Special Teams

What is going to go down with the power play?

Last week I talked about how the Rangers’ off season signings can possibly fit as penalty killers. When we look at how GM Jeff Gorton did over the summer, it is easy to be happy that he did do his best in improving the penalty kill. That said, as happy as I am with the steps taken, I am not keen on automatically giving Gorton a pass for Dan Girardi and Marc Staal, as he was likely a big player in the re-signing of them.

We talked about these players a lot and I think we saw one of the most negative effects of having their contracts on the payroll when Keith Yandle was traded. You can hate Yandle because he is not in the realm of Kris Letang or Erik Karlsson. You can hate Yandle because you automatically equate him as the reason the Rangers lost Anthony Duclair. But his ability to move pucks out not only at even strength but also be a valuable player on the power play will be missed. Add a retiring Dan Boyle to the fold, and you just opened up two holes on the back end for both even strength play as well as power play.

Quick note: If you expect Brady Skjei to just come right along and become like Ryan McDonagh by January, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment.

In any regard losing Yandle, Boyle ,and Derick Brassard really does turn the powerplay upside down opening new opportunities for the players.

As of now using Cap Friendly’s armchair GM tool this is what the PP projects to be

Mika Zibanejad – Zibanead will be given literally every chance to prove that the Rangers were the clear cut winners in a trade that involved a fan favorite. One of the things that the Rangers have been lacking since Sergei Zubov is a right handed shot from the point that can actually do something productive on the power play. Zibanejad has a pretty powerful one timer, so I think it will only be natural to pair him with Ryan McDonagh on the PP on that first unit allowing him to unleash the shot in the “Ovi area”.

Zibanejad’s shot is a little wily and I’ve read that he has been asked to take some oomph off of it so it can be a little more accurate. I think we have the potential to see a pretty dangerous player finally possessing a right handed shot from the point on the power play. His ability to also play a strong two way game can also help relax people afraid of having a forward back there in case of a shorthanded opportunity.

Since defensive depth is lacking for the 2nd unit (I’ll get to that shortly), splitting talented playmakers like Kevin Hayes and Mats Zuccarello so one of them can help set up Zibanejad’s shot can increase effectiveness, as you don’t want half the power play to go to waste because you can’t set anything up.

Finally, the threat from the off-wing likely means teams need to respect it, opening up other options. Zibanejad has great vision and passing ability, which will help the Rangers capitalize on those options. Having a complete player with a dangerous shot from the point truly opens up many opportunities to not want to gauge your eyes out during a power play.

I think the forward units on the powerplay, while not stagnant, are fairly good. The depth that the Ranges possess at forward allow them to likely mix and match a few players until something is working, but where the issue arises is now that second defense pair.

Brady Skjei – It should be believed that either Skjei gets some power play time or McDonagh just plays the full 2 minutes, as Staal is not an option for the powerplay. The bright side is that Skjei’s skating is wonderful and can probably be a great option to help carry the puck into the offensive zone. This is pretty sweet considering the Rangers really had a lot of difficulty entering the zone after the puck got cleared. Some of it is on the coaching staff, but providing the proper personnel does help. Skjei could be a good option in that regard. Unfortunately, Skjei doesn’t necessarily have the history of being a point producer, but perhaps giving him this opportunity can change that. In any regard, at this point Skjei will likely be given a PP opportunity but I am unsure to what regard he will produce points.

Kevin Klein – This is where things start getting interesting (read: Painful). As much as I like Klein, as of now he seems to be the main option on the power play because of his heavy shot. Unfortunately I don’t think it will work out well and the Rangers have been resilient to have tried him there when given the opportunity.

Dylan Mcilrath – This is interesting in the sense that if he can get playing time I think he should definitely be an option. McIlrath does have a big shot from the point, and if there is any way to start getting a player to show his value to the organization it is getting him more ice time in different situations. The special teams are no different, it would be sweet for a young guy like Mcilrath to prove that he can help the organization and stay in it.

