You may recall a day early in the 2014-15 season when the Predators power play was anemic; I mean nearly last in the League anemic. Which is not to say that the current 17th ranking should be characterized as lethal by any means.
However, if you look a little deeper, you’ll see a very bright line marks the improvement.
Since Dec. 27, 2014, the Predators are 20-for-72, or 27.8 percent, with the man advantage. That ranks third in the NHL during that stretch. Compared to the first 33 games of the season where Nashville’s power play was an ineffective at 11.3 percent and 29th League wide, that’s a seismic turnaround. You weren’t so worried early in the year because the wins were coming consistently, and that was due to the way the group was playing five-on-five. Best in the business in fact, and still is.
The truth is, you can get away with ineffective power play, especially early on in the regular season.
There are countless examples of teams with poor power plays who rank in the top of their division and conference. Conversely, there are numerous teams with Top 10 power plays who are on the outside of the playoff picture: see Philadelphia, Columbus and Arizona. However, come the postseason, when games are tight and goals harder to come by, special teams are often the difference-maker.
And that’s why the special teams extravaganza versus the Jets on Feb. 12 was so inspiring. Shea Weber in the first, Filip Forsberg in the second and James Neal’s goal in the third, which will go down as even strength but, in truth, it was scored just six seconds after Dustin Byfuglien returned to the ice following his minor penalty. For all intents and purposes, it was Pekka Rinne and three “PPGs” that skinned Winnipeg for two points on that night.
So the takeaway is…well, it’s taken some time for the new pieces to mesh together. Remember, you subtracted David Legwand and Patric Hornqvist from, what was then a very effective power-play unit, and added the likes of Forsberg, Mike Ribeiro and Neal. Great additions all, no question. But it takes time to create precision where precision is critical. However, now that they have, the man advantage is rounding in to form at a time when its importance is greatest.
April, and the playoffs, will be here before you can say “Roman Josi back to Forsberg, Forsberg off the half-wall through the Fisher screen … scores!”