The biggest concern for this team has been and will continue to be goals. And of course that is justified. If the Rangers continue to put up goose eggs then a win is virtually impossible and everything else is irrelevant.
That's a strange introduction to an article which will "make the case" for a guy who hasn't registered a single point in 28 games this season. But I bring the scoring up because it's just been so problematic and persistent that so many other things have taken a back seat; for instance, the penalty kill.
The penalty kill has been a huge part of the Rangers' identity even as far back as the Renney days. The Rangers' PK has been among the top 10 in the league six out of the last seven years, with the Rangers finishing 12th in that other year. Last year it was the 5th best in the NHL. Among everything else going wrong, this season hasn't been so kind to the Rangers' PK, which is tied for 17th in the league with an 81% success rate.
Prior to last night, the Rangers had given up three goals on five total powerplay opportunities in the last three games against Philadelphia, Ottawa, and Montreal. In those three games, Darroll Powe was a healthy scratch.
Last night, Darroll Powe was reinserted into the lineup after Kris Newbury was sent down. All five Winnipeg Jets powerplays came up empty. After Winnipeg took the 2-1 lead the Rangers took three penalties. And after Callahan tied it Zuccarello added two more in the second period.The Rangers have shown absolutely nothing that gives belief that they have the ability to mount successful comebacks; it's not too farfetched to claim that the game would have been decided if Winnipeg converted one of those first few powerplays to make it a 3-1 game. Even a late goal to make it 3-2 Winnipeg going into the third period would have forced the Rangers to play catchup. The four goals are what is most important about last night, but if the Rangers don't kill off all of those penalties it's an entirely different game. Darroll Powe played nearly five minutes on the penalty kill. More than Ryan Callahan. More than Derek Stepan. Only Brian Boyle had more PK icetime of the forwards. Safe to say that Powe was a big part of killing those off.
Of course, that is an incredibly small sample size and is, in itself, indicative of nothing. Darroll Powe has been in and out of the lineup for the Rangers for a number of reasons; healthy scratches, an injury, and not even being on the team at one point. So let's look at how the penalty kill fares with and without Darroll Powe in the lineup:
|Successful PK's||Total PK's||Success Rate|
(Not included is 2/17 against Washington, in which Powe did not complete the game due to injury)
The worst penalty kill in the NHL this season is that of the Florida Panthers, with a 74.1% rate of sucess. In other words, the Rangers' penalty kill sans Darroll Powe is statistically the worst in the NHL. Meanwhile, the 85.7% rate of success with Powe in the lineup would put the Rangers tied for fourth in the NHL. That is an absolutely staggering difference. There is of course going to be some coincidence and randomness in the data, but the sample size is certainly big enough to map out patterns and indicate something. Lundqvist is and will continue to be the most important person on the penalty kill, but it's hard to argue with the evidence; having one of the best or one of the worst penalty kill's in the NHL has been, at least statistically, largely dependent on whether Darroll Powe was in the lineup.
The downside is that Powe is a very limited player. Zero points in 28 games is pretty miserable and doesn't, at face value, do anything to help a team struggling to score goals. But consider this: the Rangers have entered the third period trailing in 17 games this season and have only won three of those games. Recently, the Rangers have given themselves early deficits and have been forced to play catchup. A nightmare situation for a team that isn't scoring very easily. At the very least, preventing goals keeps the Rangers in the game and doesn't allow the other team to clog up the neutral zone. And it is also worth mentioning that more PK minutes for Powe means fewer PK minutes for Callahan and Hagelin, meaning they have a bit more in the tank for those shifts where the team is trying to generate offense.
It's clear that trying to find offense from our bottom-six is more or less a lost cause. So Tortorella might as well use a spot for someone who can contribute in a different way. Powe is decent enough on the forecheck, hits, and blocks shots. But most important is his major contributions to the penalty kill, which helps to keep the game at balance and prevent the score from getting out of hand. Should the Rangers make any additions on offense in these final hours before Wednesday's trading deadline then someone is going to be the odd man out. It would be shortsighted to make Darroll Powe that man.
Follow Me On Twitter: @Herman_NYRBlog
Email Me: AdamNYRBlog@gmail.com