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Continued power-play woes weighing on Rangers

Jun 10, 2014, 11:02 AM EDT

Brad Richards AP

The New York Rangers had six power-play opportunities on Monday and failed to capitalize on any of them, bringing them down to just 1-for-14 with the man advantage in the Stanley Cup Final. Given how close Games 1 and 2 were, it doesn’t feel like a stretch to suggest that this could be a very different series if the Rangers were doing just a bit of a better job in that regard.

“We had a lot of power play opportunities but we didn’t give ourselves a chance on rims, stopping and battling for pucks,” Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh said after Monday’s 3-0 loss to Los Angeles. “They cleared a lot. It’s the third or the fourth shot that we say are going to be goals and we didn’t give ourselves enough of those opportunities.”

The Kings certainly deserve some credit for shutting down the Rangers’ power play, but at the same time what they’re doing isn’t unique. The Rangers only have a 12.6% power-play success rate in the postseason after being a middle-of-the-road team in that regard during the regular season.

New York has leaned heavily on Brad Richards, giving him an average of 4:39 power-play minutes per game in the playoffs, including 8:47 minutes last night. However, Richards has just four power-play points in 23 postseason contests, which ties him for fourth on the Rangers and would put him behind six players if he was a member of the Los Angeles Kings.

The Rangers need more out of Richards, but he’s certainly not the only one they need to step up. Even if they’ve held their own or even outplayed the Kings at times during this series, now that they’re down 3-0, it would take a tremendous effort on their parts to overcome this deficit. Any mistake or missed opportunity could be fatal for them now.

  1. stakex - Jun 10, 2014 at 11:24 AM

    The Rangers deserver almost all the credit for their awful power play. They were 24th in the regular season with an abysmal 15.2% on the power play… and long stretches without power play goals have killed them in the playoffs. We’ve seen that it is possible to win in the playoffs without an effective power play (they did make it to the finals after all) but that’s not a good way to go about it.

    I also don’t know why Richards continues to see so much time on the power play. His puck moving ability just isn’t there anymore… and he makes far more bad choices than he does good ones. I’d rather see the Rangers throw Nash or someone else on the point instead, if for no other reason than to chance things up.

    What’s funny is that the perception all season was that the Rangers power play was so much better this year under AV. Yet, this year was actually the worst scoring percentage for their power play in a long time. Far from getting better, it actually got worse… and that falloff has continued into the playoffs. I think that proves it wasn’t Torts that was responsible for the poor power play, but rather the players. The Rangers lack the puck moving talent and good decision making needed for an effective power play. They can start the process of fixing that when they buy Richards out.

    • hockeydon10 - Jun 10, 2014 at 11:34 AM

      Good post. As much criticism as Lundquist has been getting, he may not be the top reason they’re in such a deep hole. He could certainly be better, but watching last night it seemed the rest of the team had no answer for the Kings either.

      • 19to77 - Jun 10, 2014 at 2:02 PM

        God yes. Every time Richards touched the puck at even strength it seemed like he turned it over. He’s been a disaster in the last two games. Take him off the power play and cut his ice time in general, put Nash on it just to see what happens (can’t get any worse, right?) and make up for that by cutting Nash’s even-strength minutes in favour of someone who might actually score. Zuccarello? Hagelin? They’ve had the best chances so far this series and the Rangers in general have been at their most effective when they exploit their speed instead of the futile dump-and-chase tactics they tried last night.

        Problem is, AV’s not a guy who’s prone to shuffling lines. He keeps people together whether they’re playing effectively or not. Hence the same power play unit keeps on choking and still gets all the ice time. Hell, even the commentators were on him about it last night, talking about insanity being defined as doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting different results.

    • Eutaw's Finest - Jun 10, 2014 at 11:36 AM

      “They were 24th in the regular season with an abysmal 15.2% on the power play… ”

      Wrong. They were 15th @ 18.2%.

      http://espn.go.com/nhl/statistics/team/_/stat/special-teams/sort/powerPlayPct/seasontype/2

      Not that it’s much better, but 24th to 15th is a big jump.

