First, some sound bites:
Tortorella at today’s optional skate, regarding the team’s malfunctioning power play: “We’re in a jam and we don’t have a lot of time to work ourselves out of it.”
More Tortorella on how to fix it: “We need some really good players to make some really good plays.”
The fact is that it’s not that simple. Coach Tortorella is currently using a power play system that is outdated by about two decades. His 2004 Stanley Cup Champion Tampa Bay Lightning squad used largely the same system, and had largely the same results during their run to glory in 2004. Now, that’s not to say Torts is the problem here, but he is doing virtually nothing to resolve the issue.
If you look at the Rangers special teams during the 2011-2012 campaign, they had problems on the power play throughout. All the critics pointed to the lack of secondary scoring. The Rangers simply did not have to offensive prowess across three lines to support scoring with the man advantage, they all said. After seeing the same issues pop up this season, and not having a large amount of time to solve them, it indicates that the system itself is flawed, and not the players themselves.
So what happens now? Buckle up, Rangers fans. This will not be simple, nor will it be easy in this shortened season.
Coach Tortorella has always been a fan of watching video of other teams in order to scout their systems, decide what match-ups will work, and brief his troops. Maybe instead of taking apart the other team’s system to defend, maybe Torts should start analyzing other power play units to see what works, and why.
Not convinced? Here are some numbers. Over the last four years the Rangers’ power play numbers have been in steady decline. During the 2009-2010 season, they were 55 for 301, for a percentage of 18.3. The next season, they went 49 for 290, with a percentage of 16.9. Last season, the Rangers had a percentage of 15.7, which breaks down to 44 for 280. All of those statistics earned them a middle-of-the-road ranking. This season, they have scored only 3 power play goals in 35 tries. That’s good enough for dead last in the league.
They have the pieces. Center Brad Richards has had some success on the power play, especially during his tenure in Dallas. Rick Nash has 83 power play goals, and 183 power play points, mostly amassed on a middling Columbus team that did not surround him with the players that the Rangers currently have. They have a stable of puck-handling defensemen to work the points and cycle effectively, with Ryan McDonagh, Dan Girardi, Michael Del Zotto, and Matt Gilroy.
So, if the parts are assembled, why isn’t the engine running?
Well, if you’ve exhausted every other option the only one that remains is to change the system. Maybe Tortorella can find time to take a look at St. Louis’ power play system, which has found success under Ken Hitchcock’s system, or San Jose’s system, which ranked 2nd in the league for the last two seasons.
The fact is that this Rangers squad needs to fix their special teams as soon as humanly possible, and, as Torts said, there is not a lot of time to tinker with things. But, if the Rangers continue plugging away under the current system, their lack of scoring with the man advantage will only loom large as this team digs itself a hole they will not be able to climb out of in a 48 game season.