The Ducks' special teams woes have been something of a story this season, from the early experimentation with Lupul and Koivu on the kill to Getzlaf quarterbacking the point. Eventually, assistant coach Dave Farrish installed a new PK system, which righted that ship, and assistant coach Newell Brown put Getzlaf back on the wall, which seemed to solve the power play problem, that is, until Teemu Selanne got injured.
Daniel, the power play was a big part of the Ducks playoff push last season, though that iteration had its own troubles, even briefly using Pahlsson as the man in front of the net. This season, who is to blame for the on-again, off-again man advantage? The players or Newell Brown?
With a little consideration to the fact that the inability to maintain pressure inside the zone and gain the blueline can be the fault of the system, I do think that the primary problem with the power play is that we just aren't closing out chances-- that's a player problem. Shots aren't getting through from the point, and the ones that do, the goalie can clearly see. We aren't winning scrums in front of the crease, and we're missing wide when we do.
It's hard to say that you should score against the Sharks and Blues considering both teams are in the top 10 in PK%. However, while the Ducks didn't get a sniff against San Jose, they seemed to come across plenty of chances against St. Louis. Again, the problem was finishing. They hit a crossbar, sent a shot wide, etc. It seemed they did everything right, except score. In that situation it's hard to point at a coach and say the system isn't working, when it's clearly still generating opportunities. To me, the power play just hasn't been finishing and has been losing the little battles. It might sound like hockey cliche, but the Ducks just need to take it upon themselves to bury their chances and win some battles.
I'm going to say it's Newell Brown. And he seems to acknowledge that, as he's trying new things lately.
It isn't just gaining the blueline or maintaining pressure that fall on the system-- though the Ducks have their share of trouble in both of those areas. The bad passes, the poor shot selection and the lackadaisical work in front of the net are symptoms of a group without a clear vision. Yes, it would be easier if we could give it to Teemu on an impossible angle, a shot the penalty kill is happy to give him, and a shot he seems to bury every time. It would be easier if Wisniewski or Whitney were more confident that they wouldn't get blocked from the point, or better, if they actually weren't blocked. It would be easier if we could get the puck cross ice without those pesky sticks in the way. But it will never be that easy.
Don't get me wrong, though. I'm not knocking Newell Brown. This guy helped create the most dominant power play in Ducks history in '99; he can find a way to fix this. But I think that right now, things need to be simplified. We can't rely on the creativity or skill level of the individual players. If that were a reliable course of action, Pittsburgh's power play wouldn't be 29th in the league. We need a workmanlike, superstar-proof system, where improvisation and what is becoming the classic Anaheim shot hesitation are the enemies. Since last year, when we put Pronger, Niedermayer, Selanne, Getzlaf and Perry on a single unit, we've been relying on the players to make the power play. But a good power play system should be able to find production on a second unit, maybe even one without a single future hall of famer.