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The mess that is special teams

The Ralph Wiggum Powerplay.

The Ralph Wiggum Powerplay.

In case you’ve missed it, and I”m sure you haven’t, the Rangers special teams have been abysmal to start the season. The Rangers are currently at a league-worst 8.6% conversion rate on the powerplay, which is pretty pathetic when you look at the personnel they deploy. The Blueshirts are also in the bottom half of the league with a 78% success rate on the penalty kill, which is good for 17th in the league.

Addressing the PK first, which is the easier of the two to address, the Rangers are victims of two things here: A slow start from Henrik Lundqvist, and a rotating bottom six that saw two major penalty killers depart for greener (literally) pastures. It’s no coincidence that the PK suffers while Hank is off to a slow start. Your best penalty killer is your goalie, and when he struggles, the PK struggles.

As for the roster turnover, this was somewhat expected, but not to this extent. Carl Hagelin and Rick Nash –who were both solid penalty killers with their previous teams– were supposed to take over when Brandon Prust and Ruslan Fedotenko left. Hagelin has had a slow start to the year, and Nash is still adjusting to Torts’ system. It also didn’t help that Jeff Halpern couldn’t win a face off in January.

That problem may have been rectified by dealing dead-weight (on the ice) Mike Rupp for Darroll Powe, who is a lot like Brandon Prust in terms of style of play. It will also alleviate itself once Hank returns to form. The PK may be an issue, but it’s an issue that will dissipate over time. The real issue is the powerplay.

When the Rangers deploy Nash, Brad Richards, Marian Gaborik, Michael Del Zotto, Ryan Callahan, Derek Stepan, and Carl Hagelin on the powerplay (along with others), then they are expected to take advantage with the man advantage. They have not, and it’s becoming a disturbing trend. Each year the powerplay seems to get worse, despite adding one superstar forward per year.

The powerplay is going to be critical to the success of the Rangers this year, especially in a shortened season. We all see what the issues are: No quality shots, no player movement, no one going to the net, etc. That said, the Rangers have at least had good puck movement, which is the only real silver lining here.

It’s no secret that I’m not exactly the biggest fan of Mike Sullivan, who runs the powerplay. When something doesn’t work for three straight years, and the only consistent factor is the coach, then something has to give. It doesn’t help that his star players –Gaborik, Nash, Richards– are doing diddly on the powerplay, but they shouldn’t be getting to a point where Brian Boyle is on the first unit.

Unlike the penalty kill, this issue with the powerplay will not resolve itself with time. It may be time for a new PP strategy, as the umbrella just doesn’t seem to be working anymore. But the Rangers aren’t skilled enough for a 1-3-1, and only one unit can really run an overload with success. A spread won’t be used unless the Rangers can get Taylor Pyatt and Ryan Callahan in front of the net, so we are left with the umbrella.

Since a new strategy won’t work, and the players/coaches aren’t going anywhere, it’s up to both of them to figure it out. More movement, more shots, and less excuses. There is absolutely no reason why the Columbus Blue Jackets have a better powerplay than the Rangers.

18 Responses to “The mess that is special teams”

  1. Chris F says:

    The PP remains stationary, with predictable passing and then hesitancy to shoot. The D can see where the puck is going and slide over into shooting lanes.

    We need more quick bang-bang passing and one-timers, both from the slot and the point. Everyone needs to be moving more to draw the defenders out of their positions and tire them out. It’s such a simple strategy, yet game after game, the players fail to execute. It’s mind-blowing.

    • VinceR says:

      I agree with the bang-bang…too often I see a play with the puck before the shot and by the time the shot gets ripped (or wisely, doesn’t) the shooting lane is gone. They need to get rid of the puck quicker.

      With that said, without dissecting replays, I do notice there are a decent number of times the potential shooter receives the puck on the backhand and is not close enough to take an effective shot in that position, not sure what that is a result of (positioning, bad passing, or personnel?)or if it’s fixable, just only noticing it.

  2. VinceR says:

    Your example is still figuratively greener pastures, not literally. Sorry, I couldn’t let that one go.

  3. VinceR says:

    I’m also wondering if Suit will chime in and mention his series of tweets the other night re: PP QB. Of course that would open up a huge can of worms around here…

    • The Suit says:

      Yes, the Rangers PP won’t ever be better than average until MDZ becomes an elite PP QB or until we trade for one.

      Everyone has to decide for themselves whether they have the patience for that sort of thing or are willing to part with kids for a veteran.

      At the end of the day, everything on this power play runs through the point man. So if your point man can’t get shots through quickly, or pull a PK apart, then it isn’t going to be very good.

