Thursday, 21 April 2016

Lightning Need to Make Game Four Power Play Adjustments Permanent

One of the big mysteries in today's NHL is how a team with as much talent as the Tampa Bay Lightning can have such a useless (for lack of a better word) power play.  While there's been some talk of the team's power play being fixed as a result of some "success" against the Detroit Red Wings, the reality is that this team still has a lot of work to do with its man-advantage unit.

Consider the following: Among the 16 teams that made the playoffs this season, and through the first handful of games in the postseason, Tampa ranks third last in CF/60 on the power play.  They simply aren't throwing the puck towards the net with regularity.  And, if you look at teams that have consistently strong power plays, you'll see that they typically send the puck in the opposing goaltender's direction with some measure of regularity.  Tampa didn't do that in the regular season.  Tampa hasn't done that for the most part so far in the postseason.  A visual representation:

Obviously the small sample size makes the disparity far greater than it likely would be over time, but the fact remains that Tampa Bay has failed to generate shot attempts at the same rate as some of the teams they are competing against for hockey's biggest prize.  It's just not a recipe for success if you're looking to score with the man advantage.

Granted, there's always the possibility that Tampa's shooters are holding on to the puck and not shooting it because they are waiting for that perfect opportunity.  Kucherov, Johnson, and Palat are all very skilled shooters.  They see the ice like few others.  Maybe they know when to hold on to the puck and when not to?  Again, the quantitative results would suggest that Tampa skaters aren't actually holding on to the puck and using it to generate high-quality chances.  Among those same 16 teams, only Minnesota ranks lower than Tampa in scoring chances generated per 60 minutes of power play ice time.  And, more concerning than that is the unfortunate reality that the Lightning rank DEAD LAST in high-danger scoring chances generated per 60 minutes of man-advantage time.  The Bolts are legitimately holding on to the puck for the sake of... holding on to the puck.  Take a look:


One of the must-read writers in the Lightningsphere (check out his work -- you won't regret it!) had some thoughts on the power play after I made these observations on Twitter:
He's not wrong.  While the Lightning didn't generate a ton of high-danger scoring chances with the man advantage in that game, they threw the puck at the net with regularity.  Isolating for Game Four, the Bolts averaged 156.3 shot attempts per 60 minutes of man-advantage action.  Compare that to the first chart in this blog and it's not hard to see why success found its way to Tampa in Game Four but hadn't/hasn't been there before or since.  It sounds cliche but, more often than not, any shot towards the net is a good shot towards the net.

Whatever the coaching staff went over with the guys before Game Four worked.  It worked because they weren't afraid to put the puck on net.  That needs to be the mentality each and every single time an opposing player heads to the sin bin.  Use Game Four as a blueprint.  There's enough talent on this team to make an effective power play legitimately deadly.  While there is indeed still work to be done, as shown above, the good news is that if the coach can get his guys to go back to what they were doing in Game Four, this Lightning squad could be in very good shape moving forward to the second round.

As always, thanks for reading.

(All cited statistics are courtesy of War-on-Ice.com, a premier source for hockey analytics.)


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