The power play has been the bane of the Rangers’ existence and the object of all its desires.
It’s been scalding hot at brief times this season, but it has also gone quite cold at other times. The Rangers’ 22.8 power-play percentage is ranked 11th in the NHL, having scored 44 man-advantage tallies in 193 opportunities.
Considering just how stacked their top unit in particular is, however, the Blueshirts have underachieved on the power play this season.
It’s true, the expectations that have followed not just the personnel that comprises the Rangers’ first power-play unit, but also the club’s fourth-place finish in the category last season, have influenced the way it has been evaluated.
The power play is supposed to be the Rangers’ X factor, their top weapon.
There have been times when it has come up big — such as the two power-play goals they scored in the rally against the Oilers en route to a 5-4 shootout win last month — but also instances more recently where it’s been more of a hindrance than an advantage.
In the past two games, the Rangers have struggled to even hold the offensive zone with the man-advantage.
Alexis Lafreniere may have tipped in a power-play goal as it expired in the 4-2 loss to the Bruins on Saturday, but the Rangers also gave up a shorthanded goal to Boston’s Tomas Nosek.
The recent additions of Vladimir Tarasenko and Patrick Kane to the two units have only created another challenge for the Rangers’ power play.
They are new faces to integrate into a couple of groups that have previously skated a lot together. It is going to take time to figure out the best arrangements and combinations, in addition to developing chemistry as two units.
“It’s easy now to say, when things haven’t gone our way, to say it takes time,” Mika Zibanejad said when asked if the power play just needs time to jell. “It could’ve easily been the other way if the puck goes in and you feel good about yourself. Try to make it work.
“Obviously, we’re going to have a couple of practice days where we get to work on it, hopefully. Talk in between reps. The more time we spend out there together, it’s obviously going to get better. That’s, in my head, pretty standard when you get more time together that’s going to be hopefully better.”
When Kane arrived, head coach Gerard Gallant and associate coach Mike Kelly moved Zibanejad out of his usual spot in the off-wing circle and put the Swedish center in the bumper role.
Kane and Artemi Panarin lined up at the circles, while Adam Fox and Chris Kreider were in their usual spots at the point and the net-front, respectively.
It’s a solid place to start, especially since teams have seemingly figured out how to best defend Zibanejad’s lethal one-timers, though it still works like a charm when executed unpredictably.
The Rangers could benefit from switching it up and trying new alignments, but they’ll need the next couple days of practice on Tuesday and Wednesday to get a feel for it.
The very early and small sample size for that group hasn’t been promising.
That probably has more to do with the Rangers skating shorthanded and throwing Kane in without any organized practice.
After sticking with the same formation and the same five skaters for a majority of the season, however, any alteration is going to take some time to mesh.
The Rangers have 19 games to unlock their power play before the playoffs.
It might take every single game to get there. In theory, adding Kane to a unit that has been unstoppable at times should only enhance it.
Time will tell if that’s the case.
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