Power plays around the NHL this season are doing more with less.
As the season winds down, power plays are converting at a rate not seen since 1992-93, a season that included two expansion teams (Ottawa and Tampa Bay) and the second-year San Jose Sharks
. Teams are converting 18.9 percent of their extra-man opportunities, the highest percentage since they cashed in 19.6 percent of their chances 16 years ago.
From 1998-99 through 2003-04, power-play success stayed in a range of 15.8 to 16.6 percent. That figure improved to 17.7 percent in 2005-06 and has stayed roughly the same over the past two seasons (17.6 in 2006-07, 17.7 in 2007-08).
More interesting is the fact that the improvement on the power play has come as the number of chances has declined. Power plays per game, which soared to 11.7 in 2005-06 under the new enforcement mandate, are down to 8.33 this season -- the lowest they've been since 2001-02 (8.26).
The best power-play night belongs to Detroit, which went 5-for-6 against Nashville on Feb. 18. The worst night was Philadelphia's 0-for-11 performance at St. Louis on Jan. 31.
A night to forget --
It's been a tough season for the New York Islanders
, who've lost more than 500 man-games to injuries and have spent most of the season last in the overall standings. But Tuesday night's 9-0 loss at Carolina was truly a game they'd rather not see the tapes from.
The nine-goal margin of defeat was the largest in the Isles' 36-year history -- they've lost by eight on five occasions, but the last one was more than 20 years ago and three of the five came during 1972-73, when they set NHL records for losing as an expansion team. Even worse was the fact that they were outshot 57-12 -- the largest margin in the NHL in at least the last five seasons, and the largest in Islanders history. The 57 shots allowed were the most in franchise history; the 12 shots for were two short of the team record.
The Islanders also became the second team this season to allow 10 more power plays that they received -- they got one and allowed 11 (Carolina converted four). It's the second time this season the power plays in a game have been so lopsided -- and Carolina has been the beneficiary both times. The 'Canes also got 11 advantages (scoring on three) to one against Montreal on Dec. 16.
Home cooking --
Entering the NHL's final weekend, there had been 10 games in which a player scored the tie-breaking goal in the final minute of play. Amazingly, nine of the 10 have been scored by the home team. Calgary's Todd Bertuzzi
was the only visiting player to get the winner in the final minute; he scored with 26 seconds left to give the Flames a 3-2 win at Nashville on Jan. 3.
Detroit's Marian Hossa
got the most recent last-minute winner when he beat Minnesota's Niklas Backstrom
at 19:05 last Sunday to give the Red Wings a 3-2 win over the Wild at Joe Louis Arena. Hossa is also the only player this season to get more than one game-winner in the final 2:00 of regulation. He scored at the 18-minute mark to break a 3-3 tie against Columbus on Nov. 28 (the Wings added an empty-netter for a 5-3 win), and connected at 18:02 on March 24 for a 3-2 win at Edmonton.
Overtime oddities --
Dallas defenseman Trevor Daley
's goal 16 seconds into overtime last Saturday gave him the "honor" of having the fastest OT goal this season. He was two seconds faster than the Rangers' Scott Gomez
, who scored 18 seconds into overtime at Atlanta on Dec. 10.
In all, there have been 12 goals scored within the first 35 seconds of overtime. Only one player has two: Toronto's Pavel Kubina
owns a pair of OT goals, both scored at the 33-second mark.
The latest OT goal belongs to Florida's Stephen Weiss
, who scored at 4:50 to give the Panthers a 4-3 win at Ottawa on Dec. 8.
At last --
For the first time ever, it's playoff time in Columbus. The Blue Jackets clinched their first playoff berth on Wednesday with a 4-3 shootout win at Chicago after missing the postseason in each of their first seven seasons in the NHL. That ended the second-longest streak of consecutive seasons by an NHL team without making the playoffs from the start of a franchise. Washington set the record with an eight-year drought -- 1974-75 through 1981-82. The overall record for consecutive seasons missing the playoffs is nine seasons, set by the Colorado Rockies/New Jersey Devils
from 1978-79 through 1986-87.
Dueling blowouts --
Toronto and Montreal own one of the NHL's fiercest rivalries, but you wouldn't know it by the scores of their six meetings this season. All six games -- three wins for each team -- were decided by three or more goals. Montreal won 6-1, 6-2, and 6-2, while the Leafs got their three victories with scores of 6-3, 5-2 and 5-2. It's the first time in Leafs history that they've had a season series of six or more games that were all decided by three or more goals. Montreal had one such series -- the only one by any team since the 1967 expansion. The Canadiens won all six games against the first-year Washington Capitals
by three or more goals (and three of them by eight or more).
The Canadiens actually won their first nine meetings with the Caps by three or more goals -- Washington didn't get within a goal until a 3-2 loss on Jan. 13, 1976.