      • phtjoey - Jun 10, 2014 at 12:05 PM

        LA were 27th at 15.1% during the regular season.

    • Eutaw's Finest - Jun 10, 2014 at 11:39 AM

      “Yet, this year was actually the worst scoring percentage for their power play in a long time. Far from getting better, it actually got worse… ”

      Wrong again. Last 2 years under Torts the Rangers finished the regular season 23rd in PP %, both seasons ending with a 15.7% clip. So I can agree that they aren’t MUCH better at all, but they did actually show some improvement.

    • 950003cups - Jun 10, 2014 at 2:50 PM

      The reason for the rangers bad play is simple. PUCK POSSESSION

      1 = LA
      2 = CHI
      3 = NJ
      4 = BOS
      5 = SJ
      6 = STL
      7 = RANGERS
      8 = OTT
      9 = DET
      10 = VAN

      They were in the top 10 in the league. But the TOP was LA. The CF% rating, is an advanced stat that means very little to many, but it shows some truth. Pittsburgh, Philly, or MTL are not not even in the top half of the league.

      See, the reason those stats are flawed are because it does not get you in to the postseason. But those who did make it, held strong. Boston getting beaten by Montreal was mainly rivalry anger. Just like when Philly ousted the Pens and NJ ousted the rangers in 2012. Rivalry games are always a toss up.

  2. rsl22 - Jun 10, 2014 at 11:34 AM

    The Rangers PP was awful in the 2013 playoffs as well, going along at just 9.1%.

    The penalty kill is over 10% better than last year though, which is probably why they’re in the Cup Finals. Unfortunately, killing penalties may save some games, but not scoring on the PP is going to eventually catch up to you. (See 0 PPG scored by Pens over final 3 games.)

  3. rsl22 - Jun 10, 2014 at 12:08 PM

    The statistic that is really telling though is not PP% or SH%, but 5-on-5 goals for/against ratio. Below are the last four leaders in 5-on-5 in the playoffs:

    2014: Kings – 1.28 – leading Cup finals 3-0
    2013: Hawks – 1.39 – won Cup (their 5-on-5 numbers tied Boston, who lost in Cup finals)
    2012: Kings – 1.52 – won Cup (NJ was second, lost in Cup finals)
    2011: Bruins – 1.82 – won Cup

    So while a PP can help, if you want to win the Cup, all you have to do is be the best team at 5-on-5.

    (At the same, you still have to score every now and then on the PP, as the Caps had a very respectable 1.31 5-on-5 F/A ratio in 2010, but only scored once in 30 powerplays against the Habs. Friggan Halak.)

    • Eutaw's Finest - Jun 10, 2014 at 12:31 PM

      “So while a PP can help, if you want to win the Cup, all you have to do is be the best team at 5-on-5.”

      As a Caps fan, I can agree to this painful truth. 23rd @ 0.90 in 13-14. OUCH.

      On a side note, I’m seeing the Kings as 3rd in this category, behind Boston (1.53) and Anaheim (1.39)?

      • rsl22 - Jun 10, 2014 at 12:36 PM

        That was regular season, I was referring to playoffs:

        http://www.nhl.com/ice/teamstats.htm?fetchKey=20143ALLSAAALL&sort=goals5On5ForAgainstRatio&viewName=summary

      • Eutaw's Finest - Jun 10, 2014 at 12:44 PM

        Ah. Makes sense, considering you wrote “in the playoffs” in your original post.

      • rsl22 - Jun 10, 2014 at 12:49 PM

        The Pens and Caps had nearly identical PP% and SH% in the regular season, but the Pens with a (only average) 1.05 5-on-5 F/A were the second best team in the East, while the Caps with a .90 5-on-5 F/A ratio missed the playoffs.

        Even just being average would have gotten the Caps in the playoffs. Only Phoenix missed the playoffs with a non-negative ratio, and they were at 1.00 and finished 9th in a much tougher West conference, so you can see how close it was for them.

        Had the Caps just worked on their 5-on-5 game instead of having Oates put so much attention to the PP, it may have been a different story.

  4. billiam55 - Jun 10, 2014 at 1:30 PM

    TAKE RICHARDS OFF.

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