Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Reshaping the Rangers Power Play: New Formation, New Personnel, New Coach?

One of the biggest weaknesses for the New York Rangers of late and for the past few years has been the ineptitude of the New York Rangers powerplay.  The list of problems wrong with the powerplay is very long and includes: lack of movement, not enough screens, do not shoot enough, do not get shots through, get pass happy and more that I surely forgot.  The Rangers are not the most talent laden roster in the league but they have more than enough talent to be a successful team with the man advantage.  Besides a good special teams unit is not dependent on talent, but it certainly does help.

Obviously I am not qualified as a coach to fix it, but as an observer I certainly have some thoughts and ideas on the things that might help the situation and create more disadvantages.  One powerplay that the New York Rangers could certainly stand to emulate is one that shredded their penalty kill for three goals; the Tampa Bay Lightning.  The beautiful thing about the way Tampa runs their team with the man advantage first and foremost is they actually have a system.  Too many times watching the Rangers it looks like freestyle hoping for something to happen in a good way instead of having a plan, practicing the plan and then executing the same plan.  While the Rangers do not have the same talent as the Lightning I would like to see them employ the 1-3-1 system.  I believe the 1-3-1 system brings a more natural amount of player and puck movement because there is always the freedom to interchange positions. 

The 1-3-1 system is a European based system that has not come on yet in the NHL other than in Tampa.  The point of the system is to create three-on-two all over the ice and force the defense to focus on the player in the slot thus disrupting the natural penalty killing box many teams use.  You create natural passing lanes and as fans saw when the Rangers were manhandled by the Lightning it creates plenty of one time shooting opportunities, which means no one on the ice can be afraid to pull the trigger.  It is an aggressive style of play that the Rangers could really use to change their mentality with the man advantage.  To run this system you need a combination of offensively skilled players, but also defensively responsible since there will only be one defender on the ice.

The way that I would run the system is with the following personnel playing the following roles:

Brian Boyle - in front of the net taking on the Ryan Malone role as the screener and the garbage man.  His sole job is to stand there and annoy the goaltender the entire time in the offensive zone which by doing that alone will create more space for the wing players as a defender will have to account for him and it will create traffic on shots.

Derek Stepan – He plays the left side wing which allows him to play the Marty St. Louis role as the playmaker from his off side.  This low on the left wing position is where Stepan has a history of running the power play from and it allows him to see the ice better and put more pressure on the defense then being stuck at the point.  To me there is a misconception that you have to be at the point to be the quarterback on the powerplay and if you watch the way Tampa runs there unit they disprove that notion.

Marian Gaborik – I would put him in the middle of the 3 line as a guy to have the freedom in the high slot where the combination of Stepan’s vision/passing and Dubinsky’s passing from the other side along with Brian Boyle screening should create tons of chances for Gaborik.  This will also cause the Rangers to have odd man situations when Gaborik gets the puck inside the penalty kill just like playing against a zone in basketball where Gaborik basically becomes the outlet at the foul line and creates numbers down low.

Brandon Dubinsky – I would play him on the off wing side even though he is used to playing the left wing because of the other forwards I believe he is the best passer and also the best threat for a one time shot when the puck works its way around outside of Gaborik.  I am also open to the idea of swapping Dubinsky and Gaboirk in this formulation, but I just don’t think of Gaborik as a slap shooter like a Stamkos is.

Dan Girardi – While Michael Del Zotto is working out his issues this is the spot that with the most uncertainty but because Girardi has been the best this year at getting his shot on target I would put him back there to start.

I do not expect this to turn the Rangers into the Lightning on the power play but I think this system with this formulation of players has a very good chance to eliminate some of the major issues that have plagued this team with the man advantage over the past few seasons.  Below is a video of the way the Lightning run the power play practice and you can imagine substituting in the guys as I have described them and see how the natural motion and shifting occurs during a play.

Lastly and I do not want to spend too much time harping on it, but if the Rangers system is this bad continuously and everyone in the organization says that Mike Sullivan is the one who runs the power play there has to come a point where either you take it away from him or you get rid of him and bring in someone who can run it.

Let me know your thoughts.

Also check out HockeySuit for his post on the power play issue and all the different systems that can be employed.  It is very thorough and maybe the Rangers can find one.