This area continues to be overwhelming Rangers strength in Stanley Cup Playoffs

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Florida Panthers at New York Rangers
Brad Penner-USA TODAY SportsCredit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

There are plenty of things the New York Rangers need to improve on after a disappointing 3-0 loss to the Florida Panthers in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final. But even after a sloppy loss that had coach Peter Laviolette calling for better execution across the board, one facet of the Blueshirts game remains an overwhelming strength — the penalty kill.

Florida had three power plays on Wednesday but was held silent by a dominant New York penalty kill, mustering just three shots on goal on the man-advantage.

Mind you, the Panthers had the eighth-best power play in the regular season, converting at a 23.5 percent clip. Boasting a top unit with four 70+ point scorers in Matthew Tkachuk, Aleksander Barkov, Sam Reinhart and Carter Verhaeghe, as well as Brandon Montour at the point, shutting them down shorthanded is no small feat.

But it should come as no surprise given the Rangers postseason dominance on the penalty kill. It was already a major point of success in the regular season with their 84.5 percent success rate ranking third in the NHL. They’ve kicked it into high gear in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, stifling opposing power plays to the tune of a 90.2 percent mark that trails only the Edmonton Oilers (92.5 percent).

After holding the Washington Capitals 2-for-17 in the opening round, the Blueshirts limited the Carolina Hurricanes’ elite No. 2-ranked power play to just two goals on 21 opportunities in Round 2, including an 0-for-16 stretch to open the series.

Arguably most impressive is how dangerous their penalty kill has been offensively. The Rangers have scored as many goals on the penalty kill as they’ve allowed. Including Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final, the Rangers have been shorthanded 41 times. They’ve allowed four power-play goals and scored four shorthanded.

That offense has come in big moments. Chris Kreider’s shorthanded goal in Game 3 vs Carolina evened the game in the 2nd period, helping to pave the way for Artemi Panarin’s game-winner in overtime. K’Andre Miller’s and Barclay Goodrow’s shorthanded goals in Games 2 and 3 of the first round ended up being the game-winners.

Kreider and Mika Zibanejad have developed a reputation for being able to capitalize offensively on the penalty kill. This year, the pair accounted for half of the team’s eight shorthanded goals in the regular season with two apiece.

That potency has seemingly translated to all three PK lines over the course of the postseason, making New York’s shorthanded units an intimidating force on both ends.

Rangers aware ‘special teams could win a series’

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-New York Rangers at Carolina Hurricanes
James Guillory-USA TODAY SportsCredit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

Even when the offense doesn’t come, say for instance on Wednesday against Florida, when the Rangers didn’t generate a shot shorthanded, there’s more than enough there defensively to neutralize opposing power plays completely.

Over the past four games, the Rangers are allowing just 1 SOG-per-power play on nine opportunities. They’re clearing pucks and, most importantly, preventing the opposition from getting clean shots through against goalie Igor Shesterkin

After the Rangers killed two overtime power plays in a 4-3 2OT win over the Hurricanes in Game 2, defenseman Adam Fox spoke about the importance of its success.

“All year, we’ve tried to make that a strength of ours. This time of year, special teams could win a series, win games.”

When you look back at Game 1 against Florida, New York’s best sequence came after its third successful penalty kill late in the 3rd period.

The MSG crowd roared after the Blueshirts held the Panthers to one shot on goal, following an Alexis Lafreniere hooking penalty. Right after, Jacob Trouba laid a massive hit on Kevin Stenlund, which only made the Garden louder.

What followed was an impressive flurry of four shots in 12 seconds of game time, including two prime looks for Alex Wennberg and a slot shot for Lafreniere that rang off the post. Twenty seconds later, Florida was penalized for having too many men on the ice, giving the Rangers their second power play of the night.

“That’s the inflection point for me in the game,” Panthers coach Paul Maurice said postgame. “In this building, they get one, they catch fire. It was a shitshow in front of our net, and Sergei [Bobrovsky] held. We were able to survive that moment.”

It may not have translated to the scoreboard on Wednesday, but their penalty kill created a wave and energy that culminated in the Rangers’ strongest sequence of the night.

Even in the wake of a frustrating series-opening loss that has spawned much debate about lineup changes and adjustments, Laviolette can lean back and bank on one thing — the consistency and the dominance of his penalty kill.

Lou Orlando has spent the past two seasons as a New York Rangers beat reporter for WFUV Sports. The... More about Lou Orlando

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