Holy Shite! It’s a power play goal!
The Rangers defeated the Washington Capitals 2-1 at Madison Square Garden thanks in large part to a successful power play. Well, to qualify that, thanks in large part to 1 successful power play chance and 4 terrible ones. While the NYR still sit last in the National League in PP efficiency, last night for seven seconds their power play looked like the Russians. The CCCP Red Army Soviet Russians.
The power play is incredibly important in the NHL today and with the style of play employed by the Broadway Bluehisrts, it is critical. The Rangers despite having Rick Nash and Marian Gaborik, are a lunchpail, hard hat defense-first team of grinders. Their success comes from having Henrik Lundqvist the best goalie on the planet, playing tight D, blocking tons of shots and getting timely scoring. This is where the power play comes in. It is a near certainty that Hank’s consistent brilliance will keep the Rangers in every game. Like an ace pitcher in baseball that will keep the opposing bats at bay, #30 just needs a run or two from his mates to win games. If the Rangers are chipping in just one power play a game, they should win most if not all of those close games. Like last night against Washington.
The Rangers blitzed the Caps for 20 shots but still came up empty and down 1-0 after the first. The Caps were able to gain the league thanks to a rocket from a wide open John Carlson (Jersey represent!) and keep the lead thanks to some stellar netminding by Braden Holtby.
The Rangers were finally ale to break through and get one by Holtby when Carl Hagelin went to the net to get his cookie. Rick Nash (who else?) tossed a pass to Ryan McDonagh at the point. McDonagh fired a smart low shot on net that Hags was able to re-direct into the empty cage.
Then in the third period, the NYR drew a power play when Karl Alzner was whistled for tripping Brad Richards. The Rangers power play 0-3 in the game at that point, then gave the Blueshirt faithful a glimpse of what it could and should be.
Buyout Brad Richards won a draw back to Nash and the monster walked the line drawing a Caps defender with him. Nash then slid a pass back to B-Rich who seamed the pill across the zone to Michael Del Zotto. MDZ zipped a bullet pass back across the zone to a wide-open Derek Stepan on the goal line for the “kick in birdie.”
Seven seconds, one face-off win, three passes, one slam dunk goal.
To be successful on the man advantage, the Rangers need to win face-offs a huge often under-appreciated part of the game, especially on the power play because face-offs equal possession. They need to move, just like Nash did and they need to make good cross zone passes, to get the opposing penalty killers moving. When the power play can move the puck across the ice, the penalty killers have to move. They have no choice. When they move, the rink opens up and opportunities follow. Unlike, most, if not all of the other NYR power plays, that type of PP is difficult to defend. When a team on the PP simply wheels the puck around the perimeter it is very easy to defend.
Ryan Callahan, who is starting to play like Ryan Callahan made to humongous blocks in the final minutes to help seal the victory. Callahan’s willingness to sacrifice the body is a huge plus for the Rangers and is infectious on the roster. Lundqvist’s GAA is starting to drop towards 2.0 and his save percentage is back in the right neighborhood. Things are starting to come together for the NYR winners of 4 of their last 5.
Maybe this bi-polar start was just the effects of lock-out rust?