My final article of the year takes a look at each of the 16 teams participating in this year’s playoffs, and breaks down their respective power-play attacks to give you a better idea of who’s hot, who’s not, and who’s injured, heading into your playoff drafts. And by the way – don’t underestimate the importance of power-play points in winning your playoff pool. If you look at the top 10 scorers in last year’s playoffs, five of them tallied at least 40% of their points on the man advantage.
League rank (efficiency): 1st (25.2%)
First line: Alexander Ovechkin – Nicklas Backstrom – Alexander Semin – Brooks Laich – Mike Green
Key Injuries: N/A
Skinny: Injury-free, armed and dangerous. Equally effective whether at home (25.6%) or on the road (24.8%), the Caps scored at least one PP goal in 35 of the 54 games they won this year. They also boast three of the league’s top 10 regular season PP scorers (Ovechkin, Backstrom, Green).
2. New Jersey
League rank (efficiency): 11th (18.7%)
First line: Ilya Kovalchuk – Travis Zajac - Zach Parise – Patrik Elias – Paul Martin
Key Injuries: N/A
Skinny: On paper, the Devils’ power play should be much better than it is, especially with the addition of Kovalchuk prior to the trade deadline. However, the unit has overall lacked any real chemistry all year, and isn’t exactly coming into the playoffs on a hot streak, having gone just 4-for-24 in the final eight games of the regular season.
League rank (efficiency): 17th (17.6%)
First line: Thomas Vanek – Derek Roy – Jason Pominville – Tim Connolly – Tyler Myers
Key Injuries: Connolly (foot, DTD), Jochen Hecht (finger, DTD), Drew Stafford (concussion, out)
Skinny: With a healthy contingent of scorers and Ryan Miller taking care of the back end, this team could do some damage. Connolly was their most dangerous PP weapon all season and could be ready in time for Game 1.
League rank (efficiency): 19th (17.2%)
First line: Evgeni Malkin – Sidney Crosby – Bill Guerin – Sergei Gonchar – Alex Goligoski
Key Injuries: Chris Kunitz (shoulder, DTD)
Skinny: It’s a good thing the Pens open their first-round series at home against Ottawa. Sid & Co. have had serious difficulties scoring PP goals on the road this season – their road PP efficiency is just 13.4% (fourth-worst in the league), compared to 21.0% at home (ninth overall).
League rank (efficiency): 21st (16.9%)
First line: Daniel Alfredsson – Jason Spezza – Mike Fisher – Erik Karlsson – Matt Cullen
Key Injuries: Alexei Kovalev (torn ACL, out)
Skinny: Spezza in particular had an impressive showing in his last six games of the regular season, scoring three PP goals and adding two helpers. Kovalev was a disappointment this season, scoring just 14 PP points in 77 games, but he’s still a guy you want to see out there come playoff time. The Sens were 7-2-1 to close out the regular season and could be a surprise team if their power play continues to click. Alfredsson and Spezza were the third-best PP duo in the league this year, combining on 18 PP goals (source: www.thn.com).
League rank (efficiency): 23rd (16.6%)
First line: David Krejci – Patrice Bergeron – Mark Recchi – Zdeno Chara – Dennis Wideman
Key Injuries: Marc Savard (concussion, out)
Skinny: The B’s had a tough enough year on the power play even with Savard in their lineup – without him, they could really struggle. Bergeron has been a decent fill-in for Savard as the No. 1 pivot – just not on the power play. He had 15 points in his last 19 games to finish the season, but only one of those points came on the man advantage. Chara – who had just four PPG’s all season, is going to have to step up and get his booming point shot on the net more.
League rank (efficiency): 3rd (21.4%)
First line: Simon Gagne – Mike Richards – Claude Giroux – Chris Pronger – Kimmo Timonen
Key Injuries: N/A
Skinny: The Flyers came by their 3rd place PP ranking honestly this year, with two stacked lines. The second forward unit of Danny Briere – Jeff Carter – Scott Hartnell is really more of a 1A line, not a No. 2 line, and they can cause some damage as well. Speaking of Carter, the Flyers got him back from the IR (foot) for the last two games of the regular season – just in time for him to help them squeak into the postseason. With no significant injuries, Philly may be poised to show a little more of their early-season form. If their PP keeps on clicking and they can get some timely goaltending from Brian Boucher, this team might surprise a few people.
League rank (efficiency): 2nd (21.8%)
First line: Michael Cammalleri – Scott Gomez – Brian Gionta – Andrei Markov – Marc-Andre Bergeron
Key Injuries: N/A
Skinny: Though they aren’t quite as loaded as the Flyers, the Habs have a very balanced PP attack, with seven players in double-digit PP point territory. Although few people are picking them to upset the 1st-place Capitals in this series, the Habs’ goaltending and special teams might be enough to make it interesting.
1. San Jose
League rank (efficiency): 4th (21.0%)
First line: Patrick Marleau (21, 34) – Joe Thornton (26, 37) – Dany Heatley (8, 19) – Joe Pavelski (12, 9) – Dan Boyle (10, 25)
Key Injuries: N/A
Skinny: For the first time in several seasons, the Sharks are not the runaway favorite in the West entering the playoffs, despite an 8-1-1 record to finish up the regular season. This might actually work in their favor for a change, as much of the pressure to win has seemingly been re-distributed to some of their rivals (Detroit, Chicago, Vancouver). However, this will be the first playoff campaign with Heatley in the fold, a bona fide sniper to complement the playmaking ability of Joe Thornton. Heater and Jumbo, incidentally, are ranked as the fifth-best PP duo in the league (17 PP goals where both players record a point).
