More Starred Forwards boost NHL Power Plays

More Starred Forwards Boost NHL Power Plays
By Glenn Guzzo
      In the four NHL seasons since the post-lockout rule changes created more power plays, players have gotten progressively smarter. Power play opportunities have shrunk each year. But for the first time in 2008-09, power play goals are up and power-play efficiency is at its post-lockout peak.
      A reason, perhaps, might be revealed in Strat-O-Matic’s newly posted hockey ratings. More teams are using forwards on the blue line regularly to help quarterback their power plays. All but seven teams have a two-star (**) point man. More than that – eight teams – have a pair of two-star point men. Only five teams had a pair last season.
      All told, counting the additional players, 117 forwards are rated to play the point on power plays. That’s about four per team, meaning almost all power plays can have the extra scoring threat on the ice.
      Since the post-lockout NHL rule changes, power play opportunities declined from a stratospheric 14,340 in 2005-06 to 11,935 the next year, 10,541 the following year and finally to 10,228 last year. Power-play efficiency had been highly consistent at 17.6 or 17.7 percent for three seasons, thus power play goals had declined, too. But in 2008-09, the league converted 18.9 percent of its power-play opportunities, providing the first boost in power-play goals.
      In the three previous seasons, no team was as efficient with the man advantage as 2008-09 Detroit (25.5 percent), Washington (25.2) or San Jose (24.2). Only 2007-08 Montreal (24.1) could crack the top five this year, which also included Anaheim (23.6) and Philadelphia (23.6).
      Conservative power plays tend to play two defensemen at the point, stressing defense. Indeed, four of the seven teams without a two-star point man in the new ratings set were in the bottom nine for total power-play goals in 2008-09 (Edmonton was 22nd, Florida 24th, Colorado 25th and the Rangers 29th). Only Anaheim ranked in the top 11 power-play units without a two-star point man.
      But the use of more forwards at the point has not resulted in more short-handed goals. The number has declined each year, while the percentage of shorties per power play has held steady at 2.2 to 2.3 percent. The woeful Rangers power play not only was 29th in goals scored, it was second worst in short-handed goals allowed.
      Here are the forwards rated to play the point for 2008-09:
Atlanta: Kovalchuk (2), Kozlov (1)
Boston: Bergeron, Recchi (2); Savard (1)
Buffalo: Connolly, Pominville (2)
Carolina: Cullen, Staal (2); Brind’Amour, Cole, Whitney (1)
24-Florida: Horton, Stillman, Weiss (1)
13-Montreal: Koivu, Kostitsyn, Kovalev, Lang, Plekanic, Tanguay (1)
New Jersey: Langenbrunner, Rolston (2); Elias (1)
NY Isles: Okposo, Weight (2); Park (1)
29-NY Rangers: Drury, Gomez, Naslund (1)
Ottawa: Alfredsson (2); Comrie, Fisher, Heatley, Shannon (1)
Philadelphia: Richards (2), Briere, Carter, Giroux (1)
Pittsburgh: Malkin (2); Crosby, Guerin, Satan, Sykora (1)
Tampa Bay: St. Louis, Stamkos (2); Halpern, Lecavalier (1)
Toronto: Stempniak (2), Hagman (1)
Washington: Ovechkin (2); Backstrom, Laich, Nylander, Semin (1)
5-Anaheim: Getzlaf, Marchant (1)
Calgary: Cammalleri, Jokinen (2); Iginla, Lundmark (1)
12-Chicago: Bolland, Byfuglien, Havlat, Kane, Sharp, Toews (1)
25-Colorado: Arnason, Hejduk, Sakic, Svatos, Wolski (1)
Columbus: Williams (2); Brassard, Huselius, Morin, Peca, Voracek (1)
Dallas: Modazo, Morrison (2); Peterson, Ribeiro, Richards (1)
Detroit: Samuelsson (2); Datsyuk, Zetterberg (1)
22-Edmonton: Hemsky, Kotalik (1)
Los Angeles: Stoll (2); Armstrong, Kopitar, Williams (1)
Minnesota: Bouchard (2); Gaborik, Koivu (1)
Nashville: Sullivan (2), Arnott (1)
Phoenix: Mueller (2); Boedker, Doan, Prucha, Turris (1)
St. Louis: Perron (2); Backes, Boyes, Kariya, McDonald, Oshie, Steen (1)
San Jose: Pavelski (2); Cheechoo, Marleau, Roenick (1)

Vancouver: Raymond (2); Demitra, H. Sedin, Sundin (1)