The New York Rangers power play has been league average at best, but something happened in 2017-18 that took them to the next level.
The 2017-18 season for the New York Rangers was not successful by any means. But one thing stood out thisyear, their dominance on the power play.
A team’s power play can make or break a season. Looking at some of the teams remaining in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, all have lethal power plays. The Washington Capitals had the seventh best power play this year. The third best belonged to the Tampa Bay Lightning, fifth best to the Winnipeg Jets and the Vegas Golden Knights finished at 11th. A good power play usually means success for teams.
For the better part of the last few years under Alain Vigneault, the Rangers have always had a power play unit that was at best league average.
Just look at the numbers:
|Season||Power Play Percentage||NHL Rank|
As you can see, the Rangers power play has been right in the middle of the pack when it comes to power play percentage. The one low year ironically came in the best season of the Alain Vigneault era.
Despite finishing outside of the top 10 this season, the Rangers actually spent the most part of the year in the top 10. Them going on the man advantage was one area of their game where fans actually felt confident in the team’s ability to get the puck in the back of the net.
Two factors played a key role in the Rangers becoming more of a threat with the extra skater: consistency and structure, and more skill.
Consistency and Structure
Any person will tell you that in life and in sports, consistency is something that is very important.
Under Vigneault, the Rangers have never known what it’s felt to have a consistent lineup out on the ice. It has been well documented that Vigneault was a coach who liked to mix and match lines when things were not going well. But for some reason, Vigneault never really seemed to mix and match with his power play units.
For the better part of 2017-18, the Rangers power play units consisted of the same ten players. At the end of the season, the first unit saw Mika Zibanejad, Chris Kreider, Pavel Buchnevich, Vladislav Namestnikov, and Neal Pionk. The second unit saw minutes from Jimmy Vesey, Ryan Spooner, Kevin Hayes, Mats Zuccarello, and Brady Skjei. Those groups were a result of midseason trades, but the likes of Zuccarello, Zibanejad, Kreider, Buchnevich, and Hayes saw minutes on the man advantage for the majority of the season.
That consistent time allowed the team to succeed which really was no surprise. It was the only constant in their game. They were allowed to stay together for most of the year and it allowed them to develop actual chemistry. Perhaps if Vigneault did the same with his lines at even strength, the Rangers would have had a better fate last year.
The Rangers have always prided themselves on being a team with speed and skill. This year that skill was enhanced though.
How a team enhances their skill can happen in many ways. They added the likes of Kevin Shattenkirk and Tony DeAngelo who have an offensive side to their game on the blue line. One that they have quite frankly haven’t had in a while. That helped at the start, but injuries to both Shattenkirk and DeAngelo ended their seasons.
Younger players taking their game to another level and improving is another way for a team to enhance their skill. The Rangers had so many young players do just that in 2017-18.
Mika Zibanejad scored a career-high 27, including a career-high 14 power play goals and 21 power play points. Kevin Hayes’ skill was apparent with the man advantage with his eight points. While 17 of Pavel Buchnevich’s 43 points came with him playing on the man advantage.
The Rangers power play can only get better in 2018-19 as Zibanejad, Hayes, Buchnevich, and others still have another level that they can take their game to. That level can only mean more success, and a lot more “it’s a power play goal” calls from the great Sam Rosen.