One of the concerns for the Rangers this season has been a lackluster power play.
Following a Stanley Cup Playoff run where a better performance with the man advantage could have lead to a Stanley Cup, the Rangers made this one of their priorities with the acquisition of Keith Yandle. This hasn’t paid dividends through his first 11 games. The Rangers have only scored two power-play goals with the extra man and have seen their shooting percentage drop from 10.8% to 6.7%, and their goals per 60 minutes go from 6.3 to 2.6.
This is a small sample size, but there is some reason to be concerned with a power play that isn’t creating high-quality green shots. When reviewing the Rangers’ shots with the man advantage, I noticed them taking a lot of red shots. Red shots are notoriously low-percentage shots because they provide the goaltender with clear sight range and allow them to set their depth and angles.
The issue is 63% of the Rangers’ shots on the power play have been of the red variety. They are only converting 2% of these opportunities. As I showed last week in regards to successful goal-scoring areas, we can see in the above graphic why green shots have a higher conversion rate. The Rangers are converting just over 1-in-4 on the power play, shooting 26% on green opportunities. They account for 88% of the goals scored even though they only make up 37% of the shots they produce with the man advantage.
To combat this, the Rangers need to create more movement on the power play. The nature of the penalty kill is to create a box around the slot and clog up the royal road. This makes it very difficult to cross it with possession and forces the offense to pass the puck through this well guarded domain.
So it becomes essential to create traffic and front the goaltender to create vision problems. Players like Rick Nash need to use their big bodies to create chaos in front of the goaltender. By setting their feet early and maintaining strong footwork, they can front the goaltender and cause vision issues for the goaltender as well as make life more difficult for the defensemen trying to move and contain them.
This layering can create multiple bodies in front of the goaltender that doesn’t just work as vision blockage on shots, but it can obscure the vision of the developing play. If you can cause even a fraction of a delay for the goaltenders visual recognition, you can delay not only the way he reads the play, but the way he reacts to it. Even if a shot never occurs, you can increase your efficiency on passes across the royal road by interrupting the goaltenders puck tracking. It also creates tip opportunities in the highest success area on the ice.
The most important thing it does is create vision issues for shots. Vision issues that also can lead to rebound opportunities because goaltenders either don’t see the shot, or are late in reacting to it. Another high-level green opportunity.
A strong net-front presence can also create goal opportunities for your defensemen, who the Rangers have struggled to get goal production from in 2014-15. Only six of their 35 goals have come from defensemen which matches PK Subban’s total alone in Montreal. As we can see in the above image, the green shots coming from above the faceoff circles are limited because the Rangers just aren’t getting enough of a net push.
It is easy to see why it becomes such a cliché for coaches to mention “net-front presence” over and over again, but a well-executed screen can contribute to a domino effect which leads to multiple green opportunities instead of low percentage red ones.
With some better execution in front of the net, the Rangers have the offensive talent to ease their fans concern of a repeat of their man advantage struggles during the 2013-14 Stanley Cup Playoffs.