Rangers' power play, once a weakness, ranked sixth in the NHL
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GREENBURGH, N.Y - It was the conclusion of the Rangers Fans Advisory Committee -- that is, those outspoken capacity crowds at Madison Square Garden -- that a primary task of new coach Alain Vigneault this season was to fix the team's power play.
For evidence, they had the Rangers' rank, 23rd among the 30 NHL teams, last year. And the fans' recommendation immediately was passed along to Vigneault when he arrived.
"That's all you guys were talking to me about was the power play: 'What about the power play?' What are you going to do about the power play?' '' Vigneault said Saturday. "Power play!"
He can be a bit light-hearted about such a focus lately. From a 15.7-percent success rate last season, the Rangers are up to 21.3 percent now, sixth in the league. They have scored a man-advantage goal in each of their last four games (5 of 14 attempts, 35.7 percent) and in nine of 12 games.
Brad Richards, who has four of the team's 33 power-play goals this season, said it is "nice to have the power play catch up" with already stellar penalty killing. "It takes a lot of pressure off your five-on-five."
To have squandered so many power-play opportunities a season ago, Richards said, "was frustrating because offensive guys expect to get things done. It's tough to lose games on a nightly basis where your power play could've made a difference."
Now, with Ranger power plays resembling barbarians at the gate to their opponents, Richards noted how the coaching staff "has kept the same units together and that helps the cohesiveness of the units. I think there were a lot of moving part last year. Some nights [this season], it hasn't been good, but we get back to practice the next day and we work with the same people and try to talk about it and figure it out."
There has been, Vigneault said, "a willingness to go in the tough areas, and make those plays," as well as assistant Scott Arniel's tactical adjustments.
"You know, a good power play is good personnel," Vigneault said. "There's a skill set, but there's also certain things, as far as establishing the shot and making sure you have a net presence."
Notes & quotes: Defenseman Dan Girardi was given a "maintenance day" off from practice Saturday . . . Forward J.T. Miller was returned to the team's Hartford affiliate.