One of the main goals of a successful power play is to make the opposition goaltender feel uncomfortable. This can be achieved by withholding information by forcing a goaltender into multiple shot possibilities. By taking away clear sight, altering the trajectory of the puck or placing pucks outside of his line of vision, an offense can create scenarios where a goaltender will struggle.
The New York Rangers have all the tools to present opposition goaltenders with these problems. With the trade deadline addition of Eric Staal, they Rangers have a center who is strong at winning face-offs and who can allow the Blueshirts to start the power play with possession, maximizing their time with the man advantage and allowing them to initiate their setup immediately.
Once possession is won, the Rangers have one of the greatest power play assets in the NHL. With the ability to quarterback below the goal line, Mats Zuccarello, along with Keith Yandle, provide the Rangers with multiple pivot points on their power play. Zuccarello is elite at facilitating the offense through his ability to manipulate passing lanes and deliver passes across the slot line.
His left-handed shot allows him better angles to create dangerous passes for the opposing goaltender and lets him view the whole offensive landscape before him. Should he want a reset, he can move the puck back to the half wall or the point. It also allows him to create angles for poor angle shots, which can keep a goaltender honest and reduce their ability to cheat the pass.
This is important because in a small sample, like a playoff series, a repetitive approach can end your season. By establishing multiple possibilities from this position, you remove a goaltender’s ability for easy pattern recognition which provides them with an easier process to apply the information they are gathering.
With a right-handed shot placed in the slot, like Derek Stepan, the Rangers create another distraction for the goaltender. With Stepan in the center, it allows for manipulation of the defensive box and the possible opening of the most valuable scoring opportunity, the back-door feed. A player like Kevin Klein has shown good instincts in jumping into this opening in the goaltender’s blind spot. With the goalie forced to rotate his head 180 degrees, it provides the highest quality chance for any power play.
Zuccarello has shown an elite ability to deliver this type of pass this season and when he has managed to complete them (like those charted above), the Rangers shooters have managed a 40% shooting percentage.
It’s the primary option, but one that the Rangers opposition will likely key on. If the defense collapses the box on Stepan and denies Zuccarello these lanes, Yandle becomes the secondary focus.
Yandle is a left-handed shot that can facilitate the offense from the top end, which offsets Zuccarello down low. With the highest opportunity removed by focusing on Zuccarello, Yandle can attempt to facilitate a high percentage cross slot line feed from a different angle or manipulate the top end of the zone for screen shots or puck deflections.
When the Rangers remove clear-sighted opportunities for the opposing goaltender and deliver on the high-end possibilities, the data dictates this will lead to greater success. This type of power play setup manages to capitalize on multiple scenarios while using some of the Rangers best assets to manage them. Players like Derick Brassard, Ryan McDonagh, J.T. Miller and Rick Nash can also be used in the same manner.
The Rangers have all the tools to deliver a dominant playoff power play and Zuccarello will have a chance to make a sizable difference this year on a possible march to a Stanley Cup.