Rangers' Gerard Gallant makes adjustments to power-play units
GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- This was not a case of Gerard Gallant making the decision to experiment simply for the sake of experimentation.
This was both the byproduct of a disappointing performance and an opportunity to tinker with a vital component ahead of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
And the results of Gallant’s adjustments may begin to reveal themselves in very short order.
During Wednesday’s brisk half-hour practice at the MSG Training Center, the Rangers deployed new power-play units. Chris Kreider, Mika Zibanejad, Patrick Kane, Artemi Panarin and Adam Fox comprised the first unit, while the second unit was made up of Alexis Lafreniere, Vincent Trocheck, Filip Chytil, Vladimir Tarasenko and Jacob Trouba.
What made the configurations interesting is that Panarin was stationed alongside the half-wall on the right side and Kane, also on the right side, was along the goal line.
“Try and get it going a little bit,” was Gallant’s reasoning for the new-look units. The Rangers went 0-for-3 on the power play with one shot on goal in Tuesday night’s 3-2 loss to Metropolitan Division-leading Carolina at the Garden.
“Get it back to where it should be,” Gallant added.
Since Mar. 2 – which was the date of Kane’s first game with the Rangers – the team ranks 14th in the NHL with a 22.6% success rate on the power play. They have scored seven man-up goals in that span, while playing an average of five minutes and 40 seconds per game on the power play.
None of which is suboptimal. But for a team which possesses the kind of dynamic offensive players that the Rangers have in spades, it also means there’s room for improvement.
“You look at the units and sometimes you know what guys’ strengths are and you want to give them the puck in that area – maybe even if they’re not there,” Kane said. “I think that’s what we’re even working through. Like the game like last night. Sometimes you defer too much. Sometimes you’re expecting other guys to do the job for you because there is so much talent on the team and sometimes it’s just better to take control and not do things yourself, but have an aggressive mentality.”
After the acquisition of Kane, Gallant had the right wing on the right half-wall, which had been Panarin’s accustomed spot. That meant the top-line left wing had to be shifted elsewhere and the decision was made to have him replace Zibanejad on the left half-wall, while the center was moved to the high slot.
That configuration did not click immediately, which prompted Gallant to create two balanced units beginning on Mar. 9 in Montreal. One unit had Zibanejad and Kreider and the second had Panarin and Kane.
This configuration allowed Zibanejad and Panarin to each play on the left half-wall on separate units. It also kept Panarin and Kane together.
That lasted until Wednesday’s practice, when Gallant created a top five-man grouping which included Zibanejad, Kreider, Panarin, and Kane.
Gallant stressed the team “will do different things” with Kane; that he is not permanently ensconced on the right side of the goal line.
“He can be anywhere. He makes plays on the goal line. He can make plays on the half-wall,” Gallant said. “It’s not just flexibility for [Kane]; it’s flexibility for Mika and all those guys.”
Notes & quotes: Ryan Lindgren and Tyler Motte were given maintenance days and, as such, did not participate in practice. But both traveled with the team to Raleigh, where they will conclude their home-and-home series with the Hurricanes Thursday.