A quick look at the power-play leaderboard shows the St. Louis Blues and Washington Capitals are currently the two best units in the NHL. The Blues have converted on 16 of their 61 opportunities with the man advantage (26.2 percent) and Washington is 20-for-82 (24.4 percent). However, the San Jose Sharks, currently eighth in efficiency (21.1 percent), have the league’s best and most potent power play.
Using power-play efficiency as a barometer of success is challenging because of the small sample size of the opportunities being counted and the amount of luck involved in goal scoring. For example, during even strength, goal scoring is approximately two-thirds luck over a 40-game sample while on the power play that luck component balloons to 91 percent.
A much better, and more persistent, indicator of power-play talent is shot production, and that’s where San Jose paces the field. The Sharks generate 1.84 shots per opportunity and 2.42 shots per two minutes of power-play time — both league bests. They also have the best-producing line in the league, with Logan Couture, Patrick Marleau, Joe Pavelski and Joe Thornton tallying 31 points as a unit. That is nine points better than the second-place New York Islanders’ squad and 11 better than Detroit’s No. 1 unit.
Florida, on the other hand, could continue to struggle. Not only are the Panthers failing to find the back of the net after they draw a penalty (six goals in 69 opportunities), they are also the worst at generating shots on goal (1.10 shots per opportunity). Perhaps the up-tempo style implemented by new Coach Peter Horachek will help, but until then, expect the Panthers to continue to have trouble putting points on the board.
Another team to watch is Vancouver. While their efficiency is among the league’s worst at 10.9 percent, the Canucks’ shot generation (1.77 per opportunity) is second only to San Jose, which should position John Tortorella’s squad for a run out of the cellar over the next few weeks.