second unit; two by Filip Chytil and one each by Jacob Trouba and Barclay Goodrow.
That means that the first power play unit has scored 10 times in 60 opportunities with the man advantage. That’s a 16.6% success rate. That would rank near the bottom of the entire NHL.
This season that fivesome has been intact in 42 games. According to Natural Stat Trick, they have had 105 high-danger scoring chances and have cashed in 12 times, an 11% success rate. Last season, the top unit (with Ryan Strome) was intact for 62 games and had 81 high-danger scoring chances, and cashed in 21 times, a 26% success rate. Something is very wrong this year. Despite generating more high-danger chances, they are simply not scoring.
But wait, there’s more. The Rangers have lost six times in regulation, overtime, or by shootout since December 5. In those six losses, the Rangers have been awarded 18 power plays and scored exactly zero goals. Four of those losses were by one goal.
- On December 20, they lost 3-2 to the Penguins. They failed on three power plays while allowing the Penguins to get one.
- On December 29, they lost 2-1 to Tampa in a shootout. They failed on three power plays and allowed the Lightning to get one.
- On January 7, they lost 4-3 to the Devils in overtime. They failed on two power plays while the Devils scored three times with the man advantage.
- On January 15, they lost 2-1 to Montreal. They failed on two power plays while allowing the Canadiens to score once.
In their 4-0 loss to Washington on December 27 they didn’t score on five power plays while the Capitals were two for three.
The last loss to Boston featured three failed power plays in a 3-1 defeat.
But wait, there’s more. The Rangers won two games in overtime and two in a shootout. They had 10 power plays in those four games and scored once. As a result, in those four games, their opponents got away with a point for losing. Three were against Western Division teams, but one was against the Devils and that point they gave to New Jersey could come back to haunt them.
No easy answer
The easy answer is to use the second unit more. Give Filip Chytil, Alexis Lafreniere, Kaapo Kakko, Jacob Trouba, and K’Andre Miller a chance to make some hay with the man advantage. Start them on the power play and see what they can do.
Okay, that is not going to happen. Gerard Gallant is not going to take a unit that was the fourth-best power play in the NHL last season and sit them down. He’s not going to take their best faceoff man off the ice when they are starting to play in the offensive zone. He’s not going to take a gifted Norris Trophy winner off the ice. He’s not going to take a player who scored the most power play goals in an NHL season in 16 years off the ice. And he’s not going to take the highest-paid winger in the NHL off the ice.
Plus, there’s no guarantee that the second unit will be an elite power play..
What to do?
Coach, mix it up
The one issue that is glaringly obvious is that last year’s lethal power play has become predictable. They get into the zone and do the same thing virtually every time. They try to set up Mika Zibanejad for a one-timer or Chris Kreider for a tip-in.
Teams know what to expect and the Rangers oblige them with perimeter passing that leads to the inevitable. It doesn’t help that Zibanejad’s one-timer has been inaccurate and Kreider’s magic around the net is missing. On a positive note, Vincent Trocheck has been an offensive improvement over Ryan Strome and he has won 57% of his power play faceoffs, compared to 44% for Zibanejad and Strome’s 46% last season.
Here’s a suggestion. Take the ten players from both units and mix them up. Create a new group with Zibanejad, Chytil, Kreider, Lafreniere, and Fox and a second unit with Panarin, Kakko, Trocheck, Trouba, and Miller.
In these two groups, there’s a fair distribution of left and right-shot players. There’s a good mix of shooters and passers in both groups. But most important, both units should get equal time with the man advantage.
There’s no lack of skill on either unit and it would be a new look that would force opposing teams to adapt.
The race for the playoffs is too close for Gerard Gallant to sit back and wait for his first power play unit to start clicking. The reliance on that group to finally start scoring is costing the Rangers valuable points that they can ill afford to lose.
Rather than bruising egos and “benching” his top offensive players, Gallant should try these new combinations. If there is one criticism of the coach, it’s that he sticks too long with his veterans and tried and true combinations. It’s not an irrational approach, but it is conservative and traditional. If there is one thing about Gerard Gallant, it’s that he is a traditionalist.
The Rangers have won only once in regulation in their last six games. In those six games, they have scored once while on 19 power plays and that goal came from Barclay Goodrow and the second unit. While we love those come-from-behind wins and those last-second heroics, it shouldn’t be necessary and it camouflages a critical flaw in the Rangers’ play.
In their next seven games, opponents include Florida, Toronto, Vegas, Calgary, Seattle, and Carolina. There’s no time to sit back and wait for the “slump” to end.
Coach, change the power play. Please.