      IMO – changing coaches won’t do anything. Its not like the team isnt practicing or Sully’s not telling the players the same thing we talk about and much, much more.

  4. BobM says:

    The Rangers Power Play has been a joke since the famous “Shoot the Puck Barry” challenge made by Bill Chadwick how many years ago?

    What the Rangers do not seem to understand is that if their team has an effective powerplay, the other team will think twice about taking certain liberties with them, whether that be fighting, elbowing, interfering or hooking, because of the mindset of the offending player that his act may have severe consequences and cost giving up a goal on the penalty kill for his team.

    I look at having a strong powerplay as an insurance policy.

    What I witness on the powerplay is a whole lot of standing around. There are 29 other teams who have developed plays, why not learn from what they do.

    It is said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

    bob

  5. rocketroy says:

    WHO’S IN CHARGE SYNDROME…..Glen has to get involved and tell Torts that with our players we can throw out on PP we cannot possibly be @ 8.6%, but guess what…The Numbers Do Not Lie…Neither you or Sully have the answer to the problem, so lets decide who we bring in as ST coach for the PP and Pk IMMEDIATELY!!!!!!!

  6. rickyrants13 says:

    I dissagree here I think if the Rangers dont fix this problem The coaches will be going somewhere. Torts is too smart for this. A monkey can get players to do the simple things. And the fact that Torts cant bothers me.

    Everyteam goes into PP funks. And the word on it is. When things are tough KEEP IT SIMPLE.

    A basic powerplay needs to be used. Gain the Zone pass the puck back to the point, Get in front of the net AND SHOOT SHOOT SHOOT…

    As for the PK I think this will work itself out in time. I do not think time will fix the PP…

  7. Randy says:

    It is never a good thing when your powerplay starts to work AGAINST you. It has actually gotten to the point where the Rangers go on the PP and all it does is swing the momentum towards the other team’s penalty killers. The Devils PK had equal if not more quality scoring chances shorthanded the other night than the Rangers did all on the PP. However, all of that changes if guys bury their chances. Stepan and Staal both had as good of a chance as you can ask for that game, and neither found the back of the net.

    The PP needs to change and fast. There is absolutely no reason that a team with Nash, Gaborik, and Richards should not be able to get in the zone, set the PP up, move the puck around, and get quality chances. No reason at all. The problems are obvious…they need cleaner entry into the zone, more hustle to win the puck when they dump it in, and more motion when they have the puck. Then goals will start coming in bunches.

    • rickyrants13 says:

      You are right Randy. They dont allways have to score on the PP to get something out of it. But the other night it worked against them

  8. Leatherneckinlv says:

    Problem is winning face offs on the powerplay and a mobile defenseman to carry the puck in on the powerplay. The modes of entry have mainly been dumping the puck, against a goalie who can handle the puck..it usually means chasing the puck back in our own zone. My opinion is Stralman is our best point man on the powerplay as a defenseman.

  9. rickyrants13 says:

    O by the way TONITES game is an early season MUST win. In fact the Rangers must win two of the next three. And tonite must be one of them

  10. Gary says:

    Callys in and boyles out for tonight’s gaem

  11. Walt says:

    Todays discussion about the PP is like kicking a dead horse. How many years have we talked about it, and the results being the same. Keep it simple, shot, shot, shot, crash the net, crash the net, crash the net!!!!!

    A request to Slats, please have a talk with Torts, and Sullivan, and explain that they had better get their acts in order, or the door will hit them in the ass on their way out!

    Why not consider someone that may have been a proven PP coach, and hire him on the spot? How simple was that? Then just do it!!!!!

  12. Tim B says:

    They need to change something on the PP. I really don’t care if it’s umbrella or a box. Torts should be in charge. Mike Sullivan is good for nothing. Maybe he should take over the PK and screw that up too. They should bring in tom Renney as an assistant coach if he is unemployed which i believe he is working with the Red Wings. What did Sullivan do in Tampa? What he should be in charge of is skating, and creating plays.

  13. Ray says:

    One of the best PP players last year was Zuccarello. Not to say he should have been brought back, but i do criticize the mindset. Tortorella will never give his fourth line much ES time anyway – he wants his best guys on the ice – so why worry so much about how good those guys are at even strength. Put good PP and PK specialists on the fourth line.

  14. Mikeyyy says:

    A few more games like we have been having and we will get our wish.

    I seriously think Torts has lost the team here.

    No long training camp to indoctrinate, he can’t trust his players on the ice, and they simply are not responding to him like in the past.

    The definition of stupidity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.