Countdown to the 2013-14 Anaheim Ducks Season: Power Play Preview

Light the LHamp[us]! - Doug Pensinger

Putting the power back in the Ducks power play is a must if this team wants to have any chance at winning.

2013 Stats: 21.5%, 4th in NHL. Leading scorers- Goals: Corey Perry (5); Assists: Ryan Getzlaf (11); Points: Ryan Getzlaf (15). Time on Ice leaders: Corey Perry (124:05), Ryan Getzlaf (122:10), Francois Beauchimin (103:49).

Projected First Unit: Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Teemu Selanne, Francois Beauchimin, Cam Fowler.

Last Person I want on the Ice during PP: This is an interesting question when you consider that the Ducks are a pretty high-power offensive team and just about any of the guys on the roster could make a decent fill-in on the extra-man unit, however Luca Sbisa takes the title. He had a pretty rough season last year which a lot of people gave him crap for, and while I think he can be better, Sbisa has still shown that there are cracks in his game. He's been caught demonstrating poor passing decisions, mistakes in receiving passes, poor positioning, and hesitation in making plays, all of which are critical skills to a good power play blueliner.

Changes from Last Year: The Anaheim Power Play overachieved for the first half of the shortened season last year, lighting teams up at a blinding pace with a stunning arsenal of set plays (including that nifty blind-backhand-pass-through-the-crease-to-a-crashing-Francois-Beauchimin play that burned I don't know how many teams). At one point Anaheim's power play was the best in the NHL and there's no doubt in my mind it carried the Ducks to their place in the West. However, as opponents began to figure the Ducks out and the team fell back to Earth, the Ducks showed a remarkable lack of creativity or cohesion with the extra man, and it became extremely frustrating to watch.

No matter what happened last season, nothing was more infuriating than the Anaheim Ducks with a 5-on-3 advantage. Despite finishing top-five in the NHL in power play percentage, Anaheim finished third worst in the league when up two men. In total, the Ducks had seven 5-on-3 power play chances last season. They scored once. Yes. Seriously. On arguably the easiest play in all of hockey to execute, the Ducks clicked with an efficiency rate of only 14.1%, which is completely unacceptable with a top-five power play. I'll reiterate this fact by pointing out that on several occasions, an extended Ducks 5-on-3 opportunity would pass by with no more than a single shot on goal, if any at all.

On one hand I place some of the blame for these struggles on Coach Boudreau, who insisted on changing his power play unit every single game to try to bring them to life rather than letting any chemistry develop over time while the power play was stagnant and flat. However the rest of the blame I place on the team simply trying to be too fancy. On several occasions I actually took a piece of paper and kept a count of the number of times the team tried to make an unnecessary extra pass for a tap-in goal, rather than taking a high quality shot and making the goaltender make a stellar save to keep the Ducks off the board. While I don't have those statistics anymore, I assure you they often wanted to make me cry, especially in those 5-on-3's where stupid passes through the riskiest part of the ice would land right on an opponent's stick for an easy clear.

The biggest changes for this year are obviously going to come on the second unit, as the Ducks traded away their staple in Bobby Ryan. His replacement will most likely be Jakob Silfverberg, who I think will do just fine there. He's already demonstrated his blinding speed and wicked wrist shot. What I would like to see is him use it a little more than Bobby used his own. He'll likely be out there with the likes of Kyle Palmieri and Nick Bonino or possibly even Andrew Cogliano, who has also shown he can be quite the pest in front of the net despite his small stature. Dustin Penner may even get a look so long as he stays in Coach B's good faith.

Likewise with Sheldon Souray injured to start the season I would anticipate Sami Vatanen getting an extended opportunity to take command of the second power play from the blue line alongside probably either Ben Lovejoy or Mark Fistric. Should Hampus Lindholm ever be in the lineup, I would expect to see him get some time as well. (Ed. Note: Lindholm has three goals in the preseason so far. All on the PP. -CK)

Overall this year I would just like to see the Anaheim power play simplify itself: quick, low-risk passes to open up the defense, and shots on goal when you get them as opposed to trying to make an unnecessary risky play to get a better one.

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