This week we take a look at some of the best and worst power play units since the beginning of 2018. Keep in mind, coaches often scramble their power play combinations, but the most offensively talented players usually see the most time on the man advantage. So, while some of these units might change as the season progresses, the core should remain the same.
PP% (Since Jan 1, 2018): 30.3%
When a power play features three of the league’s top 10 scorers, you know it’s going to be good. You probably expect Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Phil Kessel to be scoring above a point-per-game pace, which they are, but let me throw some more shocking stats at you. Malkin has five power-play goals in 2018. The Edmonton Oilers, as a team, have four power-play goals in the same span. Through 61 games this season, Phil Kessel leads the league with 33 power-play points. Nicklas Backstrom had the most power-play points in 2016-2017, he totalled 35 in 82 games. While you might attribute Pittsburgh’s power play success to each individual’s sheer talent, Coach Mike Sullivan highlights a different attribute:
It starts with their work ethic, their willingness to retrieve loose pucks, and their attention to detail. They can create so much just off loose-puck battles. When teams try to be over-aggressive, our guys can make one play to beat the pressure, and usually it ends up in a glorious chance.
PP% (Since Jan 1, 2018): 28.6%
In the 2017 portion of this season, Florida actually had the seventh-worst power play in the league, managing just 19 goals over 38 games (15.8%). 2018 has been much kinder to them, as the Panthers have scored 16 times with the man advantage, over a span of just 18 games. While the team’s young offensive talent continues to develop and showcase their skill, 31-year-old Keith Yandle has done a great job of mentoring the kids. One of the most notable improvements in Florida’s power play is their ability to react to the opposition’s defensive style. As Yandle himself pointed out:
It just all depends what the other team’s doing, reading off of them. If there’s an open spot, trying it…you can learn tendencies from other players. Even your own teammates, you can learn tendencies from. I think it’s a big part of the game, obviously our coaches do a great job with it getting us ready for games.
PP% (Since Jan 1, 2018): 28.6%
One of the most amazing things about Vegas is their depth scoring. Sure, this particular unit might currently be considered ‘number one’, but it’s actually Eric Haula and David Perron who lead the team in power play points (14). I was actually surprised to see that most of these guys had been given power play time in the previous seasons, with William Karlsson being the exception. Karlsson hadn’t really seen consistent time on the man advantage throughout his career, but this season he’s averaging 2:25 a game, and has a career-high nine power-play points to show for it. Although his previous career high was just a single power-play point…
PP% (Since Jan 1, 2018): 26.2%
While his season totals aren’t very impressive, it’s hard to ignore how good a power play quarterback Jonathan Drouin can be. To set up the power play, you need to enter the zone, and that’s something Drouin is very good at. He has a great ability to stickhandle into open space, giving his teammates enough time to get into position. While Max Pacioretty has showcased his sniping abilities in the past, it’s Alex Galchenyuk who has become the primary shooter on the power play, and his killer one-timer has resulted in seven power play goals this season. Despite his diminutive stature, Brendan Gallagher provides an effective net front presence because he’s always banging away at every loose puck, never afraid to take shots from the other team after the whistle. With rumours swirling that Shea Weber could be out for the rest of the season, Jeff Petry doesn’t have much competition as the team’s lone defenseman on the power play.
PP% (Since Jan 1, 2018): 8.9%
How can a power play unit that features one of the world’s most talented players, have the least number of goals this calendar year? The Edmonton Oilers have four power-play goals in 2018, a span of 19 games. To give you some perspective, the Nashville Predators have had the second-worst PP% in 2018, and they’ve managed eight goals - double the Oilers’ output. It would be foolish to blame the team’s power play struggles on Connor McDavid, considering he leads the team with 14 power-play points. Who’s second you ask? Ryan Nugent Hopkins, and he’s been out for the last month with cracked ribs. Needless to say, the rest of the team hasn’t exactly pulled their weight. Living on the east coast, I don’t get to watch much Oilers’ hockey, but their struggles with the man advantage are dissected very well here. It seems they need to work on their one-timers.
PP% (Since Jan 1, 2018): 15.0%
It’s hard to criticize Colorado’s power play performance in 2018 considering they were missing their best player for eight out of the 20 games they played. In those eight games, they managed just two goals on 26 opportunities with the man advantage. Remove that stretch and their PP% for the calendar year jumps to just over 20%. What am I trying to say? Nathan MacKinnon has a huge impact on the team’s success. But MacKinnon’s Hart-worthy performance has been well-documented this season, unlike Mikko Rantanen’s incredible performance. In just his second NHL season, Rantanen has 53 points in 57 games. Not only does he lead the team with 20 power-play points, but he sits 12th in the league for power play ice time. He’s seen more time on the man advantage than Evgeni Malkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Claude Giroux, Blake Wheeler, John Tavares, the list goes on and on! As you can see, this type of opportunity is usually given to proven superstars, which makes it all the more impressive that 21-year-old Rantanen is being given that same opportunity to succeed.
Follow me on Twitter @BrennanDeSouza for the latest injury updates and line combinations!
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