For the Montreal Canadiens penalty kill, it's the best of times. For the power play, it's the worst of times.
In fact, the Habs hold the second-best penalty kill in the league with a proficiency of 90.6 percent. The power play, on the other hand, is sitting at 26th overall, at just 12.8 percent.
That's also a huge reason that the Canadiens are ranked 18th in goals-per-game, with an average of 2.5. Fortunately, Carey Price has been there to stop the majority of the shots, with a .916 save percentage, 2.26 GAA, and two shutouts, though his record of 9-8-4 is more an indication of the team in front of him struggling, especially on the special teams.
Tomas Plekanec has been the best for the Habs with the man advantage, with eight of his 20 points coming on the power play. Erik Cole and Yannick Weber lead the club in power-play goals, with three apiece.
Head coach Jacques Martin came under fire for not using 6'2", 205-pound forward Erik Cole on the power play earlier in the season. The longtime Carolina Hurricane signed a four-year, $18 million deal this past summer. With that big-body presence around the net, you think he would have been a valuable asset from the get-go on a struggling power play.
Regardless, he's seeing time now, and the power play is still searching for answers.
The Habs are actually shooting the puck a lot, which is a good thing. Right now, Montreal is sixth in the league in power-play shots, with 151 in 94 opportunities. It's not like the chances aren't there. It just seems they might need to set up more higher-percentage scoring opportunities, and need to keep plugging away.
Andrei Markov's looming return will nearly single-handedly improve the power play quite dramatically, which is good news. Chris Campoli is another rearguard who should also be counted on to contribute some quality power-play time for the Habs.
Veteran forwards Scott Gomez and Brian Gionta are struggling to contribute, so Montreal has had no choice but to turn to guys like Lars Eller and David Desharnais. While young, if you want a power play to succeed, more often than not you need top offensive guns to get the job done.
Getting Markov back will be an enormous boost on the back end. With nine points in 14 games, the recently-returned Andrei Kostitsyn seems like he's due for some time with the man advantage. With the fourth-worst power play in the NHL, they may as well give him a shot.
December may bring some much-needed good tidings for the Habs.
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