While it does have potential to work for now and the future, the issue with Mcilrath is his lateral mobility may be tough to keep pucks in the offensive zone, something that we became accustomed to with Yandle. It’s worth noting that Mcilrath is essentially a year behind developmentally due to that knee injury a while ago, so maybe now with the long summer and essentially having an NHL spot can bode well for his offseason workouts. If he does make the team and is tried on the PP I think McIlrath would be on the right point picking pucks off the boards if they’re getting wrapped around so he wouldn’t have as much trouble with his skating.

Pavel Buchnevich – Totally possible that the Rangers will give Buchnevich a shot at some point during the NHL season. This would require slotting another forward to the point. He would be sweet along the side boards and he can be valuable by pursuing pucks and shielding them to keep the possession in the OZ.

Adam Clendening –  This is a bit of a wild card. Clendening in my opinion will be in the NHL this season. It was quietly mentioned last year that Alain Vigneault does like to carry eight defensemen if the money lets him and it does look like the cap space will be there. Clendening is an offensive defenseman who has the history to produce at least in the AHL. While he has been on many teams over the last few years Clendening is still pretty young, and it would be interesting to see if the once highly touted prospect can put it all together with his home town team if given the chance. On the power play he would be a good puck carrier and does have a fast shot, so being one of the trigger-men on an umbrella formation power play can be in the cards.

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  • Josh – “you can hate yandle bc he is not in the realm of letang or Karlsson”

    You should get a pulitzer just for that line.

  • If you want Z to do a one timer from the “Ovie” spot, he can’t be playing the point, he’d have to be a forward on the side boards. As for missing Yandle on the PP, he was not even on the first unit for most of the year. Although people think it’s no longer relevant, I like having a guy who can blast it from the point, as long as the shot is on net & can generate a rebound if it is stopped.

    • Ovechkin plays the point when he is on the powerplay. Stamkos does the same thing. In those scenarios, you run the play off the half wall on the opposite/left side (backstrom) with someone on the point/top (carlson) and a couple players shuffling down low (johanssen / whoever).

      But you can be sure that trigger man takes up a D slot. There arent 2 guys on the blue line when Ovie rips his one timer from the top of the right circle. Plenty of evidence online to view if verification is needed.

      • Again, let’s not let facts get in the way of what actually IS the Caps Power Play. They also play a 1-3-1 with Ovi on the left wing. He is no way shape or form a point man. I’m thinking the power play formation in vogue for most teams in the NHL is or will be a 1-3-1.

        • Semantics, Roger… on a faceoff, he lines up on a point. Yes, a 1-3-1, by nature, only has 1 point man. My point was just that. The Caps do run a 1-3-1, as you correctly point out. No need to point fingers. Get my point? In any regard, thanks for the pointer.

        • This is getting into semantics. Yes, most teams run a 1-3-1, yes, most people still cling to the idea that there are two point men. Basically, you’re both right. You could almost argue there are three point men (but that would be stupid, so forget I said it!).

          Does that help?

          • No. That’s not what you said at all. It might have been what you THOUGHT you were saying, but the sentence says…”Ovechkin plays the point when he is on the power play” and that’s not even remotely true. He plays the left side of a 1-3-1. That’s like saying he’s the catcher when he’s actually the third baseman. Totally different. Not even semantics.

    • Let’s not let facts get in the way here, Paul. Yandle played 70 more power play minutes than McD,and 50 more than Boyle. Any other mis truths you want to add?

      • So wqhat’s your point. Was the PP terrific with Yandle out there? It’s a five man unit, not one guy, and often they don’t play as a unit, taking too long to figure it out & getting pressured off the puck.

    • Paul,

      The problem is not necessarily, the guy whose the shooter, that can blast it and put it on net for rebounds, but it’s more so, what we’re doing or NOT doing prior to that guy that’s gonna shoot.

      How many times did wee see layers upon layers of humanity in between the shooter and the net last year? Our lack of speed in moving the puck on the PP couldn’t even allow Al MacInnis to get er on net.

      We need to be quick, decisive and have an overall game plan when working the puck around the perimeter this season.

