The Rangers topped the Devils in Game 2 in Newark, giving the Blueshirts a commanding 2-0 series lead heading back to MSG on Saturday night. The Rangers scored twice again on the powerplay, both by Chris Kreider again, and the man advantage has been the difference maker through both games. The key has been presenting different looks, and the Rangers powerplay breakout adjustment is one of those different looks that has been dismantling the Devils penalty kill.
Rangers powerplay breakout adjustment
In Game 1, the Rangers relied on Adam Fox to carry the puck out of the zone before setting up the powerplay. It worked, naturally, but with expected adjustments from the Devils, the Rangers knew they needed to present a different look. From their first powerplay, the Rangers powerplay breakout adjustment was clearly visible.
The Devils run a 1-2-1 penalty kill forecheck, with F2/D1 mostly lining up between the red line and their blue line, and D2 a bit behind their own blue line. It’s a passive system designed to force dump ins. However the Rangers, with all their skill, have the talent to dismantle it, and they did just that.
It was tough to find a video of it, and even the NHL highlights don’t show the full breakout that led to the pair of Kreider goals. Fox, who usually does the heavy lifting, instead is pausing around the red line and dropping the puck back to a forward, usually Patrick Kane.
*As an aside, I was talking to Conall and he said it looked more like a 1-3 forecheck, which was an adjustment from the 1-2-1 which necessitated the drop pass and attacking the middle of the blue line. Neither of us could find video, but the general sentiment remains: The Rangers powerplay breakout adjustment was in response to the Devils forecheck on the PK, and it’s working.
Rangers had a game plan
Aside from the Rangers powerplay breakout adjustment, another obvious fact is the Rangers scouted the Devils well. They had a game plan, implemented it, and it’s been working. We do know that Gerard Gallant’s in-game adjustments are a weak point, but credit is due for game by game adjustments, which he’s been nailing so far.
One of the surprises from last night’s win was the Rangers controlling the xG share, something we didn’t necessarily expect to see. The FormulaTM has been clear: Igor Shesterkin and special teams are enough to keep the Rangers in it as long as the 5v5 play is average. In Game 1, the 5v5 play was good enough, and the special teams and Igor did the rest.
Last night was different, as all three inputs into The FormulaTM were firing on all cylinders. When that happens, not many teams will be able to skate with the Rangers. Even though the Devils got out to an early lead, it never felt like they were in control of the game. Last night was an absolute clinic.
There’s a lot more to do
It’s just two wins, but it seems like the Rangers are rolling. It’s not just any first round opponent either, as the Devils had the third best record in the regular season. The confidence in the Rangers is justified, as they are neutralizing a team that is capable of exploiting it’s biggest weakness: overall team speed.
That said, there’s a lot more to do. It’s just two games, and the Devils are certainly capable of firing off four straight. Should the Rangers advance, it’s most likely the Carolina Hurricanes that are next. Those same Hurricanes finished 2nd in the entire NHL. After that, it’s most likely the Bruins, the best team in the NHL this season.
It’s a gauntlet. What we’ve seen has been promising. But there’s a long, long way to go.