Most of the year, we’ve tried to point out that the Hawks’ success this year is largely built on their goaltender and their power play. Yesterday, I went through the brilliance of their goaltender. Today I thought it might be good to look at the power play, but not just in context of the Hawks. Because there’s something a little weird happening this season with the teams with the best power plays.
Generally, power play success isn’t indicative of playoff success. Ask the San Jose Sharks. In fact, the last time a team led the league in power play percentage and won the Cup was the Penguins in 2009. It just doesn’t happen that often.
This year, the top five power play teams are the Hawks, Ducks, Caps, Kings, and Sharks. You could argue the top four teams there are the best four teams in the league. Compare that to last year: The Caps, Wings, Flyers, Blues, Jackets. Out of them, one team actually won a round in the playoffs, two of them missed them altogether.
The year before that saw the Penguins, Caps, Bruins, Coyotes, and Avs. That’s a 2nd round exit, missed the playoffs, 2nd round exit, missed the playoffs, first round exit (that shouldn’t have been in the playoffs anyway).
2013: Caps, Pens, Flyers, Ducks, Habs. 1st round exit, conference final, missed playoffs, 1st round exit, 1st round exit.
2011-2012: Preds, Sharks, Oilers, Canucks, Penguins. 2nd round exit, 1st round exit, missed playoffs, 1st round exit, 1st round exit.
So in the four years before this one, the top five teams in power play each year produced exactly one conference finalist. You could argue that if the top five remain the same, the top five in PP this year could produce three conference finalists, and two of them in the Kings, Sharks, or Ducks could end up playing each other in the second round. The Blues and Stars are actually 6th or 7th, so the chances of both Western finalists being in the top seven in power play is basically likely.
I don’t know that there’s any reason for this. It’s probably nothing more than a statistical oddity. And the Kings and Ducks (if you want to throw in the Stars too, but I don’t think you do) are two of the four best even-strength teams as well in possession, and the Caps are the best in goals-percentage at even-strength. But if there’s going to be a year where a power play makes a real difference in the playoffs, maybe this is the one. Hawks fans had better hope so.
As for the Hawks power play itself, we’ve remarked earlier in the year that a lot of its dominance is that it’s shooting 19.6 percent. Seriously, a fifth of every shot on the power play goes in. The only other team to top 19% shooting on the power play since 2010 is the 2013 Caps. No one else has even topped 18.2%. Strangely, the Hawks are 25th in the amount of high-danger chances they create on the power play. This is actually a lower rate of high-danger chances on the man-advantage than in the previous two years. It’s generating significantly less shots than the previous two years, 47.4 per 60 minutes on the power play versus 54.1 and 53.4 the previous two campaigns.
But hey, it only has to last a couple more months, right?
-I had wanted to write about this for a couple days, James Mirtle’s piece in The Globe And Mail about it being time to ban fighting in junior hockey. If you’ve read the program for any length of time, this is something I’ve been completely bewildered by for years. What kind of fucked up culture not only lets teenagers fight with each other during sporting events, but actually encourages it? We complain down here that we’re getting closer and closer to the Hunger Games, but how far is Canada? Given the problems we know enforcers have had off the ice, how early were those instilled in them? And for what purpose, to protect some kid from a slightly bigger child? Please.
Given what we know about brain injuries to children with still developing brains, it is borderline criminal that this is still somehow allowed. And once it’s banned there, which should have been 10 minutes ago, combined with being banned in college then there won’t be any feeder system with fighting. Which would see fighting in the NHL fade away without any rule changes. Which is exactly what the NHL wants, and should want.
I’m sure there will be some, especially fans of the Western Hockey League, that will bleat something about young boys becoming men or some such bullshit. But seeing as how most of the world’s problems stem from “men trying to be men,” this is not an argument we should take with any seriousness.