What is up with the Rangers powerplay?
One of the strengths last year for the Rangers was the powerplay. Specifically PP1, which was almost automatic all season. This year it’s much different. Mika Zibanejad is snake bitten, Artemi Panarin is still himself but doesn’t have the numbers yet. Ryan Strome has struggled mightily. Chris Kreider is struggling as well. In fact, the only piece that looks good is Adam Fox, who took over for Tony DeAngelo before the latter was banned from the team. It’s the same personnel, but something isn’t working. So what issues are plaguing the Rangers powerplay?
Stats Show It Should Be Fine?
This is the interesting part. The stats show they are doing the right things. They are currently third in the NHL in CF/60 while on the powerplay at 107.64. They are getting their shots. The rub here is they are severely lacking in quality. Their xGF/60 is 6.68, which is 16th in the league.
While this suggests they aren’t working hard enough to get to the high danger areas, the powerplay last year wasn’t that far off from these numbers. Last season the Rangers had a 7.07 xGF/60 while on the powerplay. So from the shot metrics, there isn’t much of a difference.
The big difference is the shooting percentage. This year the Rangers are shooting a measly 7.14% on the powerplay, which is good for a stellar 28th in the league. Last season it was at 13.71%, almost double what the Rangers are shooting this year.
What Does All This Mean?
The Rangers are snake bitten. Stop me if you’ve heard that before.
All of this is centered around Zibanejad’s struggles. Zibanejad is shooting a paltry 2.6% this season, That includes 5% on the powerplay, down from 20% last year, both at even strength and on the powerplay.
It was never realistic to have Zibanejad repeat that 20% conversion rate. That’s unheard of. For comparison’s sake, the greatest goal scorer of this generation is Alex Ovechkin. His career shooting percentage is 12.7%. He just shoots the puck a ton. He gets about 300 SOG per season. Zibanejad gets closer to 220 SOG per season.
As Zibanejad goes, the powerplay will go. It’s imperative to get him going.
Since we’ve established the powerplay is getting the quantity of shot attempts while not that far off from the quality of last year, we need to look at the setup. This is the biggest rub, as PP1 usually is comprised of Zibanejad (R), Panarin (R), Kreider (L), Strome (R), and Fox (R). Four righties to one lefty, with that lefty being in front of the net.
Kreider belongs in front of the net. That’s his home, and he’s one of the best in the league at it. The simple solution is swapping Strome with a lefty from PP2. Perhaps it’s as simple as swapping Strome with Alexis Lafreniere or Kaapo Kakko. Both look great, with Lafreniere also a bit snake bitten this season. Adding that extra lefty balances out the unit more.
This adjustment would also add another righty to PP2, which was lefty heavy.
Time Heals All
This is critical, since Zibanejad won’t be shooting 2% all season long. Once he gets going, the flood gates will open. However don’t sleep on the subtle adjustments needed. This goes into what Suit discussed yesterday regarding DQ and his coaching evaluation.
Unfortunately, the Rangers don’t have as much time this season as they normally would. The teams play 30 fewer games this season, which isn’t enough time to let something like this play out. The Rangers powerplay issues need to get resolved soon if they want to stay relevant this season. Like at even strength, it’s on the top players to be the top players.
Stats from NaturalStatTrick.com.