New York Rangers: Examining the Current Powerless Power Play
Apr 9, 2017; New York, NY, USA; New York Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh (27) looks to pass the puck during the third period against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

A power play unit can be a massive enigma, as the New York Rangers well know. Today, we break the Blueshirts man-advantage down.

Those of you who watched game three of the series realize that special teams can make or break you in a playoff game.

This is bad news for a specific team in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The New York Rangers are currently an abysmal 0-10 on the power play this series.

Power plays not only offer a higher chance of scoring a goal, but they present the team awarded the power play, a chance to gain some serious momentum. Lots of pressure and scoring chances ignite the crowd and fuel the players big time. Killing the penalty can also fuel a team. Big shot blocks or spectacular saves do the same for the crowd and can really frustrate a power play. That’s when you can feel momentum start to tilt the ice one way or the other.

At this point, the Rangers seem to be losing momentum when they should be gaining it on the power play. Whereas Montreal is relishing the opportunities and gaining momentum by killing penalties.

A couple things before we really dive into this concept. Please don’t be that guy yelling “shoooooooot.” It doesn’t help. The players know what looks they want to see before shooting or what plays they’re going to be running. Also, a power play is something that can go hot or cold in the snap of a finger. Bashing AV or his system now is not going to fix things. That said, let’s take a look at what the Rangers are doing, and what might help spark things for them moving forward.

AV and associate coach Scott Arniel utilize a 1-3-1 power play setup which has become wildly popular these last five years in the NHL. Almost every team uses this base setup nowadays.

In the clip, you will see Brady Skjei manning the point or top “1,” Derek Stepan, Jimmy Vesey and Pavel Buchenevich in the middle as your “3” and Rick Nash down low as the other “1.” Skjei is given free reign to work the entire length of the blue line while Stepan, Vesey and Buchenevich are looking for cross-ice passes and quick touch passes.

As you can see, Stepan makes a great backhanded cross-ice pass to Buch who delivers a beauty roof shot. Rick Nash has the task of working the entire goal line as well as providing screens when the shots are coming from up top.

The problem I’ve always seen with the Rangers is the lack of a bonafide shooter on either side of the “3” part of the setup.

Mika Zibanejed has offered a one-timer from the right side that is plenty hard enough. But he’s had a tough time hitting the net lately, and teams are pushing out on him to eliminate that shot. Kevin Shattenkirk would have provided a nice PP quarterback who’s shot fits the bill, but that’s for another time.

If you look at the personnel typically deployed on the wings (Zuccarello, Stepan, McDonagh) of this setup no one seems to have a great one timer. If you look at the Capitals, their power play is always towards the top of the league and that power play, of course, features a fellow by the name of Alex Ovechkin, who obviously has a monster one-timer. There is nothing the Rangers can really do now to improve that situation so, we move forward.

One aspect of the power play the Rangers have really struggled with is zone entry. This is a crucial part of the man-advantage. A successfully zone entry can save upwards to 30-40 seconds of time. The Canadiens have been stacking their defensive blue line with three penalty killers across the line, while the fourth penalty killer pushes or forces a puck carrier towards one of those players. The Rangers, who have decided to continue to try and be cute and fancy, are attempting to skate past all the congestion. Which has been wildly unsuccessful.

The Rangers, who have decided to continue to try and be cute and fancy, are attempting to skate past all the congestion which has been wildly unsuccessful.

Some on our roster seem to think they can do things like Drew Doughty, but let’s be honest, that guy is another specimen. He is truly special with the puck on his stick and no current Ranger really comes close to his skill level.

So, how do the Rangers beat this, you ask? They need to chip the puck strategically.

Right now, the Rangers are simply dumping the puck to dump the puck with no rhyme or reason as to why or where they are doing so. Carey Price is becoming more confident with the puck as the series goes on, so the Rangers need to find a way to keep the puck away from Price. If they don’t, Price is like another defender back there and can start a breakout faster than any forechecker can get there.

All in all, the Rangers need to outwork the opponent and find a way to possess the puck before anything else.

So after they’ve finally gotten possession of the puck, the power play needs to move the puck quickly. You’ll see in the next clips how fast the Rangers move the puck. No one is holding on to it for too long or skating around with it. The passes are quick, on the tape and precise. The shots are quick release one timers and well placed. Ask any goalie, a well-placed shot off a deceptive release is way more dangerous than a high-velocity shot.

What’s funny about this entire series is that stats heading into the series would tell a different story. Montreal’s power play was struggling and even struggled in game one. On the other hand, the Rangers were converting at close to 40 percent towards the end of the season, which is a ridiculous number.

As I stated before, a power play is a massive enigma. It can go hot or cold in a matter of minutes. Players need to make plays and right now the ten power play guys need to find a way to play loose and create opportunities. Forget about the media critics and forget about the thousands of fans yelling shoot. The Rangers are capable of making plays on the power play evidenced by a top 10 percentage in the entire NHL.

The personnel is there. Go out and get it done.

This series is only 2-1. The Rangers have been pushed to the brink before and come back. Have some faith, and please, don’t yell shoot.

Neal Purcell has a tremendous passion for New York Rangers hockey and the sport of hockey in general. A graduate of SUNY Cortland in Upstate NY, Purcell coaches both a high school hockey team and a travel team in the winter. Purcell is also a part of a small family business in the Central New York Region.