GREENBURGH, N.Y. — For all the concern among observers during the past year-plus about how inconsistent the Rangers’ offense has been in five-on-five situations, the power play has always been the Blueshirts’ safety net. It has been awesome for the last several seasons, and it often made up for whatever lack of punch there was at even strength.
But entering Friday night’s game at Madison Square Garden against the Ottawa Senators, the Rangers’ power play was in an extended dry period, having produced only one goal in 17 chances in the previous six games. The Rangers went 3-3 in those games, including a 3-1 win over the Senators in Ottawa on Wednesday in the front end of the home-and-home that concluded Friday.
Mika Zibanejad, whose seven power-play goals led the team, said the power play’s current struggles do not overly concern him.
“No, I think we’ve had our chances,’’ he said after the Rangers’ morning skate Friday. “I mean we hit, what, two or three posts last game? The game before that, same thing . . . No, I’m not too, too worried about it. Obviously, if there’s something that we need to address, we’ll do it. It’s not nonchalant, but when we’re creating chances, we’re just going to keep doing that.
“It’s easy to start looking for maybe an extra pass because the puck hasn’t gone in and you’re trying to look for that perfect opportunity to score,’’ he said. “But I think we’ve been trying to chip away. I’m sure that the goals will come.’’
Of course, the whole “we’re playing well, we’re getting chances, and if we keep getting the chances, they’re bound to go in’’ argument is one the Rangers have been falling back on for weeks now.
Coach Gerard Gallant has been tinkering with his forward lines of late, and he said he and his assistant coaches have thought about tweaking the power-play formula as well.
“No, definitely,’’ he said. “I mean, when it’s going really well, you send it out there. When it’s not — recently it hasn’t been scoring as much [although] still getting chances, hitting goalposts — yeah, you always think about that.’’
Mostly, Gallant said, the discussion is whether to grant more time to the second power-play unit. The first unit of Zibanejad, Artemi Panarin, Chris Kreider, Vincent Trocheck and Adam Fox generally plays the first 90 seconds of a two-minute power play and sometimes takes the entire two minutes. The second unit of Filip Chytil, Kaapo Kakko, Alexis Lafreniere, Jacob Trouba and Sammy Blais doesn’t get much time at all.
Gallant hinted that the idea of mixing up and matching the personnel on the units has been considered. The top unit is all righthanded shots, except for Kreider, and the second unit is all lefties, except for Trouba.
“You could mix it up and switch some different guys in, and then, you know, make two real solid units also,’’ Gallant said. “So we’ll see. We’re taking it day by day with that, and we hope they score three tonight and keep her going.’’
Entering Friday, the recent struggles had brought the power play’s overall success rate down to 20.7% for the season, 20th in the 32-team NHL.
“Obviously, we’d love to have our PP be first in the league, but . . . a couple of goals, we go 2-for-3 or whatever, and that [percentage] shoots right up,’’ Zibanejad said. “I’m sure once a couple go in, we’ll get more confident and it will start rolling a little bit more again.’’