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Posts tagged: Paul Mara

Special teams aren’t so special

14.0% power play efficiency, second worst in the conference and fifth worst overall
12 shorthanded goals allowed, worst in the league

What in the world is going on here? The Blueshirts have had the third most power play opportunities in the league (179), yet are one of the worst teams when it comes to capitalizing on those chances (25 PPG). Even more alarming is the number of shorthanded goals they’ve allowed. Last night it cost them yet again, as Alexander the Great skated in seemingly untouched and beat Valli with a wrister from the top of the circle. It was the twelfth shortie they’ve allowed this year, double what any other team in the conference has allowed. What’s going on here?

For starters, the guys who are supposed to be doing the job just aren’t. Scott Gomez has seven power play points, all assists. Chris Drury also has seven PP points, and Wade Redden has just five. That’s just 19 PP points out of your three highest paid skaters, totaling $20,907,143 in salary this season. The Rangers’ leaders in power play scoring – Nik Zherdev, Markus Naslund & Michal Rozsival have eight PP points each – are tied for 130th in the NHL in PP scoring.

Secondly, the team just doesn’t have a true quarterback back there. Redden was that guy in like, ’05-’06, but not any more. Marc Staal just isn’t that kind of player, although Paul Mara has been decent. None of these guys are elite puck movers however, and in today’s NHL that element of the game is crucial. This is where the Jay Bouwmeester conversation starts, but would they really give up a package of two or three young players/draft picks for a guy they’ll almost certainly lose to free agency after the year because they don’t have enough cap room? I’m not sure, but it’s clear something needs to happen in this department.

The third problem is just philosophy and decision making. When a baseball team falls into a hitting funk, they go back to the basics: hit and runs, bunts, stolen bases. Hockey’s not much different. Obviously it’s much easier said then done, but when your power play isn’t doing much of anything just go back to the basics: shoot from the point and crash the net. When you try to do to much you end up doing less.

The Rangers have the ingredients to be a Cup contender. They have three lines with the potential to put the puck in the net and a fourth that will work the opposition to the bone. They have a shut down defenseman and four other solid blueliners. They have veteran experience and youthful enthusiasm up and down the roster. They have a dynamite penalty kill (best in the league at 87.8%). They have a world class netminder and a rock solid backup. All that said, this team is going nowhere until they get the power play straightened out.

Mike Axisa writes for River Ave. Blues and can be reached here.