Senators trying to put plug back into power play

Senators trying to put plug back into power play
Kyle Turris #7 of the Ottawa Senators scores during the shootout against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the game at Consol Energy Center on April 13, 2014 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Senators defeated the Penguins 3-2 in a shootout. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

Not that the Ottawa Senators want to test this theory on their own, but Daniel Alfredsson notes it’s not necessary to have a successful power play to go a long way in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

That, of course, is correct.

The Boston Bruins won the Stanley Cup last year with the third-worst power play among the 16 teams that made the playoffs: a mere 11.4 per cent.

By contrast, their opponents in the final, the Vancouver Canucks, had the eighth-best power play at 20.4 per cent. In theory, they should have done better, but didn’t.

Alfredsson was not trying Monday to be flip about the recent ineffectiveness of the Senators’ power play or to suggest it wasn’t important to get it working again before the National Hockey League playoffs. He knows that, while anomalies such as the Bruins’ success do come around now and then, teams that go a long way in the playoffs generally have two things in common: a good power play and the ability to kill penalties.

That’s what the stats will tell you.

Over the past five seasons, nine of the 10 Cup finalists (Boston was the exception) were among the top nine in power-play percentage.

On the flip side of the equation, nine of the 10 (Detroit was the exception in 2009) were in the top nine in penalty-killing percentage.

When the Senators went to the final in 2007, they had the third-best power play at 19 per cent and ranked fifth in penalty killing at 87.9 per cent. (The Anaheim Ducks were seventh at 15.2 per cent and eighth at 86.6.)

As a result, the Senators’ recent dry spell caused coach Paul MacLean to spend a considerable portion of Monday’s practice working on both the power play and penalty killing.

The Senators have gone 0-for-18 with the man advantage during the past five games and just 2-for-24 over their past eight games, and those two goals came in a 6-3 victory against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The power play ranks 10th in the 30-team NHL at 18.6 per cent, and it won’t have a free lunch tonight against the New Jersey Devils, who are second-best (89.4 per cent) at killing penalties.

“We know that, at this time of year, special teams are always a big part in deciding the outcome of games,” Alfredsson said.

“If we can get our power play going, it’s going to make life a lot easier for us, (and) five-on-five, (it’ll) take pressure off that. We’re not going to say we’re happy where we are with the power play and not work on it, but there are a lot of ways to win games.”

MacLean said a combination of things had been going wrong lately.

“Lack of shots, lack of puck movement, lack of motion by people, or deception with the motion,” he said. “We just seem to be a little stagnant at this point, and the puck doesn’t go in the net.”

Alfredsson said the answer, as always in a slump such as this, was “shots and traffic.”

It would also help if Senators players resisted the impulse to be too fancy and just kept it simple.

“I don’t think ‘concerned’ is the right word, but everyone has the same attitude at this time of year,” Alfredsson said. “There’s an urgency and you try to do your best every night. You want to give yourself a chance to win every night, but it’s really easy to overanalyse it, as well.

“What I like about our team is the effort, what we put into it. That builds confidence and gets everything else going.”

The quarterback of the power play, defenceman Erik Karlsson, said he was not personally frustrated at its recent drought. Such things happen over a long season.

However, this is not a drought that can be allowed to continue.

“Obviously it’s a big help (to have a good power play),” Karlsson said. “If you want to go far in the playoffs, you have to have good special teams.

“Our penalty kill has really stepped it up the last couple of games here, and now the power play just has to get going again and start producing.”

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