As some of you may have noticed, the Rangers were awful on the power play again in 2013.
One of the simple fixes suggested by many has been to bring in a guy with a cannon point shot. That’d be a nice luxury to have, but the truth is that there are very few players in the league as effective at Zdeno Chara at
breaking Ryan Callahan’s limbs calmly holding the blueline in the offensive zone while intermittently directing 100+ mph slappers through traffic at enemy goalies. New York has no one capable of doing that – in fact Dan Girardi probably has the hardest shot on the team, which is likely the sole reason John Tortorella has stubbornly deployed him on the man advantage in recent years – but few teams do.
Give me a puck mover like Boston has apparently found in Torey Krug over that point blast any day. Krug may have just enjoyed the best five-game stretch of his career, but he also single-handedly transformed one of the few power plays in the league worse than the Rangers into a high octane unit that converted 33% of its chances against the world’s best goalie. The Bruins already had Chara’s legendary rocket, but it was Krug’s heat-seeking shot, speed, decisiveness and poise with the puck that gave the Bruins a new dimension.
And the real plus of having a guy like Krug over that big bomb shooter? Krug was as important to Boston at even strength as he was on the PP. He wasn’t anything special defensively, but Krug completely changed the tempo of the Bruins attack, something New York was ill prepared for and unable to handle.
Michael Del Zotto was supposed to be that guy for New York. As it stands, he’s still the team’s most offensive-minded defenseman, but MDZ’s truly dangerous rushes into the offensive zone come once every week or two, not once every other shift like Krug. Del Zotto also hasn’t yet mastered directing traffic on the point during the PP. That may still come, but as of now Tortorella has learned that Ryan McDonagh and John Moore are near-equal matches to Del Zotto in the offensive zone.
Just because the Bruins struck gold with Krug as an undrafted free agent doesn’t mean these types of players grow on trees. There are a handful of guys like this in the NHL, the same as the aforementioned cannon point shots. Once they’re unearthed, teams quickly recognize their value and lock them up long-term (see Karlsson, Erik). Premier puck movers may not be pieces you can’t win without in the new NHL, but things are certainly trending that way.
A quick look at the UFA market doesn’t reveal much to be excited about, but the Rangers should make finding a true puck mover a priority in the draft, scour the UDFA ranks and keep their eye on the trade market. 36-year-old Dan Boyle may not have been the answer, but one might still come along.
Don’t forget, the Rangers did bring in a big point shot to save the power play just two years ago and they went 12-for-85 (14%) in Bryan McCabe’s 24 games with the club. Obviously that’s a small sample size and McCabe’s career was days from being over, but there’s still some evidence that a big blast isn’t necessarily the answer.