Special Teams

Promising signs for the power play

Kevin Shattenkirk has racked up 25+ power play points in each of the last four seasons

Though we’ve yet to see the fully assembled new-look power play deployed in game action, there are already numerous encouraging signs that this could year could be different on the man advantage.

One of New York’s biggest bugaboos in years past has been the seemingly simple task of bringing the puck safely into the attack zone. But the team seems better equipped to handle that this season thanks largely to the arrival of Kevin Shattenkirk. He has already demonstrated the ability to hit streaking forwards in motion at full speed – which seems like a minor thing but commands attention from the wall of opponents assembled along the opposing blueline.

Shattenkirk, Tony DeAngelo, Pavel Buchnevich and Mats Zuccarello are also all capable of carrying the puck into the zone themselves – and if that’s not working, they can always sling the puck into the corner and let Chris Kreider go barreling in after it.

Once the Blueshirts set up shop, everything will flow through Shattenkirk. He has registered at least 25 power play points in each of the last four seasons – a threshold that hasn’t been surpassed by a Blueshirt since Marian Gaborik notched 26 in 2009-2010. Shattenkirk is extraordinarily calm with the puck, makes quick decisions, passes the puck on his teammates’ tape, and doesn’t hesitate to put it on net when the opportunity presents itself.

At the point, the Rangers also added DeAngelo and Neal Pionk – who are both gifted with the puck and can distribute it to teammates efficiently. Holdovers Ryan McDonagh and Brady Skjei also remain solid options. In other words, the days of Dan Girardi seeing ice time on the power play are behind us.

Elsewhere on the special teams unit, Zuccarello has long been the engine that makes the power play go along the half wall and he should finally have some teammates that see the game similarly and can keep the puck moving in rhythm with the Norwegian as they seek an opening.

Buchnevich in particular looks ready to break out and showed flashes last season of what he can create in the offensive zone with time and space.

Then there’s the rookie, Filip Chytil. If he sticks around, Chytil should be in ideal position to cash in on Zuccarello’s signature needle-thread passes across the slot. Like Buchnevich, Chytil has the hands and vision to move the puck quickly and create gaps in the defense.

In front, Kreider has the size and strength to be an immovable screen that’s a nightmare for the opposing netminder and he established himself last season as the league’s elite puck redirector. Jimmy Vesey should occupy this position on the second unit and looks like he added the necessary strength during the offseason to hold his own.

The one big piece the Rangers are still missing is a classic triggerman. Despite racking up lofty shot totals, Rick Nash’s skills aren’t built around ripping one-timers and wrist shots from the top of the circles. So the power play will again be an offense by committee – rather than one that flows through a single player like Alex Ovechkin in Washington. But unlike in past years, that committee might be up for the task.

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    • I wish AV would ditch the laid back 1-1-3 he uses late in games to protect a lead and use a 1-3-1 NZ trap. I would like to see AV be more aggressive when protecting a lead. The way he has his NZ set up, teams skate to the red line and sometimes the defensive blue line before encountering a forecheck. I’m sure part of that had to do with the age and lack of talent on defense but they gave up way too many late leads the last 2 seasons.
      Does anyone feel the same way? They had a lead in every game except game 2 in the 2014 SCF against LA.

      • Spot on Lace with your comments…….you are preaching to the choir here……How many games did we have the lead against ottowa in this years playoffs? …..Av doesn’t need a new forecheck system, the rangers need a new coach!

      • I concur fully, Lace. It’s not only a lack in talent IMO, either – often times that those goals were coughed up, it was also because more effective pairs were “lost on the bench” in lieu of veterans who have lost a step and couldn’t handle the ramped up speed and physicality of an opponent pushing to tie the game – be it the playoffs or otherwise. The lack of identifying these weaknesses and correcting them – or at least attempting to correct them – is concerning, especially when it has been happening for years now.

  • An entire article of why the PP will improve – in theory anyway – yet no mention of the glaring reason why it won’t no matter what players come and go: the ever-present Scott Arniel. As long as he is “running” the PP, this team will never have the sense of urgency it needs nor the shoot-first ask questions later mentality that a potent – not just better – power play has. Plain and simple.

    • Amen, why Arniel is still around is really beyond me. We have had some tools to work with in the past. When we had Yandle playing the 2nd PP unit did Arniel step up and tell AV…this ain’t right? There is no guarantee he will deploy the right folks here. No matter how good the players are we never adjust the PP. It’s the same thing over and over again, and that’s why the PP has not been successful.

      • and I would be happy to turn the power play over to Brian Leetch to see what he can do with it. Adam Oates did wonders for the Caps and the Devils with the PP. Maybe Leetch can do the same for us.

        • Enough with the veneration of the 1994 team. Leetch is not an NHL coach. He did work in the NHL front office, briefly. How about we see this version of the team make some history? Instead of the endless references to a 23-year old championship season?

    • I agree with you that Arniel is not a great PP manager. However, they have made progress in this area in recent years. Going by PP%, they were 21st for ’14-15 (woof), 14th for ’15-16, 10th for ’16-17. Considering that we do not have one of those 70+ point forwards that several of the team PP% leaders do have, 10th in conversion rate really isn’t all that bad.

    • We haven’t learned from watching Sully smiling grinch face after his 2nd championship? I think Arniel is just a technician at what he runs on the PP and not having a proper QB 1 while running things through Stepan can make alot of PP’s look silly out there.

