by PuckStopsHere on 04/10/09 at 03:11 AM ET
The NHL; has been actively trying to increase the number of goals per game. Since the lockout, the most successful method has likely been increasing the number and importance of power plays. An obstruction crackdown was launched when the league started back up after the lockout that led to an increase in penalties. An increase in penalties led to an increase in goals. Over time the number of penalties has began to drop, but the NHL added a rule this season that the opening faceoff after a penalty is in the defensive zone of the penalized team. That has continued the increase in power play goals. The average team scores 25-30% of their goals on the power play. It is hard to be successful in the NHL without a good power play.
The worst power play in the NHL belongs to the Columbus Blue Jackets and they have clinched a playoff berth.
Columbus has had success despite a 12.4% success rate on the power play. Their keys to success have come from strong goaltending provided by Steve Mason and a very good defensive system imposed by coach Ken Hitchcock. They do not have a strong offence. Rick Nash is the only point per game player. They lack a top pointman for the power play. Nash is their leading power play scorer with only six power play goals and 19 power play points this season.
In the playoffs there tend to be less power plays. Referees tend to put whistles away and let teams play. This is particularly true late in games when it is unclear who will win. It is not uncommon for overtime games to go periods without any power plays at all. The effect of a good power play is decreased in the playoffs and the damage of a poor one is weakened. Nevertheless, it is rarer that a team with as big a weakness as the Columbus power play could make the playoffs.
In fact, the team with the second worst power play has also clinched a playoff berth. The New York Rangers have the second worst power play with a 13.7% success rate. The Rangers success has not been driven by their offence either. For much of this season the Rangers had the worst offence in the league, but they have recently passed the Colorado Avalanche to move into 29th place. The Rangers also lack a legitimate power play pointman and they lack many scoring threats on the power play. Chris Drury leads the team with 10 power play goals and 20 power play points. Markus Naslund is the only other player to score more than four power play goals while playing for the Rangers this year.
The two worst power plays in the NHL will be “featured” in the playoffs. That is a pretty unlikely scenario. Does that mean that these teams cannot have playoff success? They certainly are not helped by their lack of a power play and lack of an offence in general, but it is possible. In fact, the last time a team made the playoffs with the worst power play in the league in was 2002/03. That team was the New Jersey Devils and they won the Stanley Cup.
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