Hockey will be back soon and finally we can start talking about the systems and strategies of this great game we all know and love. One of the most critical – and contested – aspects of the Rangers system in 2012 was their power play.
For the sake of brevity, I will just say that last year’s mediocre power play was not due to coaching decisions or their umbrella formation (seen above). The problem was a lack of execution based on limited personnel. Penalty killers could key in on one guy and knew the others either wouldn’t sense open ice (hockey IQ) or put a quality shot on net.
So how can Nash help the Rangers improve?
1) Zone Entries
The Rangers were subpar at crossing the blueline with the puck. This was because Richards was the only guy who was comfortable handling rubber through penalty killer traffic. Nash gives them another option, which will help spread coverage.
2) The cycle
Cycling the puck is a start. Cycling players is what creates defensive miscues. The purpose of any power play is to exploit open ice. Cally is good at setting screens, but not finding real estate for one-timers. Nash can be that guy. He can set the screen and move up to receive forehand shots. Nash can also play along the walls and use his frame to protect the puck ala Jagr in his heyday. Lots of possibilities there.
Ultimately, I think Nash plays left wing just as well as right wing, so I see him rotating between the slot and either wing depending on who else is out on the ice. His handedness almost doesn’t matter because he’s just as good playing the off wing.
3) The points
The Rangers were subpar at keeping the puck in the zone. Part of this can be blamed on our pointmen, but part of the problem was our pointmen often didn’t find anyone to dish to. With Nash drawing coverage down low, it will also open up ice for MDZ, Richards, etc. to walk the line and find a better shooting lane. Ideally you’d like to see a right handed shot at the point, but Girardi isn’t that guy, so I think you’ll still see a Richards/MDZ combo up high.
Obviously it is going to take a few weeks for the Rangers to come together and all get on the same page. After all, there are a few new faces and several different power play formations that are used in the NHL, which you can read more about in my series of posts here.