Rangers experiencing ‘lulls’ on previously-potent power-plays


SAN JOSE, Calif. — There has been a lull in action for the Rangers, who lost two of the first three games of their current road trip, and rather decisively so, entering their match Thursday against the Sharks. Adam Fox said he believes that’s a result of, well, having too many lulls in the action. 

“I think we need to find more consistency,” said Fox, whose team defeated the Ducks on Saturday between losses to the Golden Knights on Jan. 6 and the Kings on Monday. “I think we’ve had a lot of lulls in parts of games that can’t happen, especially on the road against good teams. 

“If we can find that consistency, we’ll have more success.” 

The Blueshirts generally have been able to surmount what have been rather ordinary results at five-on-five with a potent power play that has ranked in the NHL’s top quarter most of the season. But there has been a lull in efficiency with the man-advantage. The Rangers had gone three straight games without a power-play goal (0-for-8) for only the second time this season, slipping to ninth in the league at 22.9 percent. 

The unit endured notable struggles in each of the previous two games, kept to the outside while committing far too many mindless turnovers trying to force pucks through traffic. Artemi Panarin’s obvious rustiness upon his return on Monday in Los Angeles from a four-game COVID-related absence surely was a major factor in the team’s follies against the Kings. 

Adam Fox
Adam Fox thinks the Rangers have had too many ‘lulls’ recently.
NHLI via Getty Images

“You’re not going to score power-play goals every game, but I think we want to create more chances even if the puck’s not going in,” said Fox, whose 16 points (0-16) with the man advantage were second in the league among defensemen to Nashville’s Roman Josi’s 19 points (7-12) entering Thursday. “It’s a long year, you’re going to have stretches when it doesn’t go your way, so you don’t want to get frustrated. 

“We have a lot of talented players, and though it can sometimes throw you off a little bit with people coming in and out of the lineup the way it’s been recently, the important thing is staying with it and finding your flow and getting back to putting the puck in the net.” 

The Rangers have relied on their specialty teams throughout the season. With a penalty kill that was ranked fourth at 85.2 percent, the Blueshirts were 13-0-2 when winning the specialty team competition. That means the Rangers were 10-10-2 when they did not. 

There was, as has been commonplace throughout the NHL through this phase of the pandemic, a complement of young players in the lineup who otherwise likely would be in the AHL. That applies to the Pack Line, with Tim Gettinger and Jonny Brodzinski flanking Morgan Barron. 

And though 20-year-old Braden Schneider was expected to make his NHL debut on defense Thursday, that was not a function of COVID as much as a regular course of business promotion. 

Kris Knoblauch, the Hartford head coach who stepped in for his second game behind the Rangers’ bench in place of the COVID-stricken Gerard Gallant on Thursday, provided an interesting perspective on the mentality of younger players when they get the call to the show

“It’s a difficult situation because [they] are here for just a short time and they feel that when they do get their opportunity, they don’t want to make a mistake because when you make a mistake that’s a reason for the coach to take you out,” Knoblauch said. “When a player gets called up from Hartford it might be their only chance, so they put a lot of pressure on themselves and keeping their game so simple because they don’t want to make that mistake. 

Rangers
The Rangers have lost two of the first three games of their current road trip.
NHLI via Getty Images

“But then they also get into that position where they can’t help the team by making a play. It’s a fine line and a balancing act for those players. But what I’ve seen from those guys who are getting called up because of the circumstances, they’ve managed it very well.” 

But Knoblauch said he would have no special instructions for Schneider or the Pack of forwards against the Sharks. 

“You try to make them feel as comfortable as possible,” the acting coach said. “I think more importantly it’s about their situation with their linemates and teammates. For instance, I think Morgan has been playing very well and I think that has something to do with him playing on that Hartford Wolf Pack line where, you know, sometimes there’s the pressure of, ‘Oh, I’ve got to get him the puck,’ or, ‘Was that my job or not?’ 

“Those three are just skating, talking and communicating on the ice and just playing hockey as if they were in Hartford.” 

The perspective is understood, but the Rangers needed their guys to play hockey in this one as if they were in San Jose.



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