A team's power-play success is often correlated with its success scoring at even strength, but there are some notable exceptions. For example. older players like Teemu Selanne and Slava Kozlov have lost some of the skating speed and agility that allowed them to dominate in their prime, but their vision and hockey sense remain as sharp as ever. This makes them more dangerous with the man advantage, where there is more room to make passes and set up dangerous shots.
Selanne is joined this year on the Anaheim Ducks by his countryman Saku Koivu, another player who has historically had success on the power play, and VUKOTA sees them leading Anaheim to the third-best power play in the league per our upcoming projections in ESPN The Magazine.
The Ottawa Senators will also benefit from a strong power play. While Alexei Kovalev may play on the second line, it's likely he'll see a lot of time with Jason Spezza and Daniel Alfredsson on the first power-play unit, a dangerous combination by any standards. The Senators also have a good supporting cast, with Filip Kuba doing a good job at the point and the new arrivals from San Jose (Jonathan Cheechoo and Milan Michalek) helping a decent second unit.
Other teams that made high-profile offseason moves will not be so lucky.
Despite trading for then signing defenseman Jay Bouwmeester, the Calgary Flames are seen as having one of the worst man-advantage units in the league. Calgary had a very weak power play to begin with, and our system includes short-handed goals allowed in its projections of power-play efficiency. Not only did the Flames allow a league-high 15 short-handed goals, but their top power-play producer was Michael Cammalleri, who was signed by the Montreal Canadiens in the off-season. Adding Bouwmeester helps slightly, but he can't replace Cammalleri's 19 PPG.
Speaking of Cammalleri, teaming with Scott Gomez and Brian Gionta, one would expect the Canadiens to have an elite power-play unit, but VUKOTA sees them as barely average. To be fair, the Canadiens' roster has undergone such an overhaul that any predictions about its performance should be taken with a grain of salt.
Another team predicted to underperform is the Pittsburgh Penguins, who continue to confound all expectations by having a poor power play. Last season the Pens inexplicably ranked 20th with the man advantage, with a PP percentage of just 17.2. Part of that may have been due to the absence of Sergei Gonchar. Before Gonchar's return Feb. 14, the Pittsburgh power play was struggling at 16.5 percent, converting just 38 of 231 power-play opportunities to start the season. That stretch included an epic drought from Dec. 23 to Jan. 5 during which the Pens were 0-for-32.
Many will say the Penguins are a changed team since February, particularly with Gonchar healthy, but even during their Stanley Cup run their power play ran at 20 percent, third-worst among the eight quarter-finalists. As we mentioned yesterday the rating -- as the eighth-worst team on the power play -- may seem low, but there is not yet any statistical data to suggest they'll improve. There's only the belief that a unit with Gonchar, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin can't possibly be that bad again.
One team that could upset expectations is the New York Rangers, whom VUKOTA sees as being abysmal on the power play: tied for last in the NHL. However, the Rangers as a team underachieved on the power play last year (13.9 percent), so there may be nowhere to go but up. The system is also projecting only 52 games played, and 45 points for Marian Gaborik. While Gaborik does not flaunt a particularly healthy track record, a full season from a player of Gaborik's skill set would help immensely.
A version of this story originally appeared on ESPN Insider .
Tom Awad is an author of Hockey Prospectus.
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