Rangers aim to get power play untracked in Game 3 vs. Panthers

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Florida Panthers at New York Rangers
Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Perhaps lost in the euphoria of a thrilling Game 2 overtime win in the Eastern Conference Final on Friday is that the New York Rangers were blanked yet again on the power play. Certainly the Rangers overcame that by outscoring the Florida Panthers 2-0 at even strength and 2-1 overall in the Game 2 victory that tied this best-of-7 series.

But their elite power play is a huge part of the Rangers success and make up. Like Igor Shesterkin’s goaltending, the power play sets the Rangers apart from most teams in the NHL.

So far, the Blueshirts 0-for-6 on the power play in this series, 0-for-4 in Game 2 that included more than 90 seconds worth of a 4-on-3 opportunity. Panthers goalie Sergei Bobrovsky has read shots well, in particular Mika Zibanejad’s patented one-timers. But there’ve been too many one-and-done shot attempts, making it a notable exception that Bobrovsky provided a solid 1-2 punch denying an Adam Fox shot and Chris Kreider rebound try during that 4-on-3 Rangers power play in the second period of Game 2.

Natural Stattrick has the Rangers with two high-danger attempts on the power play so far in this series. That’s not going to get it done against a Panthers PK that is motoring along at an 88.1 percent success rate this postseason, third in the NHL.

“We’re playing a team that’s been really good and they’ve been aggressive,” coach Peter Laviolette said. “We’re looking at it and trying to make small adjustments, [trying] to do things a little bit sharper, a little bit crisper make some adjustments. And we’ll get with the guys and get that information to them.”

Related: Jimmy Vesey week to week for Rangers after Game 2 injury

Rangers power play struggling since early in second-round playoff series

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Carolina Hurricanes at New York Rangers
Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The Blueshirts opened the playoffs with a blistering power play. They scored six power-play goals in their four-game sweep in the first round against the Washington Capitals. Then they followed with four more goals with the man advantage in the first two games against the Carolina Hurricanes in the second round, including the game-tying goal by Chris Kreider in Game 2 and the overtime winner by Vincent Trocheck in double overtime.

Since then the Rangers are 1-for-16. They’ve dropped to fourth in the postseason converting at 26.8 percent. Still very good. But in a bit of a funk right now, even if that one PPG was Kreider’s clutch tying goal in the decisive Game 6 against the Hurricanes.

New York showed a little more life on the power play Friday, due in part to a revived Fox. Whether he’s battling an injury or not, Fox won’t say, but the star defenseman and power-play point man was more active on the man advantage in Game 2. That’s a good start to turn things around, especially because Fox has just two power-play assists in these playoffs.

But the Rangers need to better retrieve pucks and win puck battles on the power play. The Panthers are aggressive and have been able to make the Rangers turn the puck over time and again on the power play, often heading back the other puck to collect the puck after another clear.

Florida has done a great job clearing the net in front of Bobrovksy, as well, neutralizing Kreider, in particular. Then there are the 29 blocked shot by the Panthers on their PK, including seven by Dmitry Kulikov.

The first two games proved what was expected, this is going to a tight, hard-fought series. Goals will be hard to come by.

So, if the Rangers can reignite their power play, it could be the tipping point in this series.

Jim Cerny is Executive Editor at Forever Blueshirts and Managing Editor at Sportsnaut, with more than 30 years of... More about Jim Cerny

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