The Puzzling Phenomenon Called The Rangers Power Play

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OK, folks, I need your help! I attended my first live NHL hockey game in February of 1990. Since that seminal, frigid evening almost 29 years ago, I have seen hundreds and hundreds of live hockey games in ten different arenas, in two different countries. I’ve watched thousands of more contests on television. I put my hockey wisdom and intelligence up against anyone. No, I never played the game in any sort of an organized fashion. However, it does not take a rocket scientist or a brain surgeon to figure out the nuances and idiosyncrasies of NHL hockey.

One thing I simply cannot answer or figure out, comprehend or decipher is why the power play of our beloved hockey team continues to, year after year, make all Rangers fans cringe and do one, big, collective facepalm. Regardless of the coaching staff. Regardless of the savior du jour brought in by management. Regardless of virtually anything, the Rangers power play remains tantamount to a drunken, discombobulated dance company unable to nail their routine because of their high levels of inebriation.

I was sitting in my perch in section 227 at The Garden last Sunday night watching the numerous and striking differences between the power plays of the Rangers and the Winnipeg Jets. The team from The Great White North entered the offensive zone with ease and moved the puck around with confidence and precision. Then, when a shooting lane opened up, they fired that round piece of vulcanized rubber towards the Rangers goal forcing Henrik Lundqvist to make a myriad of difficult saves before finally breaking through on their fourth opportunity with the man advantage. If not for the aforementioned Ranger goalie, the Jets easily could have scored on each of their four power-play chances.

All I could think to myself during the relentless Winnipeg barrage on Lundqvist was, “Why can’t we do this?” Dating back to Tom Renney, through John Tortorella, to Alain Vigneault and now to David Quinn, each NY Rangers coach, and their various assistants seemed helpless in trying to solve the Rangers power-play puzzle. From Wade Redden to Brad Richards, to Dan Boyle, to Keith Yandle to now, Kevin Shattenkirk, one power play specialist after another was acquired by the Rangers brain trust to be the first true anchor of a power play unit since Jaromir Jagr was re-writing the team’s record books in the 2005-06 season.

Did all of those esteemed coaches forget how to run a power play once they became the Rangers’ bench boss? Did all of those skilled players, who have always had success running other team’s power plays, all of a sudden forget what makes a power play successful once they donned a Ranger sweater? The answer to both of those rhetorical questions is an emphatic, NO! So, why is it that nobody is able to answer that $64 million question? Why is it that with each passing coach and with each passing power play specialist, the Rangers cannot produce power play efficiency with any sort of consistency? As stated earlier, my friends, as strong as my hockey acumen is, the Rangers perpetual ineptitude on the power play is a dilemma that is beyond my comprehension.

No, the Rangers don’t have a Sidney Crosby or an Alex Ovechkin or a Patrick Kane or a Drew Doughty. However, there has been a multitude of NHL teams with successful power plays without having any of the types of talent mentioned in the above sentence. The productivity was the product of that time and tested KISS method and I am not referring to the rock band although I am sure Gene Simmons would take credit for it. KISS is an acronym for “keep it simple and smart,” or “keep it simple, stupid.”

In other words, while on the power play, a team would get to the red line and do the old soft cross-corner dump in. They would outnumber the defenders on the boards and retrieve the puck. They’d quickly get said puck back to the point men who would make a few diagonal passes to open up a shooting line. The forwards would skate right to the goalie’s crease to screen him. Then, as soon as the first shooting lane presented itself, they’d let ‘er rip while the forwards would look for rebounds. Simple, right? Smart, right? The KISS method may not be entertaining, but it most certainly works.

Those types of aesthetic-less goals count just the same as the beautiful passing plays. No “judge” is sitting rink side with the authority to disallow a would-be goal because it was scored with KISS rather than a highlight reel passing play. So, I ask again, why can’t our Rangers do this? Why must they constantly attempt passes through a maze of sticks and skates? Passes that have as little chance of being successful as Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton being spotted together in post-coital bliss.

It’s been 13 going on 14 years since the Rangers had an elite power play. At some point, wouldn’t the law of averages kick in? At some point, wouldn’t a coaching staff figure it out? At some point, wouldn’t a previously successful power play quarterback be able to bring his prowess to Broadway? My friends, hopefully, one of you out there in the blog-o-sphere can enlighten me and help to answer some of the questions and hypotheticals that I have entailed. Enough is enough!

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