MidSeason PP Observations
In Anaheim, following a strong start to the season, Sheldon Souray's stock seems to be on the decline. Souray potted six points (3G, 3A) in his first nine games, including three man advantage points and was skating as the team's primary PP defenseman. However, Souray has since gone into a tailspin with just three points in his last 17 games, including just a single PP assist. As a result, he has since been replaced on the Ducks' top PP unit by a combination of Cam Fowler and Francois Beauchemin who have averaged roughly 2:30 minutes of PP time over the past two weeks, versus 1:30 minutes for Souray. Beauchemin, to his credit, has been producing results with six PP helpers in his last 12 games, while Fowler is still struggling with just a single assist in 18 games.
In Carolina, the Hurricanes welcomed defenseman Joni Pitkanen back to the lineup during Saturday's 4-1 loss to the Lightning, and not a moment too soon, as it turns out, given the departure of their leading PP defenseman - Joe Corvo - following a lower-body injury during the second period. Pitkanen would later pair up with Justin Faulk on two PP opportunities in the third period - the only ones the ‘Canes saw all game - but failed to hit the scoresheet. Regardless, roughly 40% of Pitkanen's point production over the past four seasons has come from PP points, so if you're looking for a guy who can make a serious contribution when healthy - as he appears to be now - don't hesitate to use him accordingly. He should still line up as one of the 'Canes' top two PP defensemen going forward, along with either Corvo, depending on his injury, or Faulk.
In Los Angeles, there's been a definite shift this season in terms of who patrols the Kings' blue line during power plays - and how often. Last year, Drew Doughty led the team in average PP time per game with 3:42. In fact, it wasn't uncommon to see coach Darryl Sutter run with Doughty as his only PP defenseman, with guys like Slava Voynov picking up second-line minutes at best. This season, Doughty is suffering through yet campaign of mind-numbing underperformance, with just five PP assists and zero goals during 27 games, which has forced Sutter to deploy Voynov a little more regularly, along with newcomer Jake Muzzin. After 27 games, the results have been more than noticeable, with Voynov and Muzzin combining for 10 PP points (1G, 9A) thus far. Furthermore, Muzzin is second on the team in average PP minutes over the past two weeks (2:06, ahead of Doughty) and Voynov is not far behind at 1:52. Doughty still leads the team in total average ice time (26:22) but as far as PP minutes are concerned, it seems the times they are a-changin'.
In Montreal, the Canadiens are arguably the hottest PP team over the past two weeks with nine PP goals scored in their past six games. Leading the charge has been defenseman P.K. Subban, with three goals and four assists over that span, giving him an incredible 15 PP points on the season thus far (5G, 15A) in just 22 games played. He and Andrei Markov make up the best PP blue line pairing in the NHL right now, with 16 of Markov's 18 points coming with the man advantage. Another dark horse PP candidate to look at right now, based on the amount of time he's getting lately, is Brendan Gallagher. Although he has just a single PP goal to his credit so far this season, he's currently skating on a unit with Max Pacioretty and David Desharnais, and is averaging 3:11 in ice time over the past two weeks, second-highest on the team behind Michael Ryder.
Meanwhile, in Uniondale NY, there are a handful of noticeable names currently producing as expected on the Islanders power play these days, including John Tavares (3G, 1A in past six games) and Matt Moulson (1G, 2A). One name that sticks out as somewhat unexpected, however, is Brad Boyes, who the Isles went out and signed during the offseason after Pierre Parenteau went and signed with Colorado. With 11 points (1G, 10A) in 28 games, Boyes is currently enjoying his most productive PP campaign in five seasons, dating back to 2008-09 when he scored a career-high 16 PP goals and 18 helpers with St. Louis. Following two seasons with Buffalo during which he saw mostly second-line minutes, (1:59 and 2:27 per game, respectively), Boyes is now seeing first-line duty in Parenteau's spot alongside Tavares and Moulson, averaging 3:27 per game.
In Ottawa, the Sens are still reeling from injuries to franchise defenseman Erik Karlsson (Achilles tendon) and Milan Michalek (knee), which has prompted coach Paul MacLean to make some changes to his power play configurations. For the past few weeks, sophomore d-man Patrick Wiercioch has been manning the Sens' blue line across from Sergei Gonchar, while Guillaume Latendresse has been skating in Michalek's spot alongside Daniel Alfredsson and Kyle Turris. Recall that Latendresse scored a career-high seven PP goals three seasons ago with Minnesota, but his career has since been hampered by injuries, limiting him to just 27 games over the following two seasons. Meanwhile, Wiercioch has two PP goals and four helpers in just 11 games thus far and should continue seeing first-line minutes with Karlsson out for the season.
In Toronto - quick, without looking it up, which Maple Leaf led the team in average PP ice time over the past two weeks? Phil Kessel? Dion Phaneuf? James van Riemsdyk? Nope, nope and nope. The correct answer is defenseman Cody Franson, who is averaging 2:39 over his last seven games. With one PP goal and five assists in 26 games, Franson has since taken over from Mike Kostka on the Leafs' top PP blue line pairing alongside Phaneuf. One other interesting note - with the return of Joffrey Lupul from a broken forearm this past Saturday night, the Leafs' PP lines now appear to be van Riemsdyk, Bozak and Kessel on the first unit, with Lupul, Nazem Kadri and Mikhail Grabovski rounding out the second.