Steve Zipay takes you inside the locker room, home and on the road, with the New York Rangers, and also writes about the NHL, off and on the ice.
Power play changes coming for Stepan, Gilroy
Last season, the Rangers power play finished 13th in the league, scoring at a 18.6 percent clip. Much of that was due to Marian Gaborik, who had 14 PPGs. This year he has three.
Vinny Prospal (6) and Ryan Callahan (9) had 15; Injured Prospal has none; Callahan has three and will remain out for weeks. PP QB Michael Del Zotto, temporarily in the AHL, had four compared to two this season.
So the PP units, with just 25 goals, have to be re-engineered. Mats Zuccarello and newly acquired Wojtek Wolski should help in the second half.
In small doses, the Rangers power play has clicked.
The problem is that the good runs occur about once a month: Four goals in four games in late October; four straight games with a goal starting Nov. 20th; five consecutive games with goals starting Dec. 9th.
January’s stretch hasn’t kicked in. In the first six games of the month, the man-advantage units are 1 for 18. Toss in an 0-for-4 on Dec. 29th, and the Blueshirts are mired in a 1-for-22 skid. With a 15.9 percent success rate, the Rangers rank 22nd in the league.
For a team with 11 goals in seven games and that tomorrow faces the Vancouver Canucks, 9-0-1 in 10 games, No. 2 on the PP at 24.7 percent, and tops in the NHL with 63 points, changes are forthcoming.
Without a legitimate bomber from the point that will make penalty-killer forwards back off, the power play ends up with extra passes and fewer rebounds.
“The biggest thing is rebound chances, we just haven’t created enough,” coach John Tortorella said today. “Our start against Montreal was really good, and we lost our momentum because our power play was so bad….It’s not a strong point of our game.”
To try to cash in with a man advantage, the Rangers will leave Wolski on the power play first unit withGaborik and Brandon Dubinsky, but move Derek Stepan off the point to a forward spot on the second unit with Zuccarello and Anisimov.
“It’s not ideal,” said Tortorella, who doesn’t want to overuse Marc Staal (3 PPG) and Dan Girardi (2), who are “playing a lot of minutes against top lines and they’re in our No. 1 penalty-killing group.” Matt Gilroy will get “a whack” at the point because, he said, “his confidence is growing.”
Gaborik, who Tortorella thinks is “close” to breaking out of a five-game pointless streak, said he believes Wolski “will be the right fit…he played well, you could see his talent level and he only got here about three o’clock yesterday. Hopefully we can get the points to shoot the puck and have simple plays, move the puck and get the ugly goal in there.’’
So is playing agianst Vancouver a measuring stick? “I don’t like measuring sticks, I think we’re a good team too,” said Tortorella. “It’s (not) like big brother against little brother, we’re going to play them head on and see where we land.”….With four games in six nights, callup C Kris Newbury will remain as a spare forward...