Analysis | Worst power play in the NHL in 20 games

(Denver) Unless a goalkeeper showers him with gifts, as happened in Seattle last Sunday, the Canadian doesn’t score many goals. Is not a new problem. But it has been particularly evident in one specific department in recent weeks.

Over the last 20 games, the Habs have had the worst power play in the NHL. With a success rate of 11.3% in this interval, at 32my In the circuit classification, Flannel barely took advantage of one opportunity out of every nine. The breakout is even more surprising considering that over the previous 20 games, Montreal grew at a rate of 27.3%. The fall is not only obvious: it is brutal.

This campaign was developed in three stages at this level. The first 30 games were the scene of a search for solutions. Having completely neglected, by the management’s own admission, this aspect of the game in 2022-2023, we identified this project among the priorities for 2023-2024.

Therefore, we witnessed different experiences and some changes, depending on observations and injuries. When Kirby Dach went down in the second game of the season, he was initially replaced by Josh Anderson in the first wave. Alex Newhook also had his chance until he was injured at the end of November.

Ultimately it was Juraj Slafkovsky who was inserted into this unit as he began to find his offensive form.

This period was also one of filming, particularly in terms of entries into the area. The slingshot strategysling, in English), this famous back pass to Nick Suzuki who, in acceleration, carries the puck to the blue line, required many repetitions. We also removed Sean Monahan from the front of the net to move him to the pivot position (bumper).

On December 16, at the end of the 30thmy match, the power play had an efficiency rate of 16.7%. To date, excluding the inevitable fluctuations of the first days of the calendar, this is the cumulative minimum reached this season.


Cole Caufield

Then something clicked. Starting on December 18, the Canadian’s success percentage began to rise, and rose again, until reaching 20.2% on February 6, in game number 50. We were still far from the performances of the elite of the circuit, but the improvement was evident. The zone entries were effective, the puck moved quickly, the threat came from everywhere and no longer just from Cole Caufield. During this golden era, more than one in four opportunities ended in a goal.

However, since ’51my match, the trend is downward. In total, the effectiveness of the five-man attack lost 2.4 percentage points, reaching 17.8% today. The decline has been particularly radical lately: only three goals in 41 occasions. Magic no longer works at all.


Players and coaches are scratching their heads at this obvious drop in performance.

Interim head coach Trevor Letowski urged “caution.”

The possibilities (to score) are there. Now is not the time to change everything.

Trevor Letowski

Letowski makes a good point. The rate of shots on goal has decreased, but the number of quality chances is slightly higher in the last 20 games than in the previous 20. The puck, however, refuses to penetrate in front of the net.

Alex Burrows, assistant coach in charge of the power play, identified a “lack of execution” and difficulty “finishing plays.”

“We’ve been dropping the puck more recently,” Nick Suzuki said. We notice more entries into unstable zones, lost pucks, passes that do not find a recipient…

The most visible change undoubtedly occurs at the personnel level. Sean Monahan was traded to the Winnipeg Jets on February 2. The Canadian had then played 49 games. CH peaked the numerical advantage in the next match.

Alex Newhook returned to the game on February 10 after treating an ankle injury. The replacement of the number 91 with 15 initially generated some goals, it is true. However, it seems obvious that the presence of Monahan, as dangerous and unpredictable as a shooter as he is a passer, is missing from the Habs in this phase of the game.


Alex Newhook

In the locker room the issue is delicate. “I think Newy does a good job,” Trevor Letowski said. It’s easy to point fingers at him when the puck doesn’t go in, but I think he’s the right guy (in this role). »

Monahan and Newhook “are similar,” Suzuki believes. “They have good touches with the puck, they position themselves well, they are available at all times,” said the captain. I don’t think it’s changed much. »

“We know what we’re capable of,” Newhook added. If we could simply complete more plays in tight spaces, I think our percentage could start to rise again quickly. »

Second silent wave

Obviously we can’t say without a doubt that Sean Monahan’s departure alone justifies breaking Montreal’s numerical advantage. However, it is worth noting that since his arrival in Winnipeg, the Jets player has produced at a rate of 27.3%. But let’s not deviate.

What we do know, however, is that help will not come from the second wave. The last time anyone other than Suzuki, Caufield, Slafkovsky, Matheson, Monahan or Newhook scored a point under such circumstances was on December 16.

In short, in the last 39 games, everyone else on the team has been excluded. During this period, Josh Anderson and Brendan Gallagher each spent about forty minutes on the ice with a man advantage. Jesse Ylönen (almost 30 minutes), Arber Xhekaj and Joshua Roy (22 each) did no better.

If the first wave continues to threaten, the same cannot be said of the second which, in addition to not getting points, does not generate much or anything.

We ended up wondering if we didn’t send the second unit simply to rest the rest of the group.

What level of attention is given to power play support staff? we asked Alex Burrows on Monday.

“It doesn’t matter who is in the second wave, we have not changed the plan,” he defended. We have our match with the first, then the second, and we try to approach the numerical advantage in the same way. »

Sometimes, he noted, the second wave has to settle for “crumbs” in the final seconds of the five-man attack, although that is not always the case.

“The ice season is still important to them,” he insisted. It allows them to have good touches in the offensive zone, look good around the net. It’s up to them to continue executing and find ways to be successful. »

Although there are only about three weeks left in the season and 12 games left, Nick Suzuki believes there is still “plenty of time” to turn things around.

“All it takes is one goal and the boys will regain their self-confidence,” he said. Drops may occur, but we know that we have already produced almost 30% for some time now. We want to get back to that. »

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