The Man Advantage
Down the Stretch: Late-Season PP Observations
In Boston, with both Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand still on the shelf battling concussion symptoms, the Bruins are utilizing a top power play unit of David Krejci and Rich Peverley along with recent AHL callup Jordan Caron. Oddly enough, head coach Claude Julien appears to be saving the majority of his firepower, on paper anyway, for the second line, using a combination of Tyler Seguin, Nathan Horton and Gregory Campbell, along with Jaromir Jagr and Zdeno Chara on defense. Let's just say this - if the Bruins, manage to overtake the Habs for first place in the Northeast (they sit just a single point back as of this writing), it won't be because of the team's power play. The B's currently sit 23rd in the league in PP efficiency (5.1%) and have just one goal in 10 opportunities since acquiring Jagr at the trade deadline.
At the same time, the other side of that argument says "a strong power play alone does not a playoff team make." In Edmonton, the Oilers are a good example of that lately, currently sitting fifth in the PP rankings at 21.8%, but 12th overall in the Western Conference, six points out of a playoff spot. Much of the team's PP success this season has been due to the play of Sam Gagner, and who would have predicted that at the start of the season? Gagner is currently tied with Jordan Eberle for the team lead in PP points with 14 (4G, 10A). Not surprisingly, he's also been a fixture on the team's top PP unit lately, alongside Eberle and Nail Yakupov. Meanwhile, the team's second line looks mostly like the first line from last season, with the still-struggling Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Taylor Hall along with Shawn Horcoff. Bottom line, the Oilers are a delight to watch with the man advantage, but they still give up way more goals than they score at even strength (27th in the league in ratio of 5-on-5 goals scored for/against).
In Los Angeles, the Kings' power play is one of the reasons they won't be heading into the playoffs with the same underdog label they had last season. The Kings, fourth in the Western Conference and ninth in the league in playoff success (20.0%), have been benefiting lately from the re-emergence of Drew Doughty, who struggled greatly to start the season with no goals and just seven assists (five on the PP) in his first 20 games. Lately however - much as he did last season - Doughty has come alive down the stretch with six points (4G, 2A) in his last six games, with three of those coming with the man advantage. Overall, Doughty continues to disappoint those fantasy owners who expect a bounce-back to the kind of point totals he put up three seasons ago in his sophomore campaign (59 points, 31 on the PP). We might never see those kinds of numbers from him again, but Doughty is slowly building a reputation as a guy you want on your roster late in the season and into the playoffs.
In New York, the Rangers have done well since acquiring Ryane Clowe and Derrick Brassard at the trade deadline, winning four of six games over that stretch. Their power play has also been better with five goals in 20 chances over the same span - and that's without Marian Gaborik, remember. Clowe and Brassard have certainly done their share, combining for two of those goals along with three helpers. The pair is currently skating on the Rangers' second playoff unit alongside Brad Richards and Brian Boyle, while the first unit is comprised of Rick Nash, Ryan Callahan, Derek Stepan and Mats Zuccarello. On the back end, it's Michael Del Zotto and Dan Girardi seeing most of the action.
In Philadelphia, with four losses in their last four games, the Flyers have all but eliminated themselves from the playoff race this season. If that holds, it will be the first time since 2006-07 that the Flyers have not qualified for postseason play. You can point to a number of things as the basis for the Flyers' futility this year - a 5-15-1 road record, mediocre goaltending - but one thing you cannot blame is the team's power play, currently third in the league with a 22.2% efficiency. This has been due in large part to the emergence of Jakub Voracek this season - after registering zero PP goals all of last year, Voracek leads the team in that department with eight, along with eight assists. He's been a mainstay on the team's top PP unit this year alongside Claude Giroux and Wayne Simmonds, and should be next year too.
In St. Louis, the Blues have kept themselves in the playoff race by going 6-4-0 in their last 10 games, with those six wins coming in consecutive fashion since acquiring Jordan Leopold from Buffalo just prior to the trade deadline. They followed that move by landing Jay Bouwmeester at the deadline, and the two have done well in bolstering the Blues' depth on the back end, both at even strength and on the power play. In fact, whereas the de-facto first d-man pairing for the Blues used to be Kevin Shattenkirk and Alex Pietrangelo, this is often no longer the case, as either Leopold and/or Bouwmeester are very often sent out first in PP situations. This is starting to show up in the ice time numbers for both Pietrangelo and Shattenkirk, who are averaging 2:16 and 1:49, respectively, over their past 14 games, down from their season averages of 2:48 and 2:33.