    • When AV leaves Arniel will follow. I can’t really blame Arniel, even with the right tools AV made him look bad. Yandle is just an example.

  • Well, I ‘ll believe it when I see it. If we’re still going to have the same predictable, dumb-ass zone entry attempts (please, please deep six that silly drop-back play) that often fail, the same stand around, navel gazing before anyone even attempts a shot and the inevitable loss of the initial first face-off resulting in a clear by the opponents PK then I wouldn’t be optimistic. In recent times, the Rangers are the only team I’ve seen that can look consistently outnumbered with the man advantage. They kill the penalty for the opposing team. If Scott Arniel is still designing the PP strategy then I wonder how much will actually change.

    Much of the analysis in this post is based on what guys should be able to do. But I only care about what they actually do. It hasn’t been pretty. Shattenkirk could be a game changer but remember he won’t have a Tarasenko or and Ovechkin to feed the puck to and as the post acknowledges the Rangers lack high-end scoring talent, particularly a PP trigger man.

    And finally, was it really necessary to take a gratuitous shot at Girardi? How much PP time did he actually get? The PP was bad enough by itself without Girardi on the ice. No need to blame a guy who wasn’t really part of the problem (yes, he was a problem in other parts of the game but he’s gone now – move on).

    • It was perfectly acceptable to mention Girardi here. The last two years, they finally got wise and he barely saw PP ice. So in our fresh memories, sure, he wasn’t out there hardly at all. In seasons prior however, he routinely topped 100 minutes a season on the PP. He’s never been great on the PP, and his best year (’07-08) wasn’t even that great. Yet, he routinely saw good time on the PP until recently.

      As for the forwards, I fully concur they need to shoot more on the PP. Absolutely. It is infuriating to see them pass around the perimeter for 25 seconds when they are on the PP before taking a shot. I get that this forward group is more a finesse group, and I generally don’t even mind that at all. I prefer watching technically sound and headier hockey over the teams that have a “fire it in there constantly from anywhere and see what happens” mentality. That said, goals count the same whether they are greasy goals off the second rebound in the slot, or they are laser beams from the dot that hit the three inches that the goalie leaves above his shoulder pad in the corner. Not advocating to move fully in that direction of bang it in there and see what happens, by any means…but a bit more embracing garbage goals when a scoring lane doesn’t seem to be open very often (for example, teams with solid PKs) would be nice.

      • There is a lot to be said for crowding the net and getting traffic in front of the goalie on the power play. They definitely should be going for those garbage goals too.

        • I disagree. I think Rick Nash absolutely has the skills to be our shooter on the power play. You guys make good points as to what he can/will do. However, if the Rangers use Nash the right way, he can be effective. I think having a more balanced PP attack would create more time & space for him. Until the Rangers learn that they cannot win with 12 lefties up front, the PP will continue to look foolish.
          Watch this video of Rick Nash final season in CBJ.

    • It’s a technique to gain credibility since just about everyone wanted to see either Girardi or his contact go. Btw Shatty will have every angle to feed the puck to a game changer imo. They may not be Tarasenko but Zucc in one direction while having Zib on the opposite side and Kreider down low can create alot of opportunity’s for someone like Shatty. From there all it will take is a high IQ QB who might see stuff develop way beforehand therefore Shatty will have the patience and options to open up any kind of PK approach as long as they’re not over passing it for that perfect shot.

      • Your posts are tirelessly incoherent. Shattenkirk has had 25+ points on the PP for 4 straight seasons, the beneficiaries of his immense puck distributing skills will be every other member of the first unit.

        Dan Girardi was just horrible, laughably bad on the power play throughout his career with NYR. That’s not inventing evidence, or projecting beyond already established player statistical norms. That’s just the straight truth. It’s not taking any gratuitous shot at Girardi that you don’t take at Stepan, or the writing staff of this blog.

        NYR’s power play will also benefit from not having Stepan on it–Step was way too deliberate on the PP with the puck, and his mediocre shooting accuracy was glaring on the PP. Either way I’m looking for a much more consistent, top 10 in the NHL type of power play from the Rangers this year.

    • They will refuse to make any mention of their presence on the team. This article rather bring up the idea that Chytil will be on the PP while accepting those cross crease feeds from Zucc oppose to someone like Mika. The last time I saw Hayes have a few paragraphs dedicated to him on here was when they tried to say that he had a low key bad season in 16-17.

  • I think you forgot to mention Zibanejad as one of the keys for a successful PP… as the only right handed forward shooting from the left circle. Putting him together with Shaty and Zucc could be nice:)

  • Off topic somewhat, but assuming Chytil and Lias go back to “juniors” does Lettieri have a legitimate shot at the 4C? He was primarily a center at Minn. and he has looked ok so far, his right handed shot doesn’t hurt either. The Post article was spot on regarding his play this pre-season.

    • Neither will go “back to juniors” because they didn’t play junior hockey in North America. Chytil and Andersson will either play in New York or Hartford this season.

      • Yeah, they need to be in the AHL if not with the NHL club. As for Lettieri, anything is possible, but I don’t quite see that happening just yet. while I am not floored by Nieves by any stretch of the imagination (unfortunately), I’d guess he is still higher on the depth chart. Who knows though, really.

    • They were 10th in PP% last year. I will be the first to tell you, they do not have a dominant power play. They weren’t near the bottom of the league in %, or PPG totals (14th) last year, though. It just feels like that, I think, since they pass so much when we want them to shoot. It could be far worse.

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