Jaromir Jagr

Do Something About It Tom

by Pavel Grujbar aka DaTeL

In this rant, I would like to take a close look at the Rangers’ power-play. Converting a PP advantage into a goal scored has always been a very important factor in hockey. And it doesn’t even have to result in a goal – a well played advantage builds confidence and keeps momentum going. Certainly, a poor effort on the PP, especially a two men advantage, leads to the opposite effect. As we could’ve seen these past two seasons with our boys.

Rangers are now ‘enjoying’ a PP percentage of 15.4 per cent, which ranks them at wonderful 20th position overall. For instance, the first-placed Habs managed to convert 30 % of their power-plays. While that is certainly a unique and unusual feat, the Rangers spoiled us in the last two campaigns with above 18 % numbers which, by the end of both seasons, got them into the 8th spot in the entire NHL.

However, even this result didn;t please some fans.
‘But D-T, those are certainly some grumpy, bitter, old complainers
I beg to differ. Most of them are knowledgeable hockey people who simply had enough. The survey showed that during the Rangers man advantages, there are several TVs and remote controls damaged by the Blueshirts’ fans who throw their bricks at the screen in what can only be described as paroxysm of rage.
The Rangers PP is like a torture for those who have to watch. Even the bad guys in Guantanamo were never forced to suffer through such things. Should there be an award for most passes made during the power-play, the Rangers would win by a huge margin.

The Jagr’s line is used to playing in a European way. Combine and pass fast to get the opposing defense out of position so that the last player touching the puck is shooting into an empty net. The Rangers had some success trying to achieve this but it is an enormously demanding style. It requires accurate, fast passes, a constant players’ movement and above average hockey sense. Let’s take a look at the first set of pictures.

In the picture bellow, you can see the first line of Jagr, Drury, Gomez, Shanahan and Rozsival setting up the standard position.

Let’s move eight seconds forward. Jagr’s got the puck along the boards and is skating towards Shanahan in the corner. The guy in front of the net at this moment is Gomez.

Jagr’s passing the puck to Shanahan

and switches places with Gomez.

Shanahan gives it to Gomez and switches places with Jagr in front of the net.

Gomez passes to Jagr and they’re changing places shortly afterwards. Shanahan is already in front. Notice Rozsival sneaking towards the crease.

Now you see Gomez with the puck near the goal line. Jagr is in the top right corner of the picture. Rozsival is uncovered in front because Shanahan dragged away his man and he also distracted Gonchar a bit.

Gomez makes a perfect pass to Rozsival, who is about to celebrate a goal in a moment.

This ‘easy’ play took about five seconds to execute. I’m sure that practicing and learning it took a lot longer but it paid off dividends – the Rangers got the lead they never let go of. The important thing to notice here is that no player of the three combining down low remains in their place for longer than a second. This whirling movement caused some havoc in the Pens defense. And it was this ‘mayhem’ that covered up the Rozsival’s move and gave Gomez a golden opportunity to get an assist.

The deal with the nowadays Rangers PP is that we don’t get to see this movement a lot. It’s usually rather the opposite, the guys on the ice are just standing and waiting for what’s gonna happen, moving the puck from one to another until it eventually ends with Jagr, who then tries to score on his own. Unfortunately, his shot is nowhere near as precise as it was two years ago.

There’s another way to play the PP effectively, though, and it doesn’t require as much players’ movement. You can opt to go with the NA style with working the crease and screening the goalie. Such plan needs a brave player who would take many a punishment for the team. Cam Neely could write a book on the slashes and cross-checks to the neck and back of player in front. The Jagr formation doesn’t want to know how to play this, however. There’s nobody in front, the puck’s flying around the umbrella and the shot, if there’s one that is, gets blocked, saved or simply goes wide and is cleared. Here comes another series of pictures, shorter than the previous one.
Here you see Jagr passing the puck to the blue line for a one-timer. The Rangers are already in the umbrella position.

Drury shoots. There�s enough space in front to put Zamboni there.

Although the Drury’s shot was a very good one, DiPietro saw it all the way and deflected it on the post. Do you think somebody would collect a juicy rebound?
As they say, there’s a reason to everything. We all remember well how Renney tried to force the Jagr-Shany PP unit last year. It was obvious it wouldn’t work but it took the coach half a season to realize the miracle ain’t coming. In the end, they got split, and the first and second formation exercised different style. Such that they were comfortable with. It seems to me that this year, we see a repeat. Tom, please, have a diary if you feel the sclerosis is taking over, will ya?

Chris Drury scored 67 goals over the last two seasons with the Sabres. What a number. However, this has specific circumstances behind it. First of all, he played on a very good, high scoring Buffalo team where even Ryan Hollweg would score more than twice. But most importantly, half of Chris’ markers came on the PP from in front. He is one of the best deflecting and rebounding players in the entire league. (Note: the best one is Marek Malik but he does that to his own team.) Once Drury comes to the Rangers, on the point you go. Makes sense!

The Rangers have a good record of miscasting players and pushing square pegs into round holes which, eventually, leads to players becoming unable to be effective through their natural abilities. Holik, a prototypical two-way power forward, was forced into a playmaking role on the first line. Sykora and Cullen, who had been very well known as PP point specialists before they made their Rangers debut, didn’t get a chance to play there and left sooner than expected. The same holds true for Drury. Except nobody would take Drury from us now. Not that I want it to happen.

I don’t want to tell Renney what to do. Actually, somebody scratch that – I DO! The Blueshirts should come up with two elite commandos with different styles. Jagr&boyz would play the European passing style, Drury and Shanahan would play their NA shooting style. Both units should get the same amount of time. It’s unacceptable to see the first line getting 90 seconds of every advantage we get. As for the personnel…
Numero uno: Prucha-Straka-Jagr, Rozsival-Staal
Numero due: Shanahan-Drury-Gomez, Tyutin-Mara
Rotate Prucha and Dawes on the first line based on who’s hotter.

The power-play is a key weapon nowadays with all the defensive systems the teams play out there. Having two squadrons with different strategies would give the Rangers a huge chance of surprising their short-handed, short-legged and short-sticked opponent.

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