The Rangers are 0-for-10 on the power play in their playoff series against the Canadiens, which going into Monday night’s games had them tied for last place with the Blackhawks at an even 0.0 percent among 16 playoff teams.
That is not good, and it is why someone asked coach Alain Vigneault after practice Monday if perhaps he spent more time than usual on special teams.
He said that was not the case, but he did not dispute the notion that area could use some drastic improvement.
“Throughout the season, every day that we practice, we work on specialty teams to any extent from 20 to 30 percent of practice,” he said. “Today was no different. We did work on our execution, on making a couple of quicker plays.
“There’s no doubt that [Sunday], they score two power-play goals and our power play doesn’t execute and really doesn’t get us a scoring chance. So we’re aware of that. We’re going to work on being better tomorrow [in Game 4]. That’s what we can control right now.”
Being better in Game 4 would be a good idea after a 3-1 loss in Game 3 in which for most of the night the offense seemed to be stuck in slush. Often when that is happening to a team skating 5-on-5, a nicely timed power play can be a jump start. Not so thus far in this series.
“For us power-play guys, we have to be able to generate more and get some momentum for us,” Mika Zibanejad said. “We weren’t able to do that yesterday. We went through it today and worked on it.”
After Sunday’s game, captain Ryan McDonagh said, “We’re definitely fighting it a little bit, to say the least. If it’s not going well, we really need to simplify here, make one or two passes and look to get it to the net. We are maybe looking to extend our plays a little bit too much and it’s costing us scoring opportunities.”
There is ample reason for the Rangers to hope this is a short-term blip. They were 11th in the 30-team NHL in power-play percentage in the regular season at 20.2, and they were at a league-best 34.2 percent over the final 15 regular-season games.
But the Canadiens are difficult to solve defensively, with a star goalie in Carey Price and a defensive pair in Shea Weber and Andrei Markov that plays nearly half the game.
“I don’t think it’s a lack of effort,” Derek Stepan said of the offensive slump in general. “I think it’s a lack of brain power at times. That’s stuff that we can fix.”