It doesn’t take Sherlock Holmes to determine what was wrong with the New York Rangers’ power play through the first thirteen games of their season. The Rangers’ play with the man advantage could easily be described as sloppy, disorganized and tentative as the Blueshirts continued to rank among the league’s cellar dwellers in power play percentage.
On the surface, a 1-for-5 night on the power play against a last-place Washington Capitals team isn’t overwhelming evidence to prove that the Rangers have addressed their power play woes. If you could throw away the statistics and simply observe how the Rangers’ power play operated in Sunday’s 2-1 victory over the Capitals, you’ll notice a major difference as the Blueshirts’ exhibited crisp puck movement and renewed confidence.
Had Capitals’ net-minder Braden Holtby not been 100% on his game, Sunday night’s 2-1 victory by the Rangers could have been a 7-1 laugher. Capitals’ star forwards Alexander Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom didn’t put a huge mark on this game and Washington defenders did little to spare Holtby of the burden of attempting to beat the Rangers all by himself.
The Rangers executed a perfect tic-tac-toe play with the man advantage in the third period when Brad Richards slid a crisp pass to Michael Del Zotto, who then found an open Derek Stepan who buried the game-winner past Holtby.
Defenseman Dan Girardi believes if the Rangers can turn up the pressure on opposing teams like they did on Sunday night, it will be very difficult to keep the Blueshirts quiet on the power play.
“The penalty kill can’t adjust when we’re moving the puck with bang-bang plays. It’s going to be hard for any penalty kill to defend that,” Girardi said after the Rangers’ victory.
Fellow defenseman Marc Staal noticed a major difference in the Rangers’ control and poise on the power play.
“It can’t get much better than a backdoor tap-in pass. You can’t draw that up, so it was nice,” Staal said of Stepan’s goal. “I think we got a lot more looks tonight, a lot more zone time and were in control a lot more. Obviously, it’s a work in progress. We keep going at it and at the same time, it’s a step in the right direction.”
Brad Richards has come under fire after a dip in production and a highly-publicized benching by John Tortorella against the New York Islanders on Valentine’s Day. Richards’ teammates have never wavered in the confidence in what he brings to the table.
“He’s one of the smartest guys out there with the puck and knows what to do with it. None of us in here have wavered in the confidence we have in him to be a great player,” Staal stated.
If Richards can re-discover his best game, it will be a good sign going forward for the Blueshirts. The Rangers’ assistant captain is a crucial play-maker and the success of New York’s power play goes hand-in-hand with Richards’ level of performance.
Overall, the Rangers like what they’re seeing out lately from their highly-scrutinized power play.
“For the most part, our power play is getting good looks and good shots — rolling the puck up high and trying to get shots from up there and a huge power play goal won the game,” Girardi explained.
Michael Del Zotto understands the scrutiny and the press that the Rangers must live up to, particularly on the power play.
“We’ve said from day one in training camp – the talent we have, there’s no excuses why we can’t be successful on the power play,” Del Zotto stated.
One game that generated a slew of chances and a textbook tic-tac-toe power play goal is a small sample to guide by. We’ll find out on Tuesday against the Canadiens if the Rangers’ have truly turned around their most glaring weakness.
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