Ramblings: The Panthers’ Power Play Woes (Feb 23)

by steve laidlaw on February 23, 2017

Ramblings: Looking into the Panthers' Power Play Woes, and more.

 

A recent report suggested that the Panthers were looking for power play help at the trade deadline so I decided to dig a little deeper. I’ve never been a huge fan of Florida’s power play arrangement because they split time evenly between their first and second unit. They have a ton of skilled guys so it makes some sense to do the split, but I’m a fan of getting your best players on the ice together and they just do not have Aleksander Barkov and Vincent Trocheck sharing the ice enough for my liking.

It should be noted that the Maple Leafs currently lead the NHL in power play efficiency and split time evenly between their two units. It certainly can work but it isn’t for the Panthers, who have ranked in the bottom 10 of power play efficiency since Barkov came into the league. That’s four straight years of failure for a team with some of the most explosive scorers in the league at 5-on-5. To me, the failure is in coaching, where putting players into the proper formation and building strong zone-entry strategies can elevate a group to new levels.

Digging deeper into the numbers, the Panthers power play is great at generating unblocked shot attempts, ranking fifth in Fenwick/60, which is a better predictor of future success than actual goal scoring. However, an even better predictor than that is Scoring Chances, which is a subjective stat but nevertheless informative. According to the data available from Corsica, the Panthers rank 24th in the league in SC/60 at 5-on-4. Essentially, teams are letting them fire away but it’s all coming from the outside.

Indeed, when you look at the players taking the most shots for the Panthers you find Aaron Ekblad and Keith Yandle at the top of the heap. Ekblad has a bomb but he’s not a particularly efficient shooter, meanwhile, Yandle is awesome but he just shouldn’t be shooting from distance at all. If point shots are the best that the Panthers can get, perhaps they need to find a good net-front man. Most all the best power plays have a good one.

Patrick Eaves may be available. I have my reservations about Eaves, who is a Band-Aid Boy extraordinaire. He is in the cushiest situation possible feeding off superstars Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin. I don’t know how many teams he’d be more than a depth addition for. It seems unlikely that any trade would help Eaves’ fantasy value. The Panthers might be one of the few teams that could use him in that net-front role he has carved out in Dallas. But I remain uncertain that this is what would help move the needle.

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Of course, I lay out this long piece on the Panthers’ PP and they go out and click on both of their chances against the Oilers. Excuse me while I wallow in the irony.

Check out the Panthers’ scoring since Jonathan Huberdeau and Barkov returned:

 

GP

TOI

Points

BARKOV,ALEKSANDER

8

19:34

9

JOKINEN,JUSSI

8

16:23

8

HUBERDEAU,JONATHAN

8

17:31

8

TROCHECK,VINCENT

8

19:09

8

SMITH,REILLY

8

17:10

6

YANDLE,KEITH

8

21:26

6

BJUGSTAD,NICK

8

13:07

5

JAGR,JAROMIR

8

18:03

5

PETROVIC,ALEX

8

18:07

4

MARCHESSAULT,JONATHAN

8

14:57

4

EKBLAD,AARON

8

19:19

4

PYSYK,MARK

8

19:10

3

SGARBOSSA,MICHAEL

6

10:52

2

SCEVIOUR,COLTON

8

12:34

2

MACKENZIE,DEREK

8

12:20

2

DEMERS,JASON

8

17:52

1

THORNTON,SHAWN

8

7:26

1

MCKEGG,GREG

2

9:46

0

MATHESON,MICHAEL

8

20:18

0

 

I was surprised to see Jussi Jokinen up there but after two assists last night, his impact has grown. Remember, Jokinen was one of the absolute best players to own during last year’s fantasy playoffs. All the attention that Barkov and Huberdeau are grabbing has opened things up for Trocheck, Jokinen and Smith.

Jaromir Jagr hasn’t yet gotten a big bump in scoring so instead watch him skate circles around the Oilers:

Never stop appreciating his game.

Trocheck left last night’s game with a shoulder injury but eventually returned. Doesn’t sound serious but something worth monitoring.

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The Oilers were without Adam Larsson due to a lower-body injury. He is day-to-day but also not fantasy relevant.

More relevant was the Oilers’ losing Andrej Sekera after the defenseman blocked a shot. It doesn’t sound too serious but stay tuned:

Sekera had already lost his gig on the top PP unit to Oscar Klefbom so he was heading towards being waiver fodder anyhow. Klefbom scored his 11th goal of the season, tying him for third in the league among defensemen.

Klefbom has only 26 points in 61 games, which isn’t a particularly fantasy relevant pace but he’s firing enough SOG to hang around. He has 156 on the year, which is sixth among defensemen. He is on pace for over 200 SOG, which is awfully enticing.

Were Klefbom able to hold onto the top PP gig there’d be another level for him to tap into. Only two of his 11 goals have come with the man-advantage and he only has seven PPP overall. Get Klefbom more PP minutes and perhaps a secondary scoring line and perhaps he is pushing 50 points. I don’t know that that is necessarily his game, however. Right now, he is the best Edmonton has got.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins scored his 13th goal of the season. He has four points in the last four games. It would be awfully interesting if that second line (with Milan Lucic and Jordan Eberle) could start living up to the $18M a year price tag.

Nugent-Hopkins seems to be going through the struggles that Nazem Kadri went through last year. His shot volume is up, on pace for a career high 213 but his shooting percentage is down, and his linemates cannot score either. Eberle has been particularly snake-bitten, while Lucic is taking shots from further and further out, instead of getting into the high danger areas.

