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Time To Focus On The Power Play In Between Games One And Two

Jim Cerny
BlueshirtsUnited.com

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In the midst of an exhausting schedule the Rangers were given a day off Saturday in Pittsburgh following Friday's 3-2 overtime victory over the Penguins in Game One of their best-of-seven Metropolitan Division Finals series. The players and coaches did gather at the team hotel for meetings and video sessions; and Alain Vigneault, Brad Richards, Marc Staal, and Derek Stepan all were made available to speak with reporters.

The main topic of conversation revolved around the Rangers struggling power play. Vigneault had stated before Game One against the Penguins that this was a new series and he wasn't interested in discussing the team's power play woes from the opening round against the Philadelphia Flyers. However after Friday's 0-for-4 performance on the power play, Vigneault admitted Saturday that he is considering personnel changes on his power play units.

What those changes might entail is anyone's guess since the head coach was not about to name any names. However he did point out that it's tough this time of the year with so little practice time to make personnel changes on either or both of the power play units.

"You do have to trust your players to find a way to get it done," said Vigneault. "I'm trying to come up with a solution...our power play last night didn't work. It's an important element in winning games, and we're trying to make it work."

For quite some time now Vigneault has been deploying Rick Nash, Stepan, and Marty St. Louis up front on one unit, and the line of Benoit Pouliot, Derick Brassard, and Mats Zuccarello on the other. Brad Richards quarterbacks a good 90 seconds or so of each power play from the point, with Ryan McDonagh, John Moore, and Dan Girardi also receiving time at the two points.

With Chris Kreider, who had six power play goals on the season, still out recovering from hand surgery, and Raphael Diaz having been a healthy scratch the first eight post-season games, and with all six defensemen currently playing well, it does not seem that Vigneault has many options from outside his current lineup to spark the power play. Perhaps J.T. Miller is an option, but he has played in only two playoff games, so far, and Daniel Carcillo has played well at even strength.

Within the current lineup one option could be to put big Brian Boyle in front of the net to create traffic and perhaps generate more rebounds.

"With the power play, it comes down to execution no matter who is out there," explained Stepan, who was second on the team this year with 18 power play points. "With the power play you have to play as a five-man unit. It's crucial."

The Rangers started the playoffs by scoring on two of their first three power play opportunities during the opener against the Flyers. Now the club is limping along with three power play goals total in 33 man advantages, and has gone without a power play goal in 25 consecutive opportunities dating back to Pouliot's goal in the first period of Game Two against Philly.

"I think power plays can get hot or get cold," noted Vigneault. "I still say that even if you don't score on your power play it can give you momentum. Last night in the second period we lost momentum; and I don't know if it's because they killed two penalties, but I do know they took momentum away from us."

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All four members of the Rangers who spoke with the media Saturday downplayed to a degree the team's overtime victory in Game One, instead focusing on the next task at hand, which is Game Two Sunday night at CONSOL Energy Center.

"We had high expectation on ourselves coming in here," stated Staal. "A lot of people maybe doubted us with the schedule and all, but I thought our depth showed, we stayed fresh, and played a solid game. But we haven't accomplished anything yet, though we're excited to get another opportunity to try and win another one (Sunday)."

Both Richards and Vigneault mentioned how the team's depth and rolling four lines has been a key to the team's success the second half of the season, the first round of the playoffs, and in Game One against Pittsburgh. Stepan offered how his line with Rick Nash and Marty St. Louis "can't seem to buy one right now", but the team keeps playing well and winning playoff games because "we're getting goals from the top of our lines to the bottom of our lines, and from the back end, too. Everyone is chipping in."

 

May 3 - 7:42pm
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