The Rangers have had an interesting start to the season, one that feels similar to last year. The Rangers are getting ridiculously hot shooting and relying on getting at least three goals per game to get their wins. They haven’t won a single game where they scored fewer than three times, and the goaltending is unable to mask the defensive deficiencies any longer.
However the major change from last year, and perhaps the source of many of their wins over the past few weeks, is their special teams play. Last year, the power play was mediocre and the penalty kill flat out stunk. This year is a complete 180, with the Rangers in the top-ten in both categories.
Starting with the power play, personnel changes have had a major impact on the success. They have pure shooters in Mika Zibanejad and Brandon Pirri on the off-wing that forces the opposition to respect the shot. Ryan McDoangh has grown into a solid power play quarterback, able to distribute and dictate play for prime opportunities.
The recent injury to Zibanejad has lack of depth that the Rangers have when it comes to shooters, but they are still able to convert their chances with a strong net front presence and solid distribution.
On the penalty kill, not only is the personnel having a major positive impact, but a slight change in style has had all the difference. Like at even strength, Alain Vigneault made a slight adjustment to his hybrid man/zone style of play on the kill, with the defensemen no longer chasing around the ice. They stick their zone, which limits the amount of miscues and Royal Road pass success.
While we can debate whether or not the Rangers are true contenders, there is no debate that the special teams play has significantly improved. And with that even strength play trending downward at a rather alarming rate, special teams are going to be critical in getting the Rangers points in the standings."Special teams a major strength for the Rangers so far",