The New York Rangers have hit a snag in January.
After starting the season 23-9-1, they’ve dropped eight of their last 12 games, including three of their four games of a west-coast road trip that concluded on Tuesday night with the squandering of a two-goal lead and a 3-2 loss against one of the worst teams in hockey, the San Jose Sharks.
The cushion built from their blistering start to the season has provided some grace. As of Wednesday morning, they still hold a five-point lead atop the tightly-contested Metropolitan Division, having lost just two points in the standings throughout this 12-game swoon.
Amongst the most glaring deficiencies this month has been a misfiring power play, which still has converted at the second-highest rate in the NHL this season (28.08%). But the downturn has been noticeable in recent weeks and it’s beginning to make a larger impact.
Across the last 12 games, the Blueshirts’ man advantage is clicking at — by their standards — a paltry 19.4% rate (7-for-36). That’s more than 15% less than the 34.9% conversion rate they put up through the first 35 games of the season.
A three-week period has dropped the team’s season average by more than 6%.
“Our power play wants to be a difference,” defenseman Adam Fox said (h/t New York Rangers). “You want to capitalize but you’re not going to score every time.”
The top power-play unit featuring Artemi Panarin and Mika Zibanejad has been too conservative — opting to attempt far too many passes when shooting lanes present themselves — which could prompt a change sooner rather than later from head coach Peter Laviolette.
New York posted just two shots on net across three power-play chances on Tuesday night against a Sharks team that has the worst penalty kill (71.49%) in the NHL. In a 2-1 loss to the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday night, they averaged just two shots on net per power play while going 0-for-3.
As a result, the offense as a whole is down. They’ve averaged just 2.58 goals per game in January after posting an average of nearly 3.5 per night from October through December.