This cannot all be pinned on Lucic regressing. Nugent-Hopkins has spent more time with Benoit Pouliot of Patrick Maroon on the LW than he has Lucic. If Lucic has regressed, Pouliot has vanished entirely.

What’s interesting is that Nugent-Hopkins has gotten that shot volume up despite losing minutes, down to 17:49 per game from 19:04 a year ago. Much of that drop has come on the PP, but some at even strength as well. The only place his minutes are up is on the penalty kill.

It is clear that Nugent-Hopkins is being used in a more defensive role but there should still be room for him to produce at or around a fantasy relevant level. It just doesn’t appear to be happening this season.

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Matt Niskanen left last night’s game with a lower-body injury following a knee-on-knee collision with Radko Gudas:

No update on Niskanen’s status as of yet but if he does miss time John Carlson finally gets his #1 gig back.

Evgeny Kuznetsov scored a pair of goals last night, this wasn’t one of them but watch him steal Andrew MacDonald’s soul:

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It took the Flyers all of a game and a half to abandon the two-defenseman look on their top PP unit. Ivan Provorov was bumped back down to the second unit by the end of last night’s game and Jakub Voracek was back in his usual spot opposite Claude Giroux. They went 0/2 against the best team in the league.

Brayden Schenn has been a menace on the power-play all season leading the league in PPG. He scored just his fifth even-strength goal of the season. What a PP mooch.

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John Gibson sat out last night’s game with a lower-body injury. He’s day-to-day but they made sure to give him the night off calling up Jhonas Enroth. Gibson was forced into relief duty the other night against Arizona on the second half of a back-to-back because Jonathan Bernier imploded. This is where you need your back up to tread water in relief.

Bernier was better last night. Doing enough to earn a win.

Multi-point games for both Ondrej Kase and Nick Ritchie flanking Ryan Getzlaf. They’ve been in this spot for a few games since Antoine Vermette got suspended and it’s the first impact they’ve had so don’t get too excited. There is also some suggestion that Vermette’s suspension will be reduced so Getzlaf could be back up with Corey Perry and Rickard Rakell soon.

Rakell scored a pair to end a five-game drought. Moving to center and away from Getzlaf isn’t great for him. He also hasn’t scored a PPP in over a month. Some of that is because the Ducks’ PP has tanked but he has also been frequently bumped to the second unit in favour of Perry. But Perry hasn’t scored on the PP in over a month either.

Josh Manson has a three-game scoring streak going but if you have him in fantasy it’s for his hits:

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Check out my trade deadline primer to help you get ahead of some of the potential deadline moves.

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The Leafs continue to be uber-cautious with Mitch Marner:

Josh Leivo has taken full advantage of the extra minutes. He’s been a decent streamer and daily fantasy play lately.

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Ryan Callahan is done for the year, in case you were holding out hope. Where this gets interesting is that it opens up some cap space for the Lightning to add and also closes the door on the possibility that Callahan could help their thinning forward group. Suddenly this team might be looking for forward and defensive help, although rookie Jake Dotchin has been a revelation for their blue line.

The East playoff race is insane but the Lightning’s window for contention is now. Can’t imagine they want to wave the white flag and become sellers. Although I’d be awfully tempted to go that way if I were an NHL GM. Everyone is trying to buy right now. Zig when everyone else is zagging. You could take a similar approach in your fantasy league as the deadline approaches.

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Speaking of deadline stuff, holy macaroni:

That’s the type of declaration that gets GMs to make mistakes.

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As always, some juicy tidbits in Elliotte Friedman’s 30 Thoughts:

25. As I learned last year, reading KHL tea leaves can be tricky. Things change fast. But a couple of overseas sources indicate Radulov’s success is not going unnoticed by Ilya Kovalchuk. Kovalchuk’s KHL contract ends after this season, but he is not free and clear for an NHL return until his 35th birthday — one year from now. If he wanted to come back for 2017–18, he would have to apply for re-instatement.

If you can stash Kovalchuk in a keeper league, I would suggest that you do so.

4. Heard through the gossip line that a few teams had reached out to Detroit about Andreas Athanasiou when there were some battles over his ice time. Red Wings GM Ken Holland wouldn’t comment, but another team indicated he told them not to even bother asking unless “a 22-year-old top-pair defenceman” was part of the conversation. The Wings have told clubs they are “open for business,” but won’t consider moving any of their young offensive cornerstones unless that kind of player is potentially available. My sense is the same goes for Petr Mrazek. Thomas Vanek likely goes (and could come back in the summer). They will discuss re-signing Brendan Smith in the next few days before a decision on trading him.

We now have three teams who are officially sellers. Hallelujah!

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Thanks for reading. You can follow me on Twitter @SteveLaidlaw

 

One response to “Ramblings: The Panthers’ Power Play Woes (Feb 23)”

  1. messier1701 says:

    excellent column. Great points on the panthers PP. they really seem committed to line continuity with that barkov/jagr line getting the most time. i did think the ekblad 2nd unit group looked decent against the kings. You would think they’d change it up if your PP isnt working. and it can’t be hard to designate one of your bottom forwards as a net front guy like eaves. But if not working change it up!
    For my money the best PP i’ve seen is the Sens, those guys can move the puck better than anyone i’ve seen but they rank 21st which i don’t get.

    good points on RNH and that 18M line! I have not even thought about how ineffective Pouliot has been this season.
    Also great use of videos in this column, the Kuznetsov move was fantastic. he is a human highlight reel by the way every time he’s on the ice!!