Rangers’ Emphasis on Discipline Is Paying Off

Over the seasons, a couple of nagging characteristics come to mind when it comes to the New York Rangers. In particular, frequent visits to the penalty box. Now, there is a difference between a smart penalty, a bad call from the on-ice officials, and an undisciplined penalty. The Rangers had a habit of falling into the latter category, but not only have they avoided trips to the bin lately, but the skaters also capitalize on their penalty draws.

Related: Rangers Daily Download – Recap, Stats, Injuries & News

In the last three games since the All-Star break, the Rangers headed to the box only eight times in those past nine periods. Once against the Ottawa Senators most recently, four times during their meeting with the Detroit Red Wings, and three when they hosted the Boston Bruins. Since coming back from the break, the team seems significantly more tactical about taking penalties.

Artemi Panarin New York Rangers
Artemi Panarin, New York Rangers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The Rangers also have an extremely solid netminder most nights. With Igor Shesterkin owning the best save record in the league at a .939 save percentage, this means the team really should not be taking frivolous penalties, especially if they can trust their goaltender — as it is much harder on him to stave off shots from opponents on the penalty kill.

Rangers on the Power Play

In addition to taking fewer penalties, the Rangers were not drawing as many as of late, despite having one of the best power plays in the league again this season. Star forward, Artemi Panarin, netted the team’s most recent power-play goal to win the close 2-1 game. This instance is just one isolated example of how cashing in on the advantage can make or break their standing in the league.

Coach Gerard Gallant spoke on the limited power-play chances against the Senators. “It was huge. I think we had two power plays total tonight. They buried the first one on a great shot by [Panarin] and then the second one, we had two or three really good chances. We have some skill on our power play and it’s been going real good this year so far and we have to keep it going.”

The Rangers currently sit third in overall power-play percentage (PP%) at 26.6 percent — just .3 percent behind the St. Louis Blues. Collectively, the team netted 38 power-play goals, which ranks them fourth-best in the league, again, only short one to the Blues. The numbers definitely support their success on the extra attacker advantage.

Not only is the group enjoying collective success, but Chris Kreider found individual prosperity on the power play. He is in the midst of a career season with 17 power-play goals, a number that also leads all skaters in the league. Though Kreider has yet to score on the opportunity since returning from break, other teams must be aware of his potency and avoid taking careless mistakes, too.

Chris Kreider New York Rangers
Chris Kreider, New York Rangers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Indeed, the Blueshirts are productive on the advantage, but the team will need to incorporate more even-strength and depth scoring to have a sustainable run at the Stanley Cup. They have a month to look into options in terms of adding some depth to the lines, which the organization should definitely do. In addition to other tweaks, the team also recently addressed the mental aspects of their game.

The Young Rangers and Their Mental Game

In more than a few ways, the Rangers look like a bit of an altered version of itself compared to before the break. Working on the mental areas of their game was a topic addressed recently by the coaching staff and the players. With such a young team, it never hurts to perform a check in and see how players are adjusting to the pace of the NHL and what areas may be overlooked.

Indeed the new incoming class of young players made a splash once again this season, with one highlight being defenseman Braden Schneider’s first NHL goal in his debut game on the road. To build on that, Schneider was an excellent partner for Zac Jones, who had been up and down between the NHL and American Hockey League (AHL) for the team this season. Jones has since been sent down to the AHL affiliate team again, but the coaching staff should feel comfortable reverting to that defense pair if needed.

As previously mentioned, one other common theme over the past several seasons is the slow starts. Gallant approached concerns regarding this matter during practice on Feb. 19, “It’s just doing things the right way. It’s mentally getting prepared for those games. For whatever reason, recently — couple games before the break, couple games after — we just have to get off to better starts. I think it’s all mental. Get yourself prepared and do your workouts and focus on your first shift, and things will take care of itself” (from ‘Rangers hope to end streak of poor first-periods,’ New York Post, 2/20/22). 

Maintaining discipline when it comes to their mental game, not only when it comes to penalty-taking, translates into their performance as a whole. The team is aware of the weak links they must work on, and it seems that limiting the extra advantage for opponents is something already implemented accordingly since addressing it recently.

Naturally, the carelessness and slow starts can go hand in hand. The team is not exactly making things easier on themselves entirely, having to overcome some weaknesses and numerous goal deficits, but they continue to pull out wins regardless.

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