The New York Rangers lost their first two games and now there's a danger for a slow start to the 2013 season. To avoid this, I've come up with a five-step plan to avoid such a slow start.
John Tortorella may not like my suggestions, but they are necessary if the Rangers want to get going. A slow start could absolutely finish a team in his shortened season. Every game is of heightened importance. Essentially, every game is a four-point game.
The Rangers would be wise to heed this advice and get their season going.
Read on to find out what this five-point plan entails.
Brad Richards needs to take control of the power play.
The Rangers went 0-for-5 on the power play against the Bruins, including a 5-on-3 opportunity with a chance to tie the game.
For the most part, the Rangers featured a power play with four forwards and one defenseman. Here were the participants:
- Brad Richards
- Rick Nash
- Marian Gaborik
- Ryan Callahan
- Michael Del Zotto
Richards and Del Zotto manned the point, while Gaborik and Nash hung out by the circles. Callahan took a beating down low.
Due to the nature of the power play, it was run primarily through Gaborik on the half-wall. He and Richards would play catch, then would work it around to Nash and back before either Richards or Gaborik took a shot.
It wasn't too effective.
The setup is fine, but the execution needs some work. Instead of it being run through Gaborik, it needs to be run through Richards.
Richards needs to take control. At the point, he needs to direct traffic and set up for one-timers. Working it around the boards is fine, but Richards needs to take more shots.
In addition, there needs to be more movement from the forwards. Nash, in particular, needs to step away from the wall and into the slot area, where he can use his size to bully his way in.
To change things up, put Richards down low, behind the net, with Del Zotto and Gaborik at the points, and Nash and Callahan circling below the circles. This would give the team more chances up front for rebounds and put-backs.
The Rangers have an abundance of talent on the power play, but it means nothing if they can't execute. To avoid a slow start to the season, Brad Richards needs to take control. He's a maestro on the power play, conducting traffic and putting players in the best position to succeed.
Putting the power play in the hands of Richards, instead of Gaborik, is a great step to avoid a slow start.
Marian Gaborik belongs on the first line.
Marian Gaborik played 15 minutes and 55 seconds against the Bruins.
To put that in perspective, consider this: Carl Hagelin played 19 minutes and seven seconds.
I like Carl Hagelin. He's a fine young player. But Marian Gaborik is one of the best players in the world. You cannot make the argument that playing Hagelin more than Gaborik is better for the team.
Here's more: Derek Stepan played 18 minutes and 53 seconds. Again, Stepan is a nice player. But he's not nearly as good as Gaborik.
And here's more: Brian Boyle played 15 minutes and eight seconds. You have to like Boyle and what he brings. But his ice time should not be on par with Gaborik's.
Gaborik started the season on the second line, with Ryan Callahan and Stepan. In the name of spreading out the offense, the Rangers choose to split up Rick Nash and Gaborik.
That's fine in theory. But in a shortened season, you cannot afford games where the offense does not show up. The offense did not show up against the Bruins.
The Rangers need to put Gaborik on the first line and give him first-line minutes. The Rangers have a potentially dangerous trio in Nash, Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik. Use them! There's no need to spread out the offense.
If the Rangers are worried that the second line won't produce offense, well, they shouldn't be. A trio of Carl Hagelin, Derek Stepan and Ryan Callahan is a great second line. Replace Hagelin with Chris Kreider and you really have something special.
There's no need to get fancy. A shortened season needs to be all about offense. You don't have as many games to put up a zero. You have to score and if the Rangers want to put out their best offense, Gaborik belongs on the first line.
The Rangers took seven penalties against the Bruins. Luckily for the Rangers, the Bruins went 0-for-7 on the man advantage.
But allowing seven power plays and expecting to kill them all off is not sustainable and is a recipe for disaster.
That's 14 minutes where the team is not on the attack, where they're on their heels, and wearing out some of their best players.
You cannot win if you are that undisciplined.
Their lack of discipline cost them on their own power play. Rick Nash took a costly hooking penalty in the middle of a 5-on-3 power play that gave the Rangers a chance to tie the game. The Bruins scored two minutes after that and put the game away for good.
That cannot happen. Even though the Rangers have a great penalty kill, it is bad policy to keep rolling them out there. The more they play, the more they're exposed.
The Rangers need to keep emotions in check and not take stupid penalties. That's going to cost them a lot of games.
The Rangers had 21 shots against the Bruins, which is on the low side. But they missed at least 10 shots, either wide of the net or high.
If, say, five of those shots were on net, we could've been talking about a different outcome.
Now, I know you may be asking: "How can you direct a shot to be on net?"
Well, you can. And while there are going to be shots that are high or wide, the key is choosing when to shoot.
Instead of a random shot from the very high slot, that's bound to do nothing but hit the glass, working it down low and making the extra pass is wise.
Now, let's make one thing clear: There are times when you cannot avoid a bad shot. In fact, sometimes, a shot high off the glass can create a favorable opportunity.
But there is nothing that can replace a shot on net. Shots on net are the best weapon an offense has. It can lead to rebounds, deflections, getting the goaltender out of position and, of course, goals.
Getting shots on net, instead of wide, is the best medicine to avoid a slow start. The Rangers will have to make this a priority.
The Rangers want to avoid a slow start. Makes sense. They are Stanley Cup favorites and in this shortened season, a slow start could severely hamper their ability to not only make the playoffs, but do well.
Understandable. But the Rangers need to exercise one of those great virtues—patience.
Every game is important, but the Rangers need to keep one thing in mind. They're really talented. So talented, in fact, that they could win 10 games in a row and put any memory of a slow start in the rearview mirror.
The Rangers cannot panic. Panic leads to bad things like ill-advised trades.
The Rangers need to take the long view. They are one of the most talented teams in hockey. Any slow start will truly be a bump in the road.
If the Rangers can take a few deep breaths, and realize what they have in that room, they'll be fine.