      Also, I do admit, we need to shoot more, in order to keep our opponents guessing. We’ve been so predictable over the last several years as a pass first and pass often club, that we don’t get enough respect from the opponents penalty killers.

      • I agree. The PK doesn’t worry about the Rangers shooting from the point because as you say, by the time it’s set up the shot is blocked. There has to be an element of surprise there, but a good shot from the point keeps the PKers from cheating back & opening things up for the down low guys.

    • The point is it’s worth a try but our coach doesn’t seem to have that creative & experimental bent. I love this guy McAdoo because he throws the young guys out there, and supports their learning in situ.

      • Question for all, what changed the season around for the Flyers last year??????????

        When they got rid of their pylon Luke Schenn, and got the kid from the A to play on the PP, I won’t even attempt to spell his name, (Gothesshane) ???????????

        That was a bold move that AV would never make !!!!!!!!!

          • that’s the one !!!!!!!!!

            he was given a shot to prove himself, would AV have done the same ?????????? with his history of not working with kids, I suspect not !!!!!!!!!!!!

    • AV didn’t use Klein on the PP and Klein has an accurate AND hard shot. We’ll be luck if McIlrath sees the ice, much less PP time, as long as AV is the head coach.
      I’m with you Bobby

    • I’d like to see it at least tried out, but yeah, this is AV we are talking about. Unless he is a changed man come the start of next season, I expect he will go with his typical process and if it doesn’t work, will keep going with his typical process. Don’t see him trying Wrath there even if it’s clear nothing else is working, as that doesn’t seem to fit his typical deployment method for his process. When things aren’t working, it’s the old “definition of insanity” with AV. His process works great when he has the perfect roster for it. Not so great when he doesn’t. I would like to note that nobody wishes me to be wrong about AVs stubbornness when things don’t work more than I do – I hope we see a bit more flexible and creative coach in 2016-2017. I won’t hold my breath, however.

  • Well when the last really good shot from the point on the PP was Roszival, what do you expect. And oh, that team was the last really good PP the Rangers have had, which included a great line in Jagr-Nylander-Straka.

    Another thing is why is it so hard to throw the puck on net to force rebounds? Rangers near the bottom in 2nd chance shots. Brutal.

    • I don’t advocate for them to go too far in that direction, simply because it’s not a big power roster overall. Like last year’s Kings for example, I swear I’ve never seen so many garbage goals…at times it seemed it was their entire offensive strategy to send a sloppy rocket on net and either get lucky or muscle the way to an opening. However, I’d certainly like to see a bit more of it from NYR, for sure! Garbage goals count just the same. The constant seven passes around the perimeter then a turnover gets old. If the opposition is clogging the middle consistently, you’re not gonna get that perfect pretty slice of open net in a lot of cases. Send one or two of the bigger bodies into the slot (Nash, Kreids, Hayes, etc.) to cause some chaos and/or screen, and put it on net with the hope they can come up with it when the goalie is out of position. This is something they rarely seem to do, and I find it borderline maddening at times – especially when the situation is down one with not much time left, and they are still passing around the perimeter of the zone for a minute straight looking for the perfect pretty goal.

        • The statistics still say that playing East-West generates just as many goals as simply crashing the net.

          The East-West game can be frustrating to watch, but the results are there.

      • Egelstein, right on with sending bodies to the net, we need to win more battles in the trenches,and cause havoc on the PP, the only problem with the 3 names mention, yes big bodies but : 1) Nash,a so-so physical player before his concussions, now he avoids contact whenever possible. 2) Hayes, might be the softest big body player in the entire league, any physical game he pretended to have, disappeared in the semi finals vs Tampa, Stephen Stamkos, (YES STAMKOS) laid him out with a clean/hard open ice hit, after that hit he disappeared the rest of the series, and the following season. 3) Kreider, by far the one player who can be that hard nose drive to the net guy, he has potential to be a one man wrecking crew, last year he seemed to shy away for the physical aspect of the game??. The so -called dirty hit on Habs goalie Price, and of course his finesse orientated coach AV, seems to have taken his nasty side away???

