The New York Rangers are gearing up for their first postseason installment against the Philadelphia Flyers at Madison Square Garden Thursday night. There is no shortage of motivation when these two teams meet, but the Rangers must improve a few parts of their game if they want to have playoff success. New York played extremely well down the stretch, going 9-2-2 in their final 13 games, but there is one big area of concern for the Rangers heading into the postseason — their power play.
With the Rangers playing so well of late, it’s hard to believe that any part of their game is awful at the moment, but the power play sure does qualify. After being among the top-ten power plays in the NHL for most of the regular season, the Rangers’ power play has limped to the finish line and was virtually non-existent in the final quarter of the season. In the last 20 games, New York is a mind-blowing 7-for-63 with an extra skater on the ice. That’s good for about a nine percent success rate in case anyone was wondering.
The fact that New York has won most of those games has certainly quieted the problem. Winning cures a lot of things, but the Rangers will only survive for so long in the playoffs if their power play continues to struggle. The Rangers need some of their most valuable players to step up to remedy the situation, and it starts with the Rangers’ most valuable line.
The line of Derick Brassard, Benoit Pouliot and Mats Zuccarello isn’t their best line on paper, but they have certainly been the most consistent. More importantly, they put up big numbers on the power play. Brassard and Pouliot are tied for the team lead with seven power play goals apiece. Add in Zuccarello’s four power play goals and the trio combines for 18 of the team’s 48 power play goals this season. That’s good for just below 40 percent of all the Rangers’ power plays goals.
Brassard has shined in his first full season with New York, tallying a career-high 18 goals. The Rangers received a scare in practice on Tuesday when Brassard left with a strained lower back, but the team expects him to be ready for Game 1. Over one-third of Brassard’s total points this season were scored on the power play. Zuccarello has also had a breakout season and has been a top playmaker on the power play with 13 assists.
The trio has developed tremendous chemistry together this season, and they need to be the answer to New York’s struggling power play. The Rangers will also depend on centers Brad Richards and Derek Stephan when they have an extra man on the ice. The two combined for 27 assists on the power play this season. They also take most of the offensive zone faceoffs that are essential to setting up the power play quickly and applying pressure on the defense. The Flyers will start their backup goalie Ray Emery in place of the injured Steve Mason, and New York needs to take advantage and jump on Emery with an extra skater.