The Man Advantage
Special Edition: Playoffs 2011 Preview
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. As a preliminary comment, it's interesting to note that 10 of the NHL's top 15 power play teams this season were from the Western Conference (VAN, SJS, ANA, CHI, DET, CGY, STL, COL, MIN, DAL), and the top five teams are all playoff-bound.
League rank (efficiency): 16th (17.5%)
First line: Alexander Ovechkin - Nicklas Backstrom - Marcus Johansson - Brooks Laich - Mike Knuble
Key Injuries: Mike Green (concussion), Alexander Semin (undisclosed), Tom Poti (groin), Dennis Wideman (lower body)
Skinny: No longer the most feared team in the league this year, falling from 1st overall in the league's PP rankings to middle-of-the-pack. Astoundingly, the Caps' PP output dropped by almost half this season - 46 goals compared to 79 in 2009-10. However, they are still dangerous on any given night, and finished the postseason batting .500, with five PP goals in 10 opportunities.
League rank (efficiency): 19th (16.6%)
First line: Nikolay Zherdev - Mike Richards - Claude Giroux - James van Riemsdyk - Kimmo Timonen
Key Injuries: Chris Pronger (hand)
Skinny: Another team that suffered a horrendous drop-off in PP production this season, given they were third overall in the league last season with a 21.4% success rate. Furthermore, the Flyers really struggled down the stretch, going 5-for-41 (12.2%). Key culprits: Richards (scored just five PPG's all season, compared to 13 last year) and Pronger (just 11 PP helpers in an injury-shortened season compared to 21 last year). Losing Simon Gagne to Tampa Bay didn't help either (5G, 14A last season, 7G, 8A this year).
League rank (efficiency): 20th (16.2%)
First line: David Krejci - Patrice Bergeron - Mark Recchi - Zdeno Chara - Tomas Kaberle
Key Injuries: Marc Savard (concussion)
Skinny: The B's power play attack is cold as ice heading into the postseason, with just five goals in its last 38 opportunities down the stretch. Kaberle (0G, 3A in 23 games) has not been the PP presence they were hoping for when they acquired him from Toronto at the trade deadline. The Bruins had zero players who registered double-digits in the PP goal category this year, but that might not be too big a concern heading into the postseason, as the B's also happen to own the best 5-on-5 goals for/against ratio in the league at 1.42. Who needs a power play when you're shooting the lights out at even strength?
League rank (efficiency): 25th (15.8%)
First line: James Neal - Jordan Staal - Alex Kovalev - Kris Letang - Zbynek Michalek
Key Injuries: Sidney Crosby (concussion), Evgeni Malkin (knee), James Neal (hand)
Skinny: Sid who? Evgeni who? The Pens won 13 of their last 17 games, despite missing their two marquee players and despite going a miserable 6-for-76 on the PP down the stretch. Instead, the Pens are relying on defense (28.7 shots allowed per game this year, fifth-lowest in the league), penalty killing (86.1%, 1st overall) and goaltending (Marc-Andre Fleury's 2.32 GAA is seventh-best in the NHL). Having said that, the Pens are still hoping to get Crosby back sometime in the first round.
5. Tampa Bay
League rank (efficiency): 6th (20.5%)
First line: Simon Gagne - Vincent Lecavalier - Martin St. Louis - Steven Stamkos - Marc-Andre Bergeron
Key Injuries: Steve Downie (ankle), Victor Hedman (lower body)
Skinny: Cream of the crop in the East, boasting a fearsome top line. Stamkos tallied fewer PPG's this season compared to last (17 vs. 24), but with his booming point shot remains one of the top PP scoring threats out there. St. Louis racked up a career-high 37 PPA's this season, tops in the league. Vinny's 12 PPG's this year was his best output since 2006-07. The Bolts still lacks a true offensive PP defenseman, but compensate by having Stamkos manning the right point.
