Tuesday night in Ottawa, the Atlanta Thrashers netted a pair of power play goals…one by Andrew Ladd, the other by Anthony Stewart. They were the only two scored by Atlanta in the 5-2 loss. This follows Saturday night’s 5-4 shootout loss to the Chicago Blackhawks in which three of the four goals potted by the Thrashers came while on the man advantage.
Overall the Thrashers have the NHL’s fourth-best power play, as they are successful 26.1% of the time they are afforded a man-advantage. In total, Atlanta has notched 18 power play goals on the season. Stewart, Nik Antropov and Dustin Byfuglien have each scored three while Ladd, Toby Enstrom and Rich Peverley each have two.
What’s to account for these fine numbers? Well, as the Ottawa TV announcers were quick to point out during the game, the Thrashers really don’t do anything fancy with the puck when they go a man up. They get it into the zone and then to the net…normally accompanied by three forwards. You know, pretty basic stuff.
Gone, it seems, are the days of the “Kovy strategy”…flipping the puck around the boards looking for an open sniper to one-time it.
All in all, the news here is good. Anytime you can look to the team’s power play unit for much-needed scoring is always a plus.
Looking beyond those fine numbers, I find myself concerned with other aspects of their offensive stats…specifically, their troubles putting the biscuit in the basket while at even strength.
Atlanta has 46 goals on the season…a little better than 3 per game after 15 games played. With 18 being scored on the power play, one shorthanded and one credited by way of the “gimmick” point for winning the shootout in Anaheim…that leaves only 26 goals having been scored while playing at even strength. This gives the Thrashers a 5 on 5 goals for/against ratio of only 0.64. Heading into Wednesday’s games, only the Devils and Islanders are lower.
I know, I know…many would say “But, we’re scoring right at three goals a game. Who cares how they are getting scored?”
True enough, but consider this: Over the past three games, only the Alex Burmistrov goal against the Hawks was tallied while the teams were skating 5 on 5. In fact if you go back to Nic Bergfors goal in Florida, which came at the 11:10 mark of the third period, the Thrashers have only that one even-strength goal in the last 193 minutes and 50 seconds worth of play.
This, my friends, is un-good.
My point here being… a team’s power play production has a tendency to ebb and flow over the course of a season. One simply can’t count on having to score 2 or 3 goals each while a man up in order to get by. There are simply going to be times during the normal course of an NHL campaign in which power play goals come more at a premium. Call it the law of averages or whatnot.
Power play goals should “supplement” a team’s offense, in my opinion…not to be the sole supporter of it. And when you can only muster 1.73 even-handed goals per game on the average, you’re setting yourselves up for trouble down the road.
This is especially true when your defense and goaltending give up goals at a clip of 3.60 per game… 2.73 goals a game while skating 5 on 5.