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After Slow Start, Panthers Power Play Looking Potent

by Jameson Olive / @JamesonCoop /

11/6/18 Practice

11/6/18 Practice

Interviews with Bob Boughner, Roberto Luongo and Keith Yandle

  • 01:49 •

CORAL SPRINGS, Fla. - Bob Boughner knew it was only a matter of time.

After going 0-for-13 on the power play through the first three games of the season, the Panthers head coach said he didn't panic. Although his team wasn't seeing any results on the scoresheet, the amount of chances they were generating left him optimistic that good fortune would follow.

"We were getting a ton of chances earlier in the season that we just weren't capitalizing on," the second-year bench boss said after Tuesday's practice at the Panthers IceDen. "We said as a coaching staff… that one of these days we were going to have a big night. You can't keep getting seven, eight, nine chances a night on four power plays and coming up with nothing."

That "big night" finally came on Friday, when Florida scored a season-high three goals with the man advantage to close out the 2018 NHL Global Series with a huge 4-2 win over the Winnipeg Jets at Hartwall Arena in Helsinki, Finland. In that game, the Panthers had 10 shot attempts and eight shots on goal over five power plays, with the majority of those shots coming from distance.

For although a dazzling goal will make the highlight reel, Boughner has worked to hammer it into the heads of his players that simply putting pucks towards the net is the best way to score.

"That's what we talk to our players about every day," Boughner said. "Very rarely do you see a power play goal be tic-tac-toe and through the backdoor for a tap-in. It's just about second and third chances and getting pucks to the net."

That commitment to putting pucks on net has certainly been noticeable in recent weeks. In their first three game of the season, just 1.53 of the Panthers' shots while on the power play made it to the net. In their last four games, that number has risen to 2.05. Also in those four games, the team twice registered 12 shots on goal with the extra attacker, which matched a season high.

When asked about this increase in shots on goal, defenseman Keith Yandle, who quarterbacks the club's top power play unit, pointed to several factors, including smooth zone entries, a nice balance between the first and second units, and the ability to reset after a failed scoring attempt.

By succeeding in those areas, the team has been able to spend more time in the offensive zone during their power plays, which, in turn, has allowed them to generate far more scoring chances.

"I'd say the biggest thing is probably getting pucks back," said Yandle, whose 12 points are tied for second in the league among defensemen. "If we get a shot, our forwards are doing a really good job of getting pucks back and letting us get set up again.

"We're getting in the zone pretty good. I think both units are going good. We're getting contributions from everyone. It's not just one or two guys. It's one of those things. I think for your power play to be good, all 10 guys that are out there -- both units -- have to be good."

So far, that balance has been there for the Panthers, as the club has 10 players with at least one point on the power play. Mike Hoffman leads the team with three power play goals, while also sitting in a three-way tie with Evgenii Dadonov and Yandle for the lead in points with five.

On Friday, each of those three players scored a power play goal against Winnipeg, with two of them coming off a shot from Yandle just below the blue line - one tipped in by Dadonov and the other finding its way through traffic and in. And although big-shot flankers like Vincent Trocheck and Hoffman remain the primary options, Yandle enjoys that both units now have multiple looks.

Video: FLA@WPG: Yandle blasts Panthers' third PPG for lead

"The best power plays are the shooting power plays," said Yandle, who leads the team with 17 shots on goal while on the man advantage. "I think penalty kills are so good nowadays with all the video and stuff that you know what teams are going to do and what teams like to do. When you can catch them by surprise, whether it's shooting pucks or getting second opportunities at the net, that's when things go good."

The Panthers will have a great opportunity to continue producing on the power play this week, as they will host Edmonton's 26th-ranked penalty kill (72.1 percent) on Thursday and Ottawa's 30th-ranked penalty kill (68.8 percent) on Sunday at BB&T Center. Since Oct. 14, Florida has converted on 26.3 percent of its opportunities, which ranks seventh in the NHL during that span.

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