Best & Worst PP's Since December
This week, we take a look at the NHL's hottest and coldest power-play teams over roughly the last two months, and the players that have been stoking the fires (or not) for their respective squads.
In Nashville, the Preds are often described as a team that gets by on defense and goaltending in order to make up for a mediocre offense. Granted, with a #1 blueline pairing of Shea Weber and Ryan Suter, along with Pekka Rinne between the pipes, there is some truth to this. However, perhaps overlooked this season is the team's red-hot power play, currently ranked third overall in the NHL with a 21.7% efficiency ratio. Even more impressive, since December the team has been running at a 25% clip with 22 goals in 88 opportunities. Considering the Preds don't boast anyone by the name of Sedin, Malkin or Giroux, most of their guys often get overlooked in fantasy circles. So who are the difference-makers on the Nashville power play right now? Turns out, several guys are. The Preds are one of just two teams to boast six players who are in double-digits for PP points, meaning they are incredibly well-balanced. Guys you might want to look at are David Legwand (on pace for 22 PP pts, 18 more than last season), Craig Smith (fresh-faced rookie on pace for 20 pts) and Colin Wilson (19 pts, up from just six last season).
On Long Island, the Isles have risen an astonishing 14 spots in the NHL's power play rankings over the past two months - the biggest jump by any team over that stretch. The team currently sits 7th overall with a 19.4% efficiency ratio, up from 21st overall and 15.3% at the beginning of December. This is significant, considering the Isles' power play was ranked 15th, 27th and 23rd, respectively, over the past three seasons. This is a testament to many of the team's younger players finally coming of age and contributing on a nightly basis. This would include a guy like Matt Moulson, who has 16 PP pts on the season, already ahead of the 15 he posted last year. Another unsung PP hero for the Isles happens to be Frans Nielsen, on pace for 16 PP points this year, roughly double what he scored last season. Also, you can't overlook the impact Mark Streit has had on the Isles' PP attack this season. Streit, who missed all of last year with a shoulder injury, is currently the Isles' PP points leader with 19 (2G, 17A) and has quickly reminded everyone how good he was the previous two years prior to his injury. Finally, face of the franchise John Tavares has been his usual consistent self, roughly on pace for the 25 PP points he scored last season, along with Pierre Parenteau, who is tracking slightly above last year's total of 20 pts.
In Calgary, the Flames may be on the outside looking in as far as a playoff spot goes right now, but there's two things you can't blame that on - one is goaltending (Miikka Kiprusoff - 24 wins, .920 SV%, 2.30 GAA), and the other is the team's power play, which has been red-hot since the start of December with 22 goals in 80 chances for a 23.2% hit ratio. This surge in PP productivity has propelled the Flames up 13 spots in the league's rankings over that time, from 25th (12.5%) all the way to 13th (18.3%). Jarome Iginla remains the heart and soul of the Flames, but his 13 PP points thus far put him on pace for about 20, far less than the 30 he registered last year. However, guys who are picking up the slack include Curtis Glencross (on pace for 15 pts, compared to just five last year), Olli Jokinen (should hit 25 pts this year at his current pace, five more than last season) and Jay Bouwmeester, who has already surpassed the eight PP points he scored last season and should finish with around 15. Meanwhile, Alex Tanguay is still waiting for his first PP goal of the season, but still has 11 helpers and should finish with about 20 at the rate he's going.
On the other end of the spectrum, the team with the worst PP record over the last two months is none other than the NY Rangers. The Blueshirts may be first overall in the East, but holy COW are they a bad PP squad. Currently 27th overall in the NHL (13.1%), thanks in part to a 9-for-91 stretch (10.6%) since the start of December. So what's the problem? Well, basically, the Rangers are an excellent team 5-on-5 but show absolutely no chemistry with the man advantage. Brad Richards has been decent, just eight points off his 29-point pace from last season, even with the mediocre supporting cast surrounding him. Marian Gaborik, arguably the most talented guy on the team, is only on pace for last year's 16-point output. Meanwhile, Brandon Dubinsky and Anton Stralman each have just a single PP assist so far this year, while Artem Anisimov has two.
Perhaps even more perplexing, given the amount of raw talent on the team, is the decline of the Tampa Bay Lightning's power play this season. Ranked sixth overall last season (20.5%), the Bolts are currently 26th overall (13.4%), and over the last two months they've been even worse (9-for-87, 10.7%). When a team has that big of a drop-off, you usually need to look no further than your Big Three to find out what's gone wrong. Martin St. Louis, who has averaged 32 PP points over the last five seasons, is currently on pace for just ... 13. (And yes, I had to double-check my math on that one.) Steven Stamkos, currently the team leader with 13 points in 52 games, is only on track for about 20, sharply down from the 36 he scored last year. Finally, Vincent Lecavalier with 11 points thus far, on pace for just 17, compared to last year's total of 28.
And last but not least - ok maybe least, considering they are in fact last in the NHL in PP efficiency - are the Montreal Canadiens. Brutally bad with the extra man all season long, they have been equally awful since the start of December with a 12.9% success rate. Scott Gomez - wherefore art thou? Gomez is somehow still seeing PP minutes these days, despite the fact that he hasn't scored a single point with the man advantage all season. Yep, way to earn that $7.5 million salary there, Scotty. Other guys shouldering almost as much blame would be Brian Gionta (3 pts) and Andrei Kostitsyn (4 pts). Meanwhile, the team's (supposedly) top two PP defensemen - Tomas Kaberle and P.K. Subban - are on pace to score a combined 20 fewer PP points than they did last season. There was a time a few seasons ago when the Habs were among the league's best in terms of PP production, but those days are clearly long gone.