PP Woes Killing Rangers Playoff Chances
The Rangers dropped another contest today, their fourth straight overall and 3rd in a row against the Canadiens. The Rangers still occupy the 7th slot in the East but are now just 4 points ahead of both Atlanta and Carolina in the standings. To make matters worse the Hurricanes have 2 games in hand on both the Rangers and Thrashers. A few weeks ago the Blue Shirts were securely holding their postseason spot. Now that spot is in jeopardy.
Of course injuries have played a role in the Rangers slide but now just about everyone is back healthy. It appears that the influx of healthy players has disrupted the chemistry some of the forwards demonstrated earlier but that should work itself out. That's a temporary setback and I fully believe we have the components to ice 4 solid lines all capable of putting pucks in the net. To me our biggest problem, both of late and for much of the season, has been our PP.
Over the last 18 games (8W - 8L - 2OTL), the Blue Shirts have converted just 7 of 62 PP opportunities, or just 11.3%. On the year the Rangers rank 23rd in the NHL in PP% clicking at just a 15.7% rate.
The league average for PP conversion is 18.1%. If the Rangers had been able to convert at that rate on their PP it would be the difference of 4 goals over their last 18 games. Of the Rangers 10 losses during that span 7 have been one-goal losses. Think 4 more goals might have changed the outcome of a couple of those one-goal games?
Even if those 4 extra goals accounted for say 1 win and 1 more OTL, 3 total points, that would boost the Rangers up to 65 points and a tie with 6th place Montreal. They would also be just 1 point behind 5th place Washington. More importantly they would have a 7 point cushion on both Atlanta and Carolina. Clearly their ineffective PP has cost the Rangers dearly.
Having watched every game this season, I have a pretty good feel for what the Blue Shirts haven't been doing well. Lately the Rangers have controlled the puck for lengths of time on the PP but the defense has collapsed it's coverage in tight around the front of the cage. This has caused the Rangers to struggle immensely getting the puck into good scoring chances in front of the goal and they've been kept to the perimeter too much.
The obvious solution would be for the Rangers to get the puck back to their men on the point. Wide angle camera shots show they have tons of room and open angles to get shots from the point on goal. These shots may not necessarily turn directly into goals but it could generate 2nd chance rebound opportunities. It would also serve to give the PK unit second thoughts when deciding whether to collapse down low or not. If they begin to stay high to cover the point men then the Rangers might get more and better chances down low. It's a win-win if the Rangers can simply get point shots on goal. So why can't they?
The simple fact is they don't have a prototypical PP shooter to get the puck to. Coach Torts has tried nearly everyone, including rookies Derek Stepan and Mats Zuccarello, back there but no one has consistently been able to get the puck on net from the point. To me this only serves to reinforce the belief many Rangers fans have held that we need to go get someone to help but the question is, who?
The obvious names are Florida's Bryan McCabe, whom I mentioned in a previous post for TCL, and Tomas Kaberle. Both players are expensive but are in the final years of their deals. Another name to keep in mind is Sheldon Souray. Souray has been linked to the Rangers since last season and is currently serving a sentence with Hershey of the AHL.
Each of these players have their flaws. McCabe is currently out after surgery to repair facial fractures suffered when a puck hit him in the face. Kaberle is a good puck-mover and has been productive on the PP (51 PP points in 2005 - 2006) but doesn't have the booming shot McCabe and Souray each have. Souray meanwhile, has another year of his deal and even assuming he is claimed on re-entry waivers, would carry a $2.7 million cap hit next year. Plus reports have been mixed on his play in the AHL.
Honestly, I think I'd be happy with any of those three potential moves. At least we'd be doing something to hopefully fix our PP woes and to perhaps put us in better position to clinch a playoff spot.