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Hartnett: Rangers Enter All-Star Break Needing To Rectify Power Play Woes

By Sean Hartnett
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The Rangers have some fine-tuning ahead of them once they return to practice Monday. Lately, the Blueshirts have fallen into a funk on the power play. After losing 2-0 to the rival Philadelphia Flyers at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday, the Rangers enter the All-Star break on an 0-for-14 power play drought.

Following the defeat, head coach Alain Vigneault bemoaned the Rangers' lack of sharpness on the power play after an 0-for-3 outing.

"It's all about execution," Vigneault said. "You've got to handle the puck, and we didn't handle the puck."

The Rangers only produced a total of three shots across six minutes spent on the man advantage. There was an absence of crisp puck movement and quick thinking. Opposing netminder Steve Mason's rebound control was poor, and the Rangers needed to make him sweat. Their personnel should be capable of pushing near the league's upper echelon. Right now, they rank 12th overall with a power play percentage of 20.7.

"The last few games you could argue a number of things in why it wasn't working," alternate captain Derek Stepan said. "Tonight, I thought we worked extremely hard, and we got the same results. Power plays – it's important to have swagger, and you have to go out and work hard. Sometimes, you have to get a bounce.

"We had our looks," he continued. "We had a lot of looks. They did a good job of defending, no doubt – but I thought we did a good job offensively creating our chances. We had some grade-A chances that we missed the net on late. Zucc (Mats Zuccarello) hits a pipe and then they come down and score on us."

MORE: Hartnett: When It Comes To Zuccarello, Size In No Way Matters

The Rangers are not making bang-bang plays that can unravel the structure of an opposing penalty kill. There's too much hesitation and not enough urgency in their puck movement.

"We get a little stagnant at times," captain Ryan McDonagh said. "Sometimes you've got a lot of time on the half-wall or up top, you just kind of get a little too casual with it. Tonight, even when there was time and you had an open guy, try and snap the puck around a little bit quicker, give that guy an extra half-second to make his next play or get something down towards the net. You've got to be a little bit crisper, a little bit faster with puck movement."

Oddly, there is a clear discrepancy between the Rangers' power play prosperity home and away. The Rangers rank fifth overall in power play efficiency on the road at 25 percent. Their conversion rate slips to 17.1 percent at home, enough for 18th overall.

"When we talk in our meetings, we're pretty good in standings on the road on the power play," McDonagh said. "I don't know why. We don't want to do anything different at home as far as the power play goes. We've had good stretches before where we were really feeling it and can cycle through our plays. So we know we've got confidence there. They go in spurts like this where it goes cold. I still like our personnel and like who we've got out there on both units. It's just not relying on one unit here with this team. Both units have some skill and are able to make some plays. It's going to come back for us."

The Rangers will be in good shape if they can turn their power play fortune in the right direction. It's certainly a fixable problem. Back on Jan. 17, the Blueshirts had recorded power play goals in six of nine games.

"I like our play five-on-five," McDonagh said. "Ultimately, that's going to be a big difference-maker down the stretch here. Certainly, our power play has come a little cold here on the last stretch. We'll look at some things. Bounces and plays toward the net are going to start going our way here, I think. We've had to battle some injuries just like any other team. Ultimately, we should have a lot of confidence in this team. We play with a lot of speed and execution in our game. We're tough to hang with."

Throughout the season, the Rangers have alternated between hot and cold extremes on the power play. They need to catch fire once again.

Follow Sean on Twitter at @HartnettHockey

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