Rangers' power-play woes nothing new
NEW YORK — Simply, it was an acknowledgement of the obvious: The Rangers desperately miss Chris Kreider on their power play.
“(His) size and speed, obviously, would put pressure on their defense (along with being a net front presence),” Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said in a conference call when asked what New York lacks as Kreider recuperates from a broken hand.
Not having Kreider — he had 17 goals and 37 points in 66 games before sustaining the injury in New York's 3-1 win over Columbus on March 21 — is among the reasons the Rangers are 0-for-their-last-34 on the power play heading into Game 4 on Wednesday night in the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs against the Penguins.
Shut out by Marc-Andre Fleury on back-to-back nights, the Rangers trail the best-of-seven series 2-1, and the performance of the man-up units has been a primary culprit.
New York's last man-advantage goal occurred at the 8:22 mark of the second period of Game 2 of a first-round series against the Flyers, prompting Vigneault to insert Raphael Diaz into the lineup Monday night in an attempt to jump start the power play. The Rangers were 0 for 5 on the man advantage but did generate 10 shots.
Diaz, who hadn't played since New York's regular-season finale in Montreal on April 10, attempted nine shots in 19:30 of ice time, which included 6:18 on the power play.
“Diaz gave us a (different look),” Vigneault said. “(The power play) had some better looks.”
Essentially, Vigneault believes the quality of New York's man-up opportunities will lead to power-play goals. But New York was 9 for 70 on the man advantage in its final 23 games of the regular season. Overall, dating to Feb. 27, the Rangers are 12 for 112 on the man advantage.
“We set ourselves up for a lot of looks,” Ryan McDonagh said Monday night. “It doesn't matter if you're getting looks or not. (It's) whether you finish.
“We had the puck a lot more in their zone and more possession (Monday night). We have to continue to put more pucks to the net. We should feel good because we had a lot of good looks. It's just a matter of crashing the net and making it hard on (Fleury) as much as we can.”
Still, it is not as if New York's man-advantage units' issues are a new phenomenon. In John Tortorella's four full seasons as coach of the Rangers — he replaced Tom Renney with 21 games left in the 2008-09 season — New York never ranked higher than 13th on the power play. In his last two seasons, the team finished 23rd in the league on the man-up units.
There also have been player personnel miscalculations. The selection of Michael Del Zotto in the 2008 draft caused organizational decision makers to believe they had acquired their power-play quarterback of the future, and as a result, the Rangers passed on Cam Fowler for Dylan McIlrath in the 2010 draft.
Fowler has blossomed into a top-pair defenseman for the Ducks, who selected him with the 12th pick in the 2010 draft, two picks after the Rangers took McIlrath. McIlrath is with the Rangers' AHL affiliate in Hartford; Del Zotto was traded earlier this season to Nashville for Kevin Klein in order to give the Rangers defense corps left-handed and right-handed shots on each pairing.
Denis Gorman is a freelance writer.