The New York Rangers are supposed to be one of the better offensive teams in the league, and so far they are off to a good start at (6-2-2), but they haven’t been getting the explosive scoring that was expected from players like Rick Nash and Chris Kreider. The Rangers are finding ways to win by playing sound defense, backed by stellar goaltending, and balanced scoring; but for this team to reach the next level they will need their primary scorers to be just that.
The Rangers power-play has been underwhelming through 10 games this season, and is currently ranked 21st in the NHL. A big part of that units success will be based on how power-forwards like Nash and Kreider perform. At this point Nash averages 2:04 of power-play ice-time per game, but he only has one assist on the man advantage to show for it. Kreider averages 1:44 on the unit per game, but also only has one assist. Now I’m not going to dump the power-plays struggles at the feet of the two wingers, because the reality is that a good power-play needs all five players to be on the same page. That being said the big wingers have to do a better job of creating some havoc in front of the net, and also find ways to get more shots on goal. Players with these assets should be a nightmare to stop when there’s time and space, but to this point they look a bit to measured when deployed on the unit.
Down on Their Luck
Rick Nash is a career 12.4% shooter, but this season he’s shooting just 3.1% and that one goal came when he was hooked with a breakaway on an empty net. Nash hasn’t been bad, he has 32 shots through 10 games, but right now the puck isn’t finding a way in. Kreider is in a similar situation, as he has put 26 shots on goal, but is only shooting 3.8% with one tally on the year. The good news is that he’s a career 11.4% shooter so things should balance out.
The two wingers are noticeable on the ice most games, but at this point it just seems like the puck is finding ways to stay out of the net on their opportunities. We always hear players talk about worrying when there aren’t any chances, and that isn’t the case, so at some point expect the puck to start finding a way into the net.
Changing The Lines
One of the most common methods that coaches use to spark players is by deploying them on a different line. Sometimes a change in personnel just allows the player a different look at the game and gives them a breath of fresh air, luckily for the Rangers almost everyone in their lineup can play and keep up with Nash and Kreider, so it wouldn’t be like chaining one of them to a grinder with poor puck skills.
Personally I would like to see Kevin Hayes deployed between the two forwards. Hayes has terrific vision and is a pure passer that has a great ability to draw defenders to him. Maybe putting him between these grizzly forwards would open up some ice and break them from this slump. Having a full line of power forwards could overwhelm the defense and give the Rangers offense a modified look. Hayes has some experience playing with Kreider so the line would have some established chemistry.
These two forwards have a ton of skill, and they are both creating chances on a daily basis; it simply comes down to the fact that the puck isn’t going in right now. I’ve been impressed watching Nash this season, it seems like he has a bit more bite to his game, and even though it’s the beginning of the year we still see him back-checking and taking the puck hard to the net which is great in terms of leading by example. Kreider still seems plagued by the same issues to me, which is that he’s either ferocious using his size and speed, or seemingly non-existent. The good news is that he seems to be pulling it together lately as he has three of his five points in the last four games.
The good thing for the Rangers is that they have been successful without much production from their top two power forwards, and that has more to do with bad luck than bad play, so when these guys do start filling up the net, it will make the Rangers that much harder to beat.