On Monday night, the Maple Leafs allowed the people of Toronto some respite from much of the early season blather about potentially having given up the top pick in next year’s draft to the division-rival Boston Bruins by earning their first victory of the season, a fairly lopsided 6-3 road decision over the Anaheim Ducks.
Almost as shocking as the victory itself, was the way it was achieved. Of their 6 goals, 5 came on the power play (3 by Niklas Hagman!). Think about that total, and then ponder the fact that they had scored 6 power play goals in the first 8 games combined.
Yes, the season is early, but the Leafs now lead the league in two categories. Their meagre total of three points leads the race to the league basement. But of course, you probably knew that. After Monday’s game, the Maple Leafs have now spent the longest time in a single game on the power play in any game played this year. At 18:10 of opposition time in the box (not counting coincident penalties), the Leafs became the second team this year to break the 1000 second mark, following the Carolina Hurricanes who had 1050 such seconds at home to the Bruins on October 3rd. Somehow, in that early season tilt, the Bruins also spent over 10 minutes with the upper hand, and pulled out a 7-2 victory.
So far this season, there have only been 8 games wherein one team had the man advantage for at least 800 seconds, including the two mentioned above.
Establishing an early season trend, one day before flailing with the man advantage against Boston, the Hurricanes trained at wasting opportunities in a 2-0 loss to the Flyers, a game wherein the Broad Street Bullies gave the ‘Canes an ample 850 seconds of power play time.
A few days later, on the 6th, the Hurricanes tried to reverse their luck, looking for points while giving the opposing Lighting the upper hand for 859 seconds. And it worked! After 65 minutes of regulation time wherein the teams traded single power play markers (and little else), the ‘Canes prevailed in the shootout, hockey’s great penalty-free zone.
On October 8th, the Phoenix Coyotes were succeeding in killing penalty after penalty against the seemingly hapless Buffalo Sabres, until late in the 3rd, when they took one penalty too many. At the 14:13 mark, rough and tumble blueliner, James Vandermeer was booked for his second minor penalty of the game, cross-checking the as-yet-goalless Thomas Vanek. Had the Coyotes managed to hold off the Sabres for only 6 more seconds, that penalty, too, would have been killed, but with just under 4 minutes of regulation time remaining, the aggrieved Vanek cut off his team’s accumulated power play time at a grand total of 834 seconds, one-timing a Clarke MacArthur feed from behind Jason LaBarbera’s net, giving the sabres a lead they would not relinquish.
On the same day, Alex Ovechkin’s Washington Capitals failed to fully capitalize on the 829 seconds of power play gifted to them by the visiting New York Rangers, scoring only oce with the man advantage. The inability to execute was especially costly, as the Caps fell to the Rangers by a single goal, 4-3.
Another failure to launch was displayed by our off-ice favourites, the Phoenix Coyotes, a blip on an other-wise very strong start to their season. At home to the Blue Jackets of Columbus, on the 10th, the ‘Yotes failed to score over 840 seconds of power play time (or during the 240 seconds they were killing penalties, or any of the other 2520 seconds of icetime) as they were stonewalled by Jackets’ backup Mathieu Garon.
Finally, to completely dissuade my theory that plenty of time on the power play should increase a team’s chances at victory, the Red Wings stumbled in Denver last Saturday, completely wasting 859 seconds of power play time, as Craig “Absolute” Anderson stopped 20 Wings power play shots, leading the Avs to a 3-1 victory.
Hockey is a funny game. I would have thought that teams given such an exorbitant amount of time on the power play would be that much more likely to come out victors, but, being on the power play, does not always mean scoring on the power play. One thing held in common by the majority of the teams above (especially the ones who lost), is that they all failed in all that time with the extra skater. Small sample size caveats still apply, and I will be watching to see if this trend continues throughout the season.
That said, it stands to reason that a team that struggles putting pucks in the net with the man advantage, will struggle all the more when the opposition has a full complement of defenders. The Leafs won on Monday because they did score (a lot) on the power play.