No power-play, you say? With a 0-6 on the power-play entering the third period against the visiting Chicago Blackhawks last night, it would be easy to dismiss the Rangers as a dynamic playoff team. Hey, it’s just one game, but a diminished demonstration of a team who has beaten the odds, only fuels the fire. Fans clambering for improvement on the power-play, and a hot topic for the New York media, the Blueshirts have it squarely on their heads and on their mind.
The New York Rangers have heard the entire buzz around the plight of the least effective aspect of their game. Ryan Callahan, Marian Gaborik and Michael Del Zotto have all scored on the advantage to relieve some of the pressure in the last week. But a loss to the struggling Chicago Blackhawks, brought out the weaker side of the leading team in the Eastern Conference. Across from Madison Square Garden, cheers and jeers flow from the pubs as the Rangers rally, but fail to defeat their own worst enemy.
The Ranger’s power-play has taken on its own identity, and showing signs of confidence. In its own Twitter feed @nyrpowerplay, the feed is feeling fine these days with the Blueshirts boosting in the standings as he tweets, “Might want to start blocking out first two weeks in June.” New York now leads the second-place Bruins by seven points in the East and is one point behind Detroit in the overall NHL standings. Every game the Rangers lose is a letdown to all they have achieved in improving this facet of their game.
Captain Callahan has produced an onslaught of power-play goals, including this week in Boston, with his 6th goal in his last four games, his 23rd of the season, tying the career high he set last season. The Rangers are 23-0-3 when Callahan scores a goal. A scoring machine, Callahan has addressed the weaknesses in the Rangers and taken steps to conquer the cause one goal at a time, or multiple in his case. Unfortunately, Callahan had a four-game goal streak broken by the Blackhawks.
In an interview with forward Brandon Prust, he referred to Cally’s work ethic and leadership as a major contributor to the team’s resurgence on the power-play. Coach Tortorella and other players have mentioned this reign of Callahan’s as blue collar, level-headed and definitely hard-working. But if you look at good leaders, they not only bring a message and a plan, they remove obstacles. Somehow, this upstate New Yorker, with wisdom beyond his years has ignited a call to his army on Broadway to fix the gap and reign supreme.
The complex formula that is the power-play unit instituted by John Tortorella stepped up this week and that mix has proven its worth. The power play unit with Del Zotto and Brad Richards at the points and Derek Stepan, Gaborik and Callahan at the forward spots has closed down their Eastern conference rivals the Flyers and the Bruins. New York is now 5-13 (38.5%) with the man advantage in the last four games. The Rangers improved to 19-1-2 when tallying a power play goal. Still, the Rangers have the sixth-worst PP in the league at 14.8, but it’s a small improvement from a few weeks ago.
“It inspires me and all of us that we’re having success,” Lundqvist said. “But it doesn’t change the fact that we’re going to put a lot of pressure on ourselves to keep winning.”
A revitalized power play and the MVP quality of Henrik Lundqvist, the league’s best goaltender, should relieve fans that the Rangers can focus on winning games and holding onto the lead entering the playoffs. Even @nyrpowerplay leaves the game to Cally, Gabby and Hank.
Heidi has been a Rangers fan since the Gretzky years. While focusing on The Blue Line and hockey’s stalwart defenders, Heidi also connects with the human side of hockey. Follow her on Twitter, Facebook, or at her blog Don’t Cross My Blue Line.