July 19, 2011
The Boston Bruins won the Stanley Cup with one of the worst power plays in NHL postseason history: Scoring 10 goals on 88 chances for a putrid 11.4-percent conversion rate.
It's a primary reason why the Bruins went seven games in three of their four series victories: The Bruins were 2-for-22 in Games 5 and 6 against the Canadiens, Lightning and Canucks.
So don't let the shiny trophy at the end of the journey obscure the fact that a malfunctioning power play made the journey a hell of a lot more arduous than it could have been.
Or that a power-play that fires like a '74 Plymouth Duster isn't a key factor in who makes the playoffs or where they finish in the playoff seedings.
Here are the bottom six in power-play percentage last season. Of the eight teams that finished worse than a 16-percent conversion rate on the power play last season, five missed the playoffs. (The Leafs, at 16 percent, would make it six in nine.) Two of the teams in that bottom eight that made the playoffs are decidedly defense-first: Nashville and Phoenix. The other was missing Sidney Crosby(notes) and Evgeni Malkin(notes).
So have any of the bottom eight man-advantage teams improved their units this summer to avoid another power outage?
2010-11 Rank: 30 (35-for-267; 13.1%)
What's Changed? You might have heard that the Panthers added a body or two or 10 during the summer.
Obviously, the improvements start with defenseman Brian Campbell(notes), who is two years removed from a 24-point season on the power play. He was a second-unit player for the Chicago Blackhawks last season, but should be relied on more heavily by Coach Kevin Dineen in Florida.
Other improvements: Forward Tomas Fleischmann(notes), two years removed from a 20-point power-play season; winger Kris Versteeg(notes), who had six power-play goals last season; and, potentially, forward Scottie Upshall(notes), if he's given the ice time on the man advantage.
Better or Worse? Better, and not just because it can't get any worse.
2010-11 Rank: 29 (42-for-301, 14%)
What's Changed? Plenty. The additions of forward Jeff Carter(notes) and defenseman James Wisniewski(notes) were a direct response to the team's lack of goal scoring, particularly on the power play. The Wiz tallied 29 power-play points between the Islanders and the Canadiens last season. Carter has scored 32 power play goals over the last three seasons.
2010-11 Rank: 28 (34-for-237, 14.3%)
What's Changed? The Devils will have a new coach, a healthy Zach Parise(notes) and potentially rookie Adam Larsson to improve what was one of the most inept power plays in the NHL last season, despite Ilya Kovalchuk's(notes) 9 goals and 12 assists.
Better or Worse? Outside of drafting Larsson, the Devils didn't do anything to bolster this unit. Parise's return will help in a major way, as long as the chemistry is there. And that's frankly been the issue when Kovalchuk, Parise and Patrik Elias(notes) have all been healthy.
2010-11 Rank: 27 (44-for-304, 14.5%)
What's Changed? Kurtis Foster(notes) led the Oilers with 14 power-play points. It was also arguably the worst offensive season of his career, which speaks volumes about the Oilers' output with the man advantage.
But fortunes are going to change for the Oilers in a significant way next season.
First, because Ryan Smyth(notes) is back to crash the crease and score filthy goals, which he did 20 times in the last two seasons for the Los Angeles Kings. Second, because players like Ryan Whitney(notes) (an asset on the point) and Alex Hemsky (assuming he's not traded) will be healthy. (Let's see how Cam Barker(notes) develops in the offense as well.) Finally, because players like Taylor Hall(notes), Jordan Eberle(notes) and Magnus Paajarvi(notes) all have a season of facing NHL kills to their credit. (No. 1 overall pick Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is an X-factor here.)
Better or Worse? Better, with the potential to be much better. But they need something more from Shawn Horcoff(notes) and Sam Gagner(notes) at the pivot. And it would certainly help their regular-season fortunes if the Oilers could, you know, stop the puck.
2010-11 Rank: 26 (41-for-269, 15.2%)
The Predators have two very solid point men in Shea Weber(notes) and Ryan Suter(notes), who both tallied 17 points. A full season of Mike Fisher(notes) at center should help, as he tallied 14 points between Ottawa and Nashville last season. Martin Erat(notes) (7 goals) and Patric Hornqvist(notes) (6 goals) are back as well.
Better or Worse? Worse, simply because they haven't added anything significant up front. But since they're still under the cap floor, there's still a chance that'll change.
2010-11 Rank: 25 (49-for-311, 15.8%)
What's Changed? Before his injury, Sidney Crosby had 10 power-play goals and 9 assists in just 41 games. Evgeni Malkin had 14 points in 43 games. Asking this power play to be anything but pedestrian with that amount of talent in street clothes is preposterous. They'll bring them back, have Kris Letang(notes) (24 points) on the point and James Neal(notes) (5 goals) as a burgeoning force on the man advantage.
Better or Worse? They'll be better when Sid and Geno are back, even if the Penguins are notorious for never being as good as they should be on the power play. Oh, but what this could have been with Jagr …
2010-11 Rank: 24 (55-for-346, 15.9%)
What's Changed? The Canes lost two of their top five leaders in average power-play time: Joe Corvo(notes) (4:01, traded to Boston) and Cory Stillman(notes) (3:13, and a free agent). But they added a chap named Tomas Kaberle(notes), who despite his struggles in Boston is an asset to this power-play unit.
Eric Staal(notes) (12 goals), Jussi Jokinen(notes) (8 goals) and Jeff Skinner(notes) (18 points) give this team something to work with up front. Year 2 of Skinnermania could include a breakout stats season on special teams. (He also drew 2.6 penalties per game last season.)
Better or Worse? If you consider Kaberle-for-Corvo an upgrade, then better. And we consider it an upgrade.
2010-11 Rank: 23 (46-for-289, 15.9%)
The bad news it that this collection of players scored at a 15.9-percent clip last season and outside of Raffi Torres(notes) didn't add anything of significance to the power play. (Torres is two years removed from a 7-goal power-play season with Columbus, so perhaps he can help.)
Better or Worse? Worse. They bring back power-play point leaders Yandle and Ray Whitney(notes) (26 points), but did nothing to bolster their top unit or give their second unit some teeth. But they're another team under the floor, so who knows?