The New York Rangers opened their series against the Philadelphia Flyers without much concern for their power play. They scored two on the man advantage in Game 1, and another in Game 2.
And then they didn’t score in their next 34 times with the man advantage, all the way into Game 4 against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday night.
Overall, they’re 3-for-42 in the playoffs; and after the Penguins scored two breakaway goals in Game 3 right after killing Rangers power plays – and New York failed to tally on a late 6-on-4 – their futility on the man advantage has become the story of the series.
(Especially because it’s helped Marc-Andre Fleury go 120 minutes without giving up a goal.)
Where did it all go wrong? Derick Brassard has a theory. Via Rangers Rants:
“Right now, I think it’s in our head. Obviously, it could win some hockey games for your team. Right now, we’re struggling and the only way we’re going to come out of that is to keep it simple and work hard and make sure we don’t get out-competed from the penalty kill. So, tonight I think it’s going to be one of the keys to get back in the series.
“Every time the power play is struggling, it’s obviously the power play’s fault because you have more players on the ice,” Brassard added. “You need to find a way to create some offense. The Flyers really came hard at us and kind of shook our confidence a little bit. Now, it’s in our head and as soon as we’re going to score the first goal I think everything is going to get back where it was before.”
So what complicated power play code did the Flyers crack? Nothing really.
Reading the Rangers comments after Game 4 of that series, it might as well be their comments after Game 3 of the Penguins series: Not enough pucks on net, not enough traffic in front of Fleury and zero second chances. Or as Andrew Gross wrote before Game 5:
In going 0 for 4 on the power play in their Game 4 loss, the Rangers were too passive, preferring to pass the puck around the perimeter while not aggressively pursuing shots. The Flyers have adjusted on the penalty kill, doing a better job of getting in the shooting lanes and blocking shots.
The bottom line is that the power play struggles are in their heads, and that’s one reason the Rangers were given a full day off on Tuesday.
While it’s true other teams have excelled in the postseason with crap-tastic power plays, like the 2011 Boston Bruins, the Rangers’ margin of victory is too slim, and Henrik Lundqvist’s margin for error too small, to overcome the Penguins in a series where power plays are not only hurting the Rangers but helping their opponents generate goals.
Game 4 is another chance to buck the trend. Getting Chris Kreider back, potentially, will boost those chances.