League rank (efficiency): 16th (17.7%)
First line: Patrick Sharp – Jonathan Toews – Patrick Kane – Dustin Byfuglien – Duncan Keith
Key Injuries: Troy Brouwer (personal reasons, DTD)
Skinny: Despite scoring a whopping 271 goals this season – good for third overall in the entire league – the Blackhawks were decidedly average on the PP this year, ranking around middle of the pack. A number of regulars had disappointing seasons in the PP category, especially Marian Hossa (7 PPP’s in 57 games), Brian Campbell (11 PPP’s in 68 games) and Kris Versteeg (11 PPP’s in 79 games). Toews and Kane can’t do it all out there, and the team’s going to need some secondary PP scoring if they want to advance past the Predators who look hungry this year.
League rank (efficiency): 6th (20.9%)
First line: Daniel Sedin – Henrik Sedin – Mikael Samuelsson – Kevin Bieksa – Pavol Demitra
Key Injuries: Sami Salo (undisclosed, DTD)
Skinny: In past seasons, the well-known secret to beating the Canucks centered around keeping the Sedins in check – if you kept Henrik and Daniel off the scoresheet, especially on the power play, you had a pretty good chance of winning. However, that promises to be a tougher task for any opponent this season, as the twins have clearly elevated their games this year. In addition, the Canucks are now getting the secondary scoring they have so lacked in past campaigns, with contributions from Ryan Kesler, who leads the team in PP goals, and a quartet of solid PP defensemen in Bieksa, Salo Christian Ehrhoff and Alexander Edler.
League rank (efficiency): 28th (14.6%)
First line: Wojtek Wolski – Matthew Lombardi – Shane Doan – Keith Yandle – Adrian Aucoin
Key Injuries: Robert Lang (lower body, DTD)
Skinny: Let’s face it – the ‘Yotes are not going to scare anyone with their PP prowess. The main reason behind their fourth-place finish in the West is the goaltending of Ilya Bryzgalov, not because of their ability to put the puck in the net. The Coyotes scored just two PP goals in their last nine games to close out the season, going just 2-for-32 over that span. They are going to have to lean even harder on the Bryzgalov in their opening-round matchup against the red-hot Red Wings if the PP attack encounters similar troubles.
League rank (efficiency): 9th (19.2%)
First line: Henrik Zetterberg – Pavel Datsyuk – Tomas Holmstrom – Nicklas Lidstrom – Brian Rafalski
Key Injuries: N/A
Skinny: The Red Wings enter the playoffs as arguably the hottest team in the NHL, with a 17-3-2 record to close the regular season. Looking at the calendar, Detroit’s dramatic turnaround coincides almost to the day with the return of Johan Franzen from a knee injury back in early February. Their No. 1 PP line stacks up well against any other team in the league, and they also have good secondary scoring from a host of gritty forwards such as Valtteri Filppula, Dan Cleary and Todd Bertuzzi.
6. Los Angeles
League rank (efficiency): 7th (20.8%)
First line: Ryan Smyth – Anze Kopitar – Michal Handzus – Jarret Stoll – Drew Doughty
Key Injuries: N/A
Skinny: Doughty has been the key to the Kings’ PP attack all season long. He’s had a breakout season in his sophomore year, and forms the second-ranked PP duo in the league along with Kopitar (22 PP goals in which both guys recorded a point). The Kings faded somewhat down the stretch, and didn’t get the same caliber of goaltending from Jonathan Quick that they had prior to the Olympic break. But this team can still score, and that might be enough for them to steal a playoff round or two.
League rank (efficiency): 24th (16.4%)
First line: Patric Hornqvist – Jason Arnott – Martin Erat – Shea Weber – Ryan Suter
Key Injuries: Hornqvist (upper body, DTD)
Skinny: Nashville didn’t do much damage on the power play this year, and in fact, their overall offense left a little to be desired as well. The Preds are the only playoff team in the West that didn’t score more goals than it allowed all season (225-225). Injuries may turn out to be a factor, as Arnott is just coming back from a suspected concussion (he has a history of them) and Hornqvist is battling the dreaded upper-body injury, but is expected to be ready for Game 1.
League rank (efficiency): 15th (18.1%)
First line: Peter Mueller – Paul Stastny – Milan Hejduk – Matt Duchene – John-Michael Liles
Key Injuries: Mueller (concussion, DTD), Duchene (torso, DTD), David Jones (knee, DTD)
Skinny: The Avalanche came back to earth hard after the Olympic break after surprising everyone with a Cinderella first half. Craig Anderson was a major reason behind their early success, but he couldn’t seem to quite keep the magic going for a full season. The good news is, Calder candidate Duchene is expected back in the lineup for Game 1, and Jones will likely play at some point during the first round, although likely not in Game 1. Getting Mueller back would certainly help too, although if Jones can’t fill in at Mueller’s position, the team has a number of good, young forwards who can, including Brandon Yip and TJ Galiardi. The Avs may not have the experience to take four of seven games against the veteran-laden Sharks, but their youthful exuberance and a “hey-nobody-thought-we-would-be-here” attitude could make it an interesting series.