Ranking the 8 Best Power-Play Units in the NHL
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An explosive power play can make up for a lot of weaknesses.
A team that can score regularly with the man advantage will give a team a certain sense of security in a close game. When a team knows that it can move the puck around swiftly and create scoring opportunities with the man advantage, it gains a significant edge.
The San Jose Sharks have come rolling out of the gate, winning their first five games of the season and leading the NHL in power-play proficiency.
The power play is a big reason for their success, as they have moved the puck swiftly and efficiently on a game-to-game basis.
The unit's confidence is palpable, and the production is notable.
With that in mind, here is a look at the eight teams with the best power plays in the NHL.
8. Chicago Blackhawks
Patrick Kane's quick release gives the Blackhawks an edge on the power play.
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Joel Quenneville is under pressure to return the Chicago Blackhawks to glory in 2013.
The 2010 Stanley Cup champions have been eliminated in the first round of the playoffs the last two years, but they have played like they are ready to make another run at the title in the season's first six games.
The Blackhawks are moving the puck with speed and crispness, and their power play has performed well.
As of Jan. 28, the Blackhawks rank 10th in the league on the power play, having connected on 7-of-27 attempts on the man advantage, according to NHL.com.
The combination of Marian Hossa, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp and Duncan Keith give the Blackhawks the kind of power play that can score on any given night.
7. Pittsburgh Penguins
It would be shocking if the Pittsburgh Penguins were not in the discussion of the league's best power-play units.
Through the first week-plus of the season, the Penguins rank ninth in the league in power-play effectiveness, but they are better than their ranking.
When you throw Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, James Neal and Kris Letang on the ice at the same time, you are going to put fear in the hearts of opposing goaltenders.
The Penguins have not had a lot of opportunities so far, but they have connected on 5-of-19 attempts with the man advantage.
Putting the Pens on the power play is an invitation to disaster, and opponents would be wise to heed that message this year.
6. Edmonton Oilers
The power play has been an effective weapon for the Edmonton Oilers through the early part of the season.
The Oilers are loaded with explosive young talent, and while they are having difficulties putting goals on the scoreboard in five-on-five opportunities, their power play has been dangerous.
Start off with rookie Nail Yakupov, who scored the first goal of his NHL career while on the power play against the San Jose Sharks last week.
Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Justin Schultz and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins are among the other weapons that head coach Ralph Krueger can choose to put on the ice for the Oilers' power play.
They have connected on six of their first 22 power-play opportunities. Moreover, this unit should get stronger as the season progresses.
According to The Canadian Press (h/t The Hockey News), "Oilers general manager Steve Tambellini said he was impressed by Krueger's work on the Oilers power play last season (taking it from 27th to third overall) and Krueger's transformation of the Swiss hockey program."
5. Montreal Canadiens
The Montreal Canadiens were the worst team in the Eastern Conference a year ago.
They appear to be much better than that this season.
After dropping their opener to the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Canadiens have responded with three straight wins under new coach Michel Therrien. The Canadiens are playing with more energy and confidence than they did a year ago, and their power play may be the reason why.
Through their first four games, the Canadiens have scored on six of their first 22 power-play opportunities. The Canadiens have been moving the puck with efficiency, and defenseman Andrei Markov has led the way with four power-play goals.
Look for Montreal's power play to get even stronger when forward Max Pacioretty returns from his early-season appendectomy (source: CBSSports.com).
4. Tampa Bay Lightning
The Tampa Bay Lightning should have one of the best power-play units in the NHL because they have the league's top goal scorer in Steven Stamkos.
Stamkos scored 60 goals a year ago, and he does it with a slew of weapons including a brilliant wrist shot, quick reactions on tips and rebounds and great shot accuracy.
Stamkos gets plenty of help from Martin St. Louis, Vincent Lecavalier and Victor Hedman on the power play.
The Lightning have scored seven power-play goals in their first 25 attempts. Though St. Louis has scored two power-play goals thus far, Stamkos has yet to hit the net.
That will not continue for much longer.
3. Calgary Flames
The Calgary Flames would seem to be up against it in the Western Conference.
They appear to lack the necessities to compete with the top teams like the Vancouver Canucks, San Jose Sharks, St. Louis Blues, Chicago Blackhawks and the defending Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings.
Overall, they don't appear to have the young talent to compete with the up-and-coming teams in the league.
But the Flames have performed well on the power play through their first four games, and they may have the weapons to sustain that success this season.
They have connected on five of their first 17 power-play opportunities.
Lee Stempniak and Curtis Glencross have both scored a pair of power-play markers. Jarome Iginla has yet to score a power-play goal, and he should be an asset for the Flames with the man advantage this season.
2. St. Louis Blues
The St. Louis Blues opened eyes around the NHL with their rise to the No. 2 spot in the Western Conference a year ago.
Head coach Ken Hitchcock used strong defense and discipline as the key to building one of the most efficient and toughest teams in the league.
However, the Blues were not a great offensive threat.
This year, they appear to be a much better offensive team, and their power play has become an exceptional asset. The Blues have scored on seven of their first 21 power-play attempts.
There is no way the Blues will continue to hit on 33.3 percent of their power-play opportunities, but the speed and efficiency of the way the Blues move the puck should be an asset for them this season.
T.J. Oshie and Chris Stewart have each scored two power-play goals through the Blues' first six games. Explosive rookie Vladimir Tarasenko leads the Blues with eight points, and he has one power-play goal through the team's first six games.
1. San Jose Sharks
The San Jose Sharks have heard all the talk about the so-called window of opportunity closing on them this year, and they are sick of it.
They have won their first five games of the season and have been very impressive, outscoring opponents by a 23-8 margin. Don't tell Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton that this team is not going to win the Western Conference and get to its first Stanley Cup Finals.
The Sharks are moving the puck with speed and efficiency, particularly on the power play. They have scored on 12-of-32 power play attempts, which translates to a shocking 37.5 percent success rate with the man advantage.
Not surprisingly, Marleau has been the team's key triggerman with the man advantage. He has already scored nine goals this season, five of which have been on the power play.
Marleau tied a league record set by Cy Denneny in 1917-18 when he scored two goals in each of the team's first four games.
The Sharks will almost certainly have a dip or two in power-play efficiency along the way, but they look like the league's most dangerous team with the man advantage.