Rangers special teams spark 1st-round sweep against Capitals

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-New York Rangers at Washington Capitals
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

When the New York Rangers finished off their first-round sweep against the Washington Capitals with a 4-2 win Sunday, they again relied heavily on their red-hot special teams.

The Rangers were 6-for-16 on the power play in the four games, good for a 37.5 percent success rate. The penalty kill also rolled along at 88.2 percent in the first round.

In Game 4, New York scored three of their four goals on the man advantage. They were also a perfect 2-for-2 on the PK, including a massive kill early in the third period after Artemi Panarin’s goal had given them a 3-2 lead.

That strong performance followed some terrific special-teams play in Game 3, when the Rangers scored a power-play goal and a shorthanded goal, and the penalty kill was a perfect 6-for-6.

“The special teams have been really strong the entire year,” said Peter Laviolette. “We talk about it all the time. How much it factors into a game, a series. You’re going to need excellent performances from both in order to keep moving along.”

Related: Rangers aware 1st-round sweep guarantees nothing in Stanley Cup Playoffs

Rangers get special performances on power play, penalty kill in 1st round series sweep

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Washington Capitals at New York Rangers
Credit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

The Rangers power play has long been a key to their success. This season, they were third in the NHL on the power play (26.4 percent). But it seems to be even more dynamic now. As seen in Panarin’s game-winning tally Sunday, the speed, skill, and movement is just too much for teams to handle.

“I think we’ve been working at it a lot,” explained Vincent Trocheck. “We know how important special teams are in the playoffs. We’ve been trying to incorporate some more things, some more movement. If things do get stale on a power play, we want to be able to move around and try to find something to generate offense and I thought we did a really good job of that.”

Trocheck had two power-play goals in the series, as did second-unit staple Jack Roslovic. Panarin and Mika Zibanejad each had one. So, the Rangers swept the Capitals without receiving a power-play goal from Chris Kreider, who led them with 18 this season. Let that sink in a bit as you ponder the talent depth deployed by New Yok on the man advantage.

Not only have they done a great job capitalizing on power-play opportunities, but their penalty kill has been great as well. They gave up two power-play goals in the series, but matched that by scoring twice shorthanded. Each of those shorties — in Game 2 by K’Andre Miller and Game 3 by Barclay Goodrow — were game winners.

Talk about crushing Washington’s soul.

That they completely shut down Alex Ovechkin with their aggressive PK is also a great feat. If New York can shut down top players like this on the penalty kill, they could go a long way in these playoffs.

“The penalty kill has been good this series,” Jacob Trouba explained. “I think we’re confident going on the ice. Obviously, it’s not a position you want to be in too often. There’s going to be penalties, and things happen during the game, but I think we have just as much confidence as we have in the power play.”

Confidence is something that the Rangers will need to hold on to as they move into the second round.

“The guys on the penalty kill are feeling pretty good about what we’re doing,” Trouba continued. “The effort is there, the energy is there, the details are there. I think a lot of the same moving forward. We don’t want to be in the penalty box, but when we are, I think we have the trust and the know that that’s the job that the PK has to do.”

As the Rangers await the winner between the Carolina Hurricanes and New York Islanders, they will continue to work on the special teams as it will undoubtedly be a deciding factor in the second round and beyond.

Dane Walsh is a life-long fan of the New York Rangers. Growing up in the tri-state area, Dane has... More about Dane Walsh

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