Early in the season the Rangers power-play wasn’t very effective, they often times failed to generate momentum, and were failing to make teams pay for infractions. But over the past few games the special teams unit has stepped up their play and are starting to look like the diverse offensive threat that you’d expect. The Rangers have had only 88 power-play opportunities which leaves them 27th in the NHL, and it’s possible that the lack of chances has taken a toll on the team establishing a rhythm. The encouraging sign for the team is that they now seem ready take this unit that was a team weakness, and convert it into a strength, as the team currently sits sixth in the NHL in power-play percentage.
For any power play to have success they need to have a certain level of movement, to keep the defense thinking. One thing that the Rangers have been better at is moving around on the man-advantage to open up shooting lanes. The Rangers have been known as one of the better passing teams in the NHL. They have a ton of skill and often times a criticism of the club is that they get too cute, and let shooting opportunities get away to try to make the perfect pass. As important as good puck movement is, it becomes a lost cause when your just dishing around the perimeter. The Rangers seem to have noticed this inefficiency and have started moving around, and creating more havoc in the zone for their opponent.
To me an unnoticed player on this unit has been Oscar Lindberg; he’s been great for the Rangers so far this season, but has just recently started getting consistent power-play time. People who watch him always notice just how hard he works on the ice, and his determination to win pucks seems to be helping the Rangers keep possession. When he does have the puck he always seems to make a smart play which is paying off. Of the Rangers who have played over 30 minutes this season on the man advantage, Lindberg is the only one who doesn’t have a giveaway.
Above I talked about the Rangers being too cute, and the Rangers commitment to shooting is another testament to how the team has gotten away from trying over-pass every play. The Rangers philosophy on the man-advantage seems to be to get players loose high in the zone, and to have them get shots through with traffic, where in other games they always seemed like they were trying to pass their way to an empty net.
Leading the charge on the shooting front is defender Keith Yandle. The point-man leads the Rangers with power-play shots with 22 and he’s had eight others that have missed the mark. With Yandle looking to shoot more often, he’s drawn defenders too him, which has opened up the lanes for others on the ice to get open for the one-timer.
In the past few games the Rangers power-play has found was to score in big moments. They had big goals in Edmonton and Calgary to tie games late, and more recently they scored a big goal at the end of the second period at home against Edmonton to give them a lead going into the third period.
It’s so important to be able to cash in when you need it most, and it seems like the Rangers have confidence when they need a goal and have an advantage. In their last three games the Rangers have been 3/12 on the man-advantage, and all three goals have come with less than two minutes in a period.
This team seems to have discovered what they have been doing wrong, and that should encourage Ranger fans. Anyone whose ever been at a hockey game knows the famous “SHOOT IT!” that rises from the fans whenever the home team has possession. And while it sounds like the right thing, it isn’t always; certainly not if there is a defender blocking the lane. Really the puck carrier stands to give the other team a breakaway by blasting a puck into shin guards. What the Rangers are doing, is a better job of getting defenders moving and that is how they are creating chances. Their doing a better job of just taking the more accurate wrist shot when there’s nothing and are fighting for pucks like its five-on-five, and all of these small adjustments are giving the team success.