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On Ice Review: Wild's Power Play Showed Strides

by Evan Sporer / Minnesota Wild

Over the next few months, will take a closer look at some of the areas of the Minnesota Wild's 2015-16 season, from players, to systems, and everything between.

Of the Minnesota Wild's 38 victories this season, in 23 of those games, the Wild scored on the power play.

Conversely, 30 of Minnesota's 44 losses did not feature a power play goal.

When it clicks, a power play can provide a major boost, but when it flounders, a power play can become a sore subject and a momentum killer.

The Wild saw a bit of both in the 2015-16 season, though, overall, showed improvement from the season prior, climbing nearly three percentage points and scoring nine more power play goals.

Minnesota also set a franchise record with a power-play goal in 13 consecutive road games over a streak that stretched from late January to mid-March.

In those moments, including wins over the Toronto Maple Leafs and Buffalo Sabres in visiting arenas, it showed how vital a power play can be. In those victories, where the Wild scratched and clawed to generate offense at even-strength, the Wild went 3-for-5 on the power play and earned four points along the way.

That included a late, game-tying power play goal against the Sabres to force overtime before winning in a shootout. Against Toronto, both of the Wild's goals in a 2-1 win came on the man advantage.

"It's been a huge key for us the games we have won, especially on the road," Mikael Granlund said after his third-period power play goal was the difference in the Toronto victory. " It's just the way it goes sometimes. Some pucks goes in, and sometimes they don't, and when you've got the confidence in the power play, that's a huge thing, and we're getting those bounces right now."

A midseason adjustment the Wild made to generate more power play success was apply a focus on volume shooting. It coincided with a 17-game stretch over which the Wild scored a power-play goal in at least 14 games.

It's a strategy that has been adopted by other teams around the NHL, a chaos theory that flinging pucks toward the goal with more frequency will create scoring chances, through either rebounds, blocked shots that land on the attacking team's sticks, opening up lanes, or producing the bounces Granlund alluded to.

"More shots is going to equal more opportunities," Matt Dumba said on the heels of the Wild having scored a power-play goal in six of seven games in early February, going 6-for-29, or 20.1 percent.

Isolating those 17 games, the Wild was third in the NHL in power-play shots per 60 minutes (59.7), third in scoring chances per 60 (57.5), and 11th in shot-attempts (190).

Proportionally, in those 17 games, the Wild took over a quarter of its power-play shot-attempts of the season, emblematic of not being able to maintain those shot rates on special teams consistently.

But when it was most successful, the Wild carried a simplistic approach into its power play, getting pucks to net, traffic near the crease, and working off that foundation to build more.

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