League rank (efficiency): 7th (19.7%)
First line: Michael Cammalleri - Tomas Plekanec - Andrei Kostitsyn - P.K. Subban - James Wisniewski
Key Injuries: Andrei Markov (knee), Max Pacioretty (concussion, spine)
Skinny: The Habs boast an extremely balanced PP attack, with eight players who are in double-digits in PP points. The trio of Brian Gionta, Scott Gomez and Mathieu Darche (12G, 23A combined) makes for a fine secondary unit, and Subban finished with the team lead in goals with nine. Heading into the playoffs, the Habs were clicking along at a 40% success rate, scoring six times in their last 15 PP opportunities. With a top-ten PK unit (84.4%) and solid netminding from Carey Price, the Habs could be set to repeat - and perhaps outdo - last year's playoff magic.
League rank (efficiency): 9th (19.4%)
First line: Thomas Vanek - Tim Connolly - Jason Pominville - Drew Stafford - Marc-Andre Gragnani
Key Injuries: Derek Roy (quad), Jochen Hecht (upper body), Jordan Leopold (hand)
Skinny: Buffalo's PP did reasonably well this season, despite the loss of Roy, their best centerman, back in December, and head into the playoffs at nearly a 30% clip (10-for-35). That said, the team's winning percentage of .629 when outshot - fifth-best in the league - shows how heavily they still rely on netminder Ryan Miller. One thing the Sabres need to watch for come playoff time is the tendency to get sloppy in man advantage situations - the team was guilty of allowing 13 shorthanded goals against this season, third-most in the league.
8. NY Rangers
League rank (efficiency): 18th (16.9%)
First line: Vaclav Prospal - Brandon Dubinsky - Marion Gaborik - Bryan McCabe - Marc Staal
Key Injuries: Ryan Callahan (leg), Alex Frolov (knee), Michael Del Zotto (finger)
Skinny: Outside of Gaborik, this is not a team of finesse players. The Rangers earn their goals the hard way - by mucking and grinding - not only at even strength, but in man advantage situations as well. Thus, the Rangers' lack of PP sizzle shouldn't surprise anyone, highlighted by their 1-for-27 streak heading into the postseason. Losing their leading PP scorer Callahan (10G) to a broken leg just weeks before the playoffs is a serious blow, and secondary scorers like Erik Christensen and Brian Boyle will need to step up and fill the void.
League rank (efficiency): 1st (24.3%)
First line: Daniel Sedin - Henrik Sedin - Ryan Kesler - Mikael Samuelsson - Christian Ehrhoff
Key Injuries: N/A
Skinny: The Canucks boasted the league's top power play this season, and enter the playoffs on a 14-for-51 run (27.5%). The Sedins combined for 75 PP points this season, tying them with Tampa Bay's Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis as the top PP duo in the league. However, what set them apart was having linemate Ryan Kesler, who was 10th overall in PP production. From a team perspective, this will be the third year in a row the Canucks have faced the 'Hawks in postseason play, and for the first time, you have to like their chances. Especially from a PP perspective against a 'Hawks team who ranked 25 out of 30 teams in PK this season (79.2%).
2. San Jose
League rank (efficiency): 2nd (23.5%)
First line: Joe Pavelski - Joe Thornton - Devin Setoguchi - Patrick Marleau - Dan Boyle
Key Injuries: N/A
Skinny: The Sharks' PP got off to a blazing start this season, leading the league with 14 PP goals in 44 opportunities (31.8% efficiency) at the end of October and never really looked back. Team Teal scored with amazing regularity over the last six weeks of the season, registering at least one PP goal in 17 of their last 24 games, including a nine-game stretch from March 8-24. Notable by his absence from the team's top line is Dany Heatley, who was recently bumped to the second unit in favour of Devin Setoguchi. As a result, Heater's PP ice time really took a hit down the stretch, as he averaged less than a minute per game over his last seven contests.
League rank (efficiency): 5th (22.3%)
First line: Tomas Holmstrom - Pavel Datsyuk - Johan Franzen - Nicklas Lidstrom - Brian Rafalski
Key Injuries: Henrik Zetterberg (knee)
Skinny: The Detroit power play quietly went about its business this season, allowing other teams like the Canucks, Sharks and Ducks to hog most of the PP limelight. However, the Wings still excel at puck-control, and when you give them an extra attacker, they operate with deadly efficiency. Zetterberg's absence for at least the first few games of Round 1 is a worry, but fortunately the team boasts a great deal of depth. Their dynamite top line aside, the Wings also have some very capable secondary scoring in the likes of Jiri Hudler (12 pts), Danny Cleary (8 pts) and Valtteri Filppula (8 pts).
