Raise your hand if you thought the Ducks power play was lacking during the 2010-11 season. ::looks around nervously…realizes I'm the only one with my hand up:: Okay, maybe it’s just me. Perhaps it’s visions of the team making pass after pass while those crucial two minutes trickle away. I see failed attempt after failed attempt of the team trying to enter the zone after losing the face-off. Not to mention that glaring image of a wide open Ryan Getzlaf making another crazy no-look pass to Teemu Selanne stationed along the goal line. (Although, I will admit, when that play works it’s damn beautiful.)
However, before I start to berate the team on their awful performance, I figure I should check the numbers to see how awful they actually were. Anaheim's overall power play success:
TIED FOR SECOND. Whaaa?! Seriously? How did I miss that?
The Ducks did in fact finish the season tied with San Jose and just behind Vancouver on the power play. The special teams unit enjoyed a 23.5% overall success rate. At home the Ducks were 25.5% which was good for third in the league. On the road they didn't fare as well at only 21.3% yet that was still good enough for fourth. Apparently the excessive passing did lead to something after all. I suppose I'm just difficult to please and have lofty demands…but I already knew that.
Since we're looking ahead here, I'm going to go out on a limb and speculate that if what happened last season is any indication of future events…the outlook should be very, very good The top unit isn’t changing one bit; however, much of the power play’s success will likely continue to come from the hands of both Selanne and Corey Perry. Together the duo combined for 45% of the teams goals on the man advantage (30 of 67 goals). Of course there is a chance we won’t see the incredible numbers from Selanne or Perry like we did last season, but there are other positive upswings to consider. Cam Fowler will be playing in his second NHL season and, while Randy Carlyle hasn't put any expectations on the young defenseman, his experience should help boost his confidence on the first unit. Throw in a strong and healthy Lubomir Visnovsky and the Ducks top power play unit is definitely a group to be envied.
We do need to take into consideration the stellar performances that much of this top unit had in 2010-11. Visnovksy was the leading scorer for defenseman and we all know what glory Perry saw at the close of the season. At 40 years of age, Selanne didn’t miss a beat and was in the top ten in terms of points in the league. It won’t be a surprise to any of us if those three in particular see extra attention. Meanwhile, Getzlaf still has enough people fooled into thinking he might shoot the puck from time to time and there is sure to be no shortage of attention wasted on him either. The real question is going to be who will step up if that first unit is struggling.
Thankfully, the second unit should see a much needed boost this season. The addition of Andrew Cogliano already seems to be beneficial for the team and we’ve yet to see him in a regular season game. Assuming he’s the new addition to the power play squad, second unit regulars Saku Koivu and Bobby Ryan may enjoy the assertiveness of the new winger/centerman (or whatever Carlyle chooses to call him) join their ranks. Other things to consider include a whole season with Francois Beauchemin as an option as well as Luca Sbisa and Toni Lydman as blue line operators.
All in all, the Ducks shouldn’t see a decline in their teams’ power play performance but there is always room for improvement. Of course this is all assuming/hoping/praying/fingers, toes and eyes crossed that the regular contributors can find a way to stay consistent. The Ducks are lucky to be working with the same awesome first unit and a presumably improved second unit.
Advantage really says it all. The Ducks were 20th in terms of power play opportunities and they clearly made the most of those chances. The key to this season will be to quite simply stay out of their own box and find a way to goat the opponent into a few misguided mistakes of their own. Yea, yea - we’ll see how well that works out. I mean, we are the Ducks.
Second. Wow. I still find that staggering and yet, even after seeing the numbers, images of pass, pass, pass linger in my head.