Following Monday’s 4-3 overtime victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins, New York Rangers center Derek Stepan spoke about the need for the Blueshirts to solve their power play woes.
Between now and Saturday’s meeting with the Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Arena, the Rangers will attempt to get their lackluster power play on track by studying plenty of game tape and running on-ice drills at their Greenburgh, N.Y. practice facility.
“It’s definitely something we’re gonna look at,” Stepan said. “It’s obviously got to get better. I think it’s important that your power play wins you games and gets you momentum. I think we’ll look at it, keep making our adjustments and building chemistry.”
On Monday night, the Rangers found an overtime winner after coughing up a two-goal lead in the span of 24 seconds late in the third period. A bloodied and stitched-up Kevin Klein saved the Rangers’ blushes by scoring the eventual game-winning goal, but New York’s continually ineffective power play stands out as a big reason why they’re hovering just above .500. The 12-10-4 Rangers are currently tied with the Washington Capitals for third place in the Metropolitan Division.
The Rangers followed up a dismal 0-for-7 power play performance in Saturday’s loss to the Detroit Red Wings by going 0-for-4 on the man advantage on Monday night against Pittsburgh. New York’s power play percentage has fallen to 15.1 percent, ranking 22nd overall in the NHL.
Last season, the Blueshirts’ power play was middle-of-the-road at 15th overall and 18.2 percent. Part of the reason for the Rangers’ power play regression is that head coach Alain Vigneault has been forced to mix and match personnel. Captain and all-around defenseman Ryan McDonagh, veteran blueliner Dan Boyle, and Stepan have all missed significant spells this season due to injury.
Winger Chris Kreider missed Monday’s game due to neck spasms. Kreider has averaged 2:07 in power play time per game. He collided with teammate Carl Hagelin at Sunday’s practice. Vigneault has described Kreider’s status as “day-to-day.”
“We were in a new game with new units,” Stepan said. “So, we tried to generate our looks. We’ve got to start to feel each other out again because we’re on different units. It’s important to kind of have that chemistry.”
Stepan revealed that McDonagh, a longtime collegiate and professional teammate, hasn’t been satisfied with his personal contributions since returning to game action on November 28. McDonagh previously missed 11 games due to a separated left shoulder. Stepan believes it’s only a matter of time before the Rangers’ all-around defenseman finds his groove.
“I know Mac is certainly going to step up his game as we get going here,” Stepan said. “I know since coming back, he hasn’t been happy with his game. But he’s going to be a big part of this team. Offensively, he’s going to create as many chances as he can. It’s important for us that he does that.”
Curiously, Klein hasn’t been given a sniff on the power play. Klein is averaging eight seconds of power play ice time per game despite leading all NHL defenseman with six even-strength goals and three game-winning goals.
“I’m getting a lot of heat because I’m not using him on the power play,” Vigneault said with a laughing grin. “I’m taking a lot of heat from inside the dressing room.”
Following Monday’s game, Henrik Lundqvist described Klein’s shot as the best on the team.
“I think he has the best shot on the team, no question,” Lundqvist said. “He always gets it through, it’s hard.”
Perhaps, Vigneault will now look to Klein to breathe life into the Rangers’ feeble power play.
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