The Rangers’ power play looked more effective in Monday’s 5-3 win over the Sabres than it has all season long.
Granted, the bar wasn’t hard to clear, considering there were instances through the first half of the season where it didn’t even look like the Blueshirts had a man advantage. But as the team continues to develop offensive chemistry, it’s filtering throughout each aspect of their game, including the power play.
The Rangers were 2-for-3 on the power play Monday, with both goals (including one at five-on-three) coming from Chris Kreider, who leads the team in man-advantage tallies this season (8) and recently surpassed Tomas Sandstrom for 13th all-time in power-play goals for the franchise (55).
The Rangers were playing the last-place Sabres, but they still recorded eight shots on net over their three power-play opportunities and kept the action in the offensive zone – something the team hasn’t always done this season. It was their fourth power-play goal over the last four games.
It wasn’t just the Rangers’ ability to maintain puck possession in the Sabres’ zone, but their smart passes, net-front presence and shot-first mentality that allowed them to do so. The Rangers were aggressive when they needed to be, but also shrewd in their decisions with the puck.
“We’ve had zone time and we created chances, but you want to capitalize and be a difference in the game,” Adam Fox said of the power play’s struggles this season following the win. “[Monday] we were a difference and we were able to get some big goals. I think you just can’t get frustrated. We’ve got obviously a lot of skill on the power play, and just keep getting pucks to the net is not always pretty.
“A few tips, Kreids in front, and just stuff like that. If you get those, then pretty goals come from that.”
Fox has quarterbacked the first power-play unit throughout the season, and has seen first-hand that the team’s time with the man-advantage hasn’t always been beneficial. In fact, for a period of time, the Rangers were better on offense when down a player on the penalty kill than on the power play.
The Rangers are currently in a four-way tie for the NHL lead in shorthanded goals against with four. In the same breath, the team is in a five-way tie for the third-most shorthanded goals scored in the league with three.
But if the last handful of matchups are any indication, the team will benefit greatly considering how often they’ve been on the power play this season.
The Rangers have had the second-most amount of power-play opportunities in the league at 112, with an NHL-best average of 3.61 man-advantage chances per game. Entering Monday’s game, the team led the NHL in penalties drawn per 60 minutes (4.39), ranked second in penalties drawn (133) and were tied for third in net penalties (plus-14).
“I think the last few games that the power play has been working hard, haven’t maybe got rewarded like we wanted to but it is a big opportunity for us,” Mika Zibanejad said. “And key situation for us to get that lead and we got it done so it was huge.”