At 22.6%, the Flames have the 10th best powerplay in the NHL: quite a bit better than the 16.0% and tied for third worst powerplay they had in 2017-18. And yet, there’s still one obvious flaw to the Flames’ man advantage: it’s only the top unit that’s really producing. Get them off the ice, and the powerplay has likely been killed.
Of the 28 powerplay goals the Flames have scored so far this season, 23 have come from the top unit, and just five from elsewhere. The overall point disparity is pretty telling:
|Player||Powerplay goals||Powerplay points||Powerplay ice time|
(Left off of this table is Alan Quine, who has one of the Flames’ powerplay goals. He’s played just 1:17 on the man advantage.)
It’s kind of similar to the Flames’ scoring depth as a whole: the same five players are doing most of the scoring. However, it’s still quite the drop off from first unit to second, and that same disparity isn’t as dramatic as it is when it comes to all situations scoring. Prime example: sixth in team scoring is Mikael Backlund, with 17 points, and yet for some reason, he’s been completely unable to capitalize in any capacity on the man advantage – even though he should be one of the most likely players on the team to do just that.
Then, there are a couple of other odd disparities, not directly related to the powerplay: that James Neal is only shooting at 4.0%, well below his career 11.8%, for one, even though he’s sixth on the Flames in getting shots on net – both in all situations, and specifically on the powerplay. There’s also the fact that Austin Czarnik is one of the Flames who most often is a healthy scratch, and yet when he’s in the lineup, he’s the 11th most common player utilized on the man advantage.
Present stats shouldn’t necessarily dictate who gets to be on the powerplay: Backlund is one of the Flames’ top scorers in every other situation, so who would it even make sense to replace him with? For all of his struggles this past season, who could be more likely to score on the man advantage than Neal? And while the top five scorers all range from 28-38% of their points coming from the man advantage, they also score a lot in general (at least 35 points for each of them); Derek Ryan, on the other hand, only has 11 points to his name this season – 36% of which have come from the powerplay.
Then there’s someone like Rasmus Andersson, who only has three points to his name, but two of them came during six-on-five situations: would it make sense to give him a spin on the man advantage (perhaps alongside Noah Hanifin, leaving the second unit with just three forwards instead of four)? Mark Jankowski is ninth in overall team scoring, ahead of both Ryan and Bennett: should he be on the powerplay (as he took a spot on the man advantage on Tuesday with both Bennett and Neal out)? Jankowski and Andersson have only gotten 10:34 and 10:09 on the man advantage, respectively.
Or should the Flames’ big five be split up from the top unit, if only so that the penalty isn’t pretty much killed as soon as they leave the ice? Would it even be worth it to potentially nullify the first unit in hopes of getting the second going – and should it at least be experimented with before the idea is written off entirely?
The Flames’ powerplay is already pretty good, but that’s really only due to five players. It could probably stand to be even better. What would you do to upgrade the second unit?