It’s no secret that when the Rangers are on their game they are playing John Tortorella hockey to a “tee.” This team is built around their 2-1-2 forechecking scheme and their ability to separate players from the puck in dirty areas of the ice. It’s their “identity,” as I am sure you’ve heard.
But not all of our offense should or will come off of the forecheck. In order to beat elite teams you need to be able to create offense from all areas of the ice and in all types of situations. It is the only way to truly keep opposing defenses honest.
Last season much of our offense came from grinding it out during 5-on-5 play. By all means it was great to see, but Gaborik was struggling, and Cally and Dubi couldn’t convert on odd man rushes. If the team wasn’t getting those ugly goals, the result was usually a dried up offense.
This season, when the Rangers are winning it is partly because they have been able to create offensive balance. Some shifts we are seeing Stepan and Gaborik create offense on transition rushes, other times we are seeing guys get to their own rebounds or create shots off of second efforts, and sometimes they’re creating backdoor plays off the cycle. This is what all great teams do.
The question moving forward is can they add that final ingredient, power play goals? Without capitalizing on special teams, it is hard to know how far this team can go. The Bruins certainly had a mediocre power play last season, as did the Penguins during their Cup runs, but every team will admit, a subpar power play is far from ideal.
Once the Rangers get Staal back our puck possession numbers (and shots for/against ratio) should improve. We should also be better adept to handling smaller, quicker teams like the Canadiens or the Panthers. However, Staal’s return likely won’t solve our power play issues. We don’t need to be the best in the league, but we’ll need to be better than where we are now.
Power play aside, the good news is this team is heading in the right direction. Although they are still young and relatively inexperienced, the defense is holding its own. The goaltending obviously won’t be a problem. The last key to the puzzle is a balanced offense and so far this season we are seeing that progression.