League rank (efficiency): 3rd (23.5%)
First line: Corey Perry - Ryan Getzlaf - Teemu Selanne - Lubomir Visnovsky - Cam Fowler
Key Injuries: N/A
Skinny: The Ducks' PP was led this season by the ageless Selanne - sixth overall in PP scoring (16G, 18A) - and the young upstart Perry - eighth overall (14, 17). No doubt Getzlaf would have been up there too, had he not missed 15 games with facial injuries back in January. The Ducks' power play hit the scoresheet in eight of the last 11 games, and six of those games were multi-goal contests, including a four-goal effort against the Sharks on April 6th. However, the Predators may just give them fits in the first round, as goaltender Pekka Rinne enters the postseason with the second-best PP save percentage in the league (.912).
League rank (efficiency): 26th (15.2%)
First line: Sergei Kostitsyn - Mike Fisher - Patric Hornqvist - Shea Weber - Ryan Suter
Key Injuries: Martin Erat (shoulder), Cal O'Reilly (leg), Matthew Lombardi (concussion)
Skinny: As was the case last year, Nashville didn't do much damage on the power play this season. In fact, it's almost a miracle they even made the playoffs at all, given the number of injuries they had and their overall lack of scoring punch. However, thanks to a Vezina-calibre season from Pekka Rinne, the Preds gave up the second-fewest goals in the NHL (194) despite being a very average team defensively (15th in the league with 30.6 shots allowed per game). If they somehow manage to upset the Ducks in the first round, Rinne and Shea Weber will have a lot to do with it.
League rank (efficiency): 23rd (15.9%)
First line: Ray Whitney - Radim Vrbata - Shane Doan - Keith Yandle - Lauri Korpikoski (I know, who?)
Key Injuries: N/A
Skinny: The Coyotes are almost an identical case to the Predators. They're not going to scare anyone with their PP prowess, and get by mostly on defense, goaltending, and timely offense from a mediocre forward corps. The 'Yotes scored at a disappointingly low 12% clip over their last 18 games, with just seven PP goals in 58 chances. Outside of Whitney (26 pts), another ageless wonder similar to Selanne, Yandle (26), Doan (21) and the resurgent Vrbata (17), the PP cupboard is awfully bare in Phoenix these days. Ilya Bryzgalov will once again have to stand on his head most nights if his team is to make it past the first round.
7. Los Angeles
League rank (efficiency): 21st (16.1%)
First line: Alexei Ponikarovsky - Michal Handzus - Dustin Brown - Drew Doughty - Jack Johnson
Key Injuries: Anze Kopitar (ankle), Justin Williams (shoulder)
Skinny: Late-season injuries to Kopitar and Williams were devastating for the Kings, who scored just four PP goals in 43 opportunities over their last 13 games. Doughty's disappearance this year (15 PP points, down from 31 the year before) was masked somewhat by the emergence of Johnson (28 pts, up from 13). The Kings are another team with tons of PP depth, with secondary scorers like Ryan Smyth (14 pts) and Jarret Stoll (12 pts). If Jonathan Quick stands tall between the pipes and gives them some confidence to run-and-gun, they could surprise a few people.
League rank (efficiency): 4th (23.1%)
First line: Patrick Kane - Jonathan Toews - Marian Hossa - Patrick Sharp - Duncan Keith
Key Injuries: Troy Brouwer (shoulder)
Skinny: The defending Stanley Cup Champions backed into the postseason this year, needing a Minnesota win over Dallas on the final day of the regular season to give them the eighth and final playoff spot in the West. That said, the 'Hawks look just as scary on paper as they did last year, especially on the power play where they boast five players in the 20+ point department. Last season, only Toews and Kane managed that feat. They will have their work cut out for them against Vancouver, ranked third in the NHL on the PK this season (85.6%). Furthermore, in four regular season games against the Canucks this year, the 'Hawks could only generate one PP goal in 20 chances, and allowed five goals against.