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Countdown 11: Powering The Man Advantage

by Staff Writer / Florida Panthers
The Panthers 2010-11 season is quickly approaching and with that, is taking a look at the top ten questions, players to watch and games of the season on a countdown to the home opener on October 16th against Tampa Bay. We'll unveil one of the top ten on a rotating basis each day to help fans get ready for what hopes to be an exciting season.

Stephen Weiss (left) and Bryan McCabe will be counted on this year to help improve the Panthers power play. (AP Photo/Jerry S. Mendoza)
In today's topic, we take a closer look at The Power Play in our Top 10 Questions this season.

To say that the Panthers power play has struggled the last few years could be an understatement.

Two seasons ago, Florida converted on just 16.6% of their opportunities, good for 24th best in the league. Last season, their man advantage unit was even worse, scoring on just 14.2%, better than just the Toronto Maple Leafs. The best finish in franchise history came three seasons ago when the team, led by Olli Jokinen's 18 power play tallies and Nathan Horton's nine, finished sixth in the league, converting on just under 20% (19.2%).

When you don't have the skill level that some of the other teams can put out on a given night, you have to be able to score whenever you get a man advantage. Having a successful power play, definitely helps in the end. Take last season for example. Seven of the top 10 teams on the power play made the post-season. The only teams not to were Anaheim (5th - 21.0%), Tampa Bay (8th - 19.3%) and Minnesota (10th - 19.1%).

"We're one of those teams that has to compete hard 5-on-5 and try to win games with our specialty teams,'' said coach Pete DeBoer.

For the Panthers to be competitive, their power play definitely needs to be better. Stephen Weiss had 12 power play goals last season while David Booth (11), Cory Stillman and Bryan McCabe (8) were near the top in scoring on the power play the season before. If those players have bounce back seasons, they could see similar outputs.

Another player that should immensely help the power play unit is defenseman Dennis Wideman. Acquired in a trade with Boston this off-season, Wideman is a bit of a power play specialist. A much-needed right-handed shot on the point, Wideman registered nine power play goals in 2007-08 and six more in 2008-09 before falling to just two last season.

"Wideman, makes a big difference," said DeBoer when asked about this year's power play.

"We've been moving the puck pretty well and we're getting pucks to the net and have guys there," said Wideman about this year's power play.

Wideman and McCabe figure to see a lot of power play time on the first unit, at least from the beginning, along with Weiss, Booth and Michael Frolik.

"Most power plays, the way you get rolling is shots from the point, crash the net and rebounds. I think to get a good power play, you have to establish something first, make the penalty kill take that away and that will start opening up other options. If you establish point shots, they'll start focusing on that and that will open up down low. That's a big thing. Try not to be too stagnant and move it around, zipping the puck as fast as you can and then crashing the net."

Make sure you keep an eye on the man advantage unit.
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