        • True, Kreids is the only one of those three considered to have much grit, and also I do agree AVs preferred approach does seem to stunt that a bit. However, screening is also an aspect of the chaos, and a guy like Hayes with the hands he has should be able to redirect with some skill, I have to assume.I think it’s a situational thing, and some situations which clearly call for it, the Rangers as a whole still don’t use this method. That’s mainly what I’d like to see change. Ultimately, if the coach has to change to achieve that, my feelings will not be hurt.

      • It’s funny because as much as Gabby was a sniper he said that he changed his game and most of his goals were garbage goals when he came to the Rangers. It’s not like the 70s when you used to get mauled standing in front of the net. Rangers do not do nearly enough of that, in any part of the game (5 on 5 or PP).

  • Good write up, finally some recognition that there is indeed some holes to fill on the Rangers P.P. The fact that this hasn’t been addressed so far, gives me reason that there is a deal in the drawer to bring in some help.

    McIIrath does have a booming shot and the ability to get the puck through on goal. But I have seen no indication by the Ranger head coach that Dylan will be part of the Ranger organization going forward. I think he is trade bait.

  • As currently constructed, the Rangers special teams are dramatically worse than last year despite the much ballyhooed reshuffling of the bottom six (which will frankly be irrelevant as long as Glass continues to play). Our PP lost its point man and best PP player (despite AV’s efforts to not play him at all or minimize his playing time on the PP, Yandle still put up decent stats). On the PK we maintained the same defensive group, who were extremely poor last year. Heck of a job Gorton!

    My only question is how many minutes do the Rangers expect McD to play? 30+? That is unrealistic.

    • 2015-2016 PP time on ice

      1. Zucc 2:42 per game
      2. Brassard 2:41 per game
      3. Yandle 2:36 per game

      So when exactly was AV not playing Yandle on the PP?

      Boyle was at 2:10 per game and McD 1:55 per game.

      • What about the early season games where AV would send out Yandle on the 2nd PP or not at all? By the end, AV belatedly had Yandle on the first PP and that’s it. In Arizona he was regularly playing the full 2 minutes, as he should have here (if only to give McD some rest for even strength and PK). Yandle played on average about four to five fewer minutes per game with the Rangers than he did with the Coyotes.

        AV’s deployment strategy last year was a complete travesty, and that alone should have been reason for his dismissal.

        • I think last year’s deployment strategy was designed with an emphasis on not riding any one player too hard in the regular season. If you look at the D, for instance, almost all of them were a minute or two within playing 20 minutes per game. Same with the forwards.

          Since the Rangers finished 8 points clear of 9th place, I think that strategy worked perfectly.

          • Yes, we finished eight points clear of 9th place, but how is that proof that it wasn’t due to a spectacular season from Hank and lucky shooting from our forwards? Because that is what happened (look at Brass’ shooting percentage last year for example).

            I don’t think anybody who looked at our defensive unit will say that as a whole they were impressive. They weren’t able to perform their roles within AV’s system. We had consistent issues connecting to our forwards. Too often Hank would face point blank shots around the slot. And by the way, we downgraded the unit as a whole. We saw all these issues in the Penguins’ evisceration. And yet the Rangers response for yet another off-season is to focus on the forwards and keep the core defense the same.

            Unless AV at a minimum adjusts his deployment and tactics, expecting an aging Hank to perform as well as he did last year is foolish.

          • If the defense improves, there’s no reason not to think Hank can’t have an avg Hank type season. No reason to change “tactics” but Staal and Girardi are not suited to play man to man coverage. I think the only time the Rangers should use man to man is when the puck is at the blue line with the opositions defenseman to force mistakes. Down low a zone should be the way to go.

  • Don’t the Rangers run a 1-3-1 PP? In that case McIlrath is likely out of the equation. The Rangers PP will be better with the addition of Zibanejad alone. Not only will the Rangers have a trigger man on the left side for a change but that’ll open things up for the skilled lefties on the right side like never before. Seemed like opposing penalty kills were keeping the puck to the right side because the Rangers had no off wingers that were much of a threat. That’ll change with a right handed forward that can actually shoot the puck.

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