Turning On The Power
By Josh Plummer
Gone are the days of one-timers from the slot or end to end rushes with jerseys rippling in the wind, even with the crack down on hooking and holding penalty calls.
Defensive systems are far too advanced to allow elusive players any alone time between the hash-marks or free space through the neutral zone.
These days, the majority of teams focus on maintaining control on the down-low cycle, with the hopes the defender will lose his check and give the goal-scorer a brief moment for a shot on goal - or draw a penalty.
The power-play has become one of the most important facets of today's new NHL and if the first 28 games are any indication - the Canucks will be in a race for a playoff spot, and if they're going to grab one of those spots, the power-play will be an important factor.
Vancouver's man advantage has scored 18 times on 149 opportunities - good for 12.1% and 27th in the league.
"I think we have the personnel to get it going, it's just a matter of getting shots at the right time," says Henrik Sedin, whose one goal and eight assists leads the team in power-play points. "Right now we're taking shots when we shouldn't and we're passing up a lot times when we should take shots. We have to make the right decision."
The Anaheim Ducks and San Jose Sharks are the top two teams in the Western Conference and it's no coincidence they both have the highest rank power-plays in the league.
The Ducks have 37 power-play goals and rank 2nd behind the Sharks, who have scored 32 times - but their conversion rate is ranked 1st at 23%.
"The power-play wins you games," says Ryan Kesler. "If you don't have a good power-play and you're struggling, you're going to lose games because of it. When you get a team on the other side that has a good power-play, they're going to kill you."
During the 2005-06 season, the teams with the most power-play goals at seasons end were the Toronto Maple Leafs (107), Ottawa Senators (102) the Detroit Red Wings (102) and the Buffalo Sabres with (101).
Four of those teams finished in the top five in overall league standings.
"For us, the power-play is huge, if we can get one or two goals on the power-play every night, we're going to win some games," added Sedin. "It's really important for us."
Vancouver currently has an overall record of 13-14-1 and have scored power-play goals in 14 of those contests - including two goals with the extra man against Colorado, Calgary, St. Louis and Detroit, and all were victories with the exception of Calgary.
Their record when scoring a power-play goal? 9-5-0 - meaning they are 5-9-0 when they fail to capitalize on the man advantage.
"The power-play these days, you get a lot of chances and if you don't capitalize - it seems to let the other teams gain momentum," says Kesler. "Right now we're struggling on the power-play and it shows. We're losing games 1-0 and 2-1 and some games we get shut-out because of it."
Vancouver currently sits 9th in the Western Conference, just one point back of Calgary and two back of the Minnesota Wild in a hotly contested Northwest Division that could go right down to the wire again this season.
Calgary have scored 19 power-play goals and are ranked 24th - while the Wild are roaring along with 24 goals and are 6th in the power-play standings with a percentage of 19.2.
In the new NHL, the man advantage is truly about power and teams who fail to exercise their power can easily find themselves in a position of weakness, struggling to catch-up against teams who have no problem kicking them when they're a man down.