Rangers looking to find where new faces fit to fix power play
The power play has been the bane of the Rangers’ existence and the object of all their desires.
It has been scorching hot for brief moments this season, but it has also become quite cold at other times. The Rangers’ 22.8 power play percentage ranks 11th in the NHL, with 44 man advantage scores in 193 opportunities.
Considering how stacked their top unit in particular is, however, the Blueshirts have underperformed on power play this season.
It’s true, the expectations created not only by the staff making up the Rangers’ first power play unit, but also by the club’s fourth-place finish in the category last season, have changed the way it is evaluated affected.
The power play is supposed to be the Rangers’ X factor, their best weapon.
There have been times when it worked out big – like the two power play goals they scored last month in the rally against the Oilers en route to a 5-4 shootout win – but also more recent instances where it was more of a hindrance than an advantage.
In the past two games, the Rangers have struggled to even hold the offensive zone with the man advantage.
Alexis Lafreniere may have tipped a power play goal as it wound up in Saturday’s 4-2 loss to the Bruins, but the Rangers also conceded a short goal to Boston’s Tomas Nosek.
The recent additions of Vladimir Tarasenko and Patrick Kane to the two units have only added another challenge to the Rangers’ power play.
They are new faces to integrate into a number of groups that have skated together a lot before. It will take time to find the best arrangements and combinations in addition to developing chemistry as two units.
“It’s easy to say now that if things don’t go the way we want them to, it will take time,” said Mika Zibanejad when asked if the power game just needs time to scream. “It might as well have been different if the puck goes in and you feel good about yourself. Try to make it work.
“Obviously we will have a few practice days that we can hopefully work on. Talk between reps. The more time we spend together, the better it gets. That’s, in my head, pretty standard, if you get more time together, hopefully it gets better.
When Kane arrived, head coach Gerard Gallant and assistant coach Mike Kelly moved Zibanejad from his usual spot in the off-wing circle and put the Swedish center in the bumper role.
Kane and Artemi Panarin lined up at the circles, while Adam Fox and Chris Kreider lined up in their usual spot at the tip and net front respectively.
It’s a solid place to start, especially as teams have seemingly figured out how best to defend Zibanejad’s deadly one-timers, though it still works like a charm when executed unpredictably.
The Rangers could benefit from switching up and trying new tunings, but they’ll need practice on Tuesdays and Wednesdays over the next few days to get a feel for it.
The very early and small sample size for that group was not promising.
That probably has more to do with the Rangers skating shorthanded and throwing Kane in without any organized training.
After staying with the same formation and the same five skaters for most of the season, any change will take some time to fit together.
The Rangers have 19 games to unlock their power play for the playoffs.
It can take every game to get there. In theory, adding Kane to a unit that was sometimes unstoppable would only improve it.
Time will tell if that is the case.