Photo Credit: Sergei Belski

WWYDW: What can be done about the second powerplay unit?

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
Gaudreau 3 15 126:07
Monahan 8 11 124:59
Lindholm 5 14 123:19
Giordano 1 12 117:52
Tkachuk 6 15 114:17
Neal 0 2 75:49
Hanifin 1 4 60:19
Backlund 0 0 58:40
Ryan 2 4 57:19
Bennett 1 2 44:38
Czarnik 0 1 29:44
Brodie 0 1 26:36

(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?

    • Jumping Jack Flash

      There really is only one downside to having Ras on the PP and that is if he bobbles the pass at the line he has very little chance to win a foot race. But as long as there is someone with good wheels back there we should be fine. He might be a good fit with Brodie who is reluctant to shoot and would defer to Ras. We have seen a lot of Flames players that have a hard time one timing a shot, like Czarnik, Johnny, and broken Neil. Ras’s Passing and shooting are elite.

  • withachance

    Id go Bennett as the slot/net presence, Neal on the Right (one timers), Janko/Backs on the left, and Ras and Hanifin on the point.

    Gives two different types of units, can cause confusion for PK units as they have to defend a single point man unit and a two point man unit

  • calgaryfan

    Backlund should never be on the powerplay, he is not a creative offensive player. He thinks D first. The second unit is missing a play maker. Who is on the roster that sees the ice and can pass the puck?

  • MDG1600

    Jankowski should be on the 2nd PP as the set up man, Bennett as the net front rounded out with Anderssson, Czarnik and Kjylington. Neal and Backlund have had their chance and proven they aren’t up to the task.

  • Heeeeere’s Johnny

    Two things we need to fix:

    1. Someone who is willing to park his stinky hockey pants in the goalie’s face (and also have courage under fire). Chucky does it great … not sure there is anyone else on the team that has the guts, size and hands to do it. Hathaway has the first two but not the latter. Perhaps Benny can manage but he isn’t really the stationary type.
    2. Zone entries. It seems to me this unit doesn’t have that reliable carry in guy so they have to rely on dump ins. I think that is why Backs is on this unit but he doesn’t seem to be successful … more of a go and get it back kind of guy. This is an area that gives some credence to the idea of double shifting Johnny.

  • The Beej

    Someone did an investigation a year or two ago and wrote an article on that.

    The finding was that teams that stacked their top unit with their best offensive producers had the best powerplays.

    The priority is the overall production of the powerplay, not the production of the second unit.

    Breaking up the top unit to spread the wealth would likely result in an overall drop in PP production.

    • The Beej

      Robbing Peter to pay Paul isnt going to create any more wealth. Especially if Paul isnt as good at managing his money as Peter.

      What you do is make the best personnel decisions you can for unit 2 while keeping unit 1 intact… and hope that Neal busts out of his funk sooner than later.

  • Just.Visiting

    I’d start from the basic premise that the second PP unit doesn’t work. Instead of asking how should it be tweaked, I’d go to a zero based approach and ask who should be on it.

    On the back end, I’m not anchored on Hanifin, with Brodie back to his former self and the boomer that Ras can unload to give the unit a different look than the first unit. I’d also switch to two D instead of looking at Ryan or Czar working a point. I don’t think the current model gives enough offence and creates a weakness on the defensive side. I’d go with two D on the second unit-Ras and either Brodie or Hanifin depending on the night. I would tell Brodie to let it rip more often, instead of just taking wrist shots, though.

    The reality is that Neal will continue to get PP time for at least a while longer because they need to get him going. Backlund hasn’t done a lot with the PP time he has been given over time, so I’d look at making a change. While I’m not a Ryan hater, I don’t see why he is on the PP at all, and I have a similar comment on Czar.

    I’d look at Janko and Bennett, with Janko possibly on the wing to try to get him more engaged in the play physically, vs being in the middle of the ice waving his big stick around.

    In part this reflects my belief that it’s not Ryan being Ryan or Backlund being Backlund that will take us deep. It’s getting Neal, Janko and Bennett performing at a level much closer to that at which they are capable of playing than they are currently showing. Bennett has the energy, but not the results yet. Neal has neither to date. And Janko appears to have regressed a lot this year without a lot of apparent urgency when he’s out there.

    As regards Janko, it is interesting to contrast his approach with the hustle that Monahan and JG were showing on the backcheck on Sunday (big improvement by both recently!) and what Lindholm shows consistently. Very frustrating when I’m a big fan of his talent and the other aspects of his hockey IQ. Perhaps he needs to be moved to the wing to break the current pattern. If I were BP, I’d be trying to figure out how to take him to a different level as one of my special projects.

    • BendingCorners

      I like the approach, but when I look at the numbers – shots, rushes, HDSC, points, goals, etc, I keep seeing the same names in the 6-10 spots – Bennett, Backlund, Jankowski and sometimes Neal or Hanifin. Frolik would be there too if he wasn’t injured, so start with any three of the forwards, and add either Ryan as an RHS forward or Hamonic/Andersson as an RHS D, and then Hanifin. That generates quite a few combinations that could be tried in 3 game or 4 game segments. Since Frolik and Neal are out, maybe start with something close to your lineup – Bennett, Jankowski, Backlund, Hanifin, Andersson.
      Ultimately another talented RHS forward is really what they need, and not just for PP2 but at 5 on 5 also.

    • Jumping Jack Flash

      It is interesting how BP tried Kjiller on wing before someone like Janko. I am still a big believer in Janko, I think he tries too hard to get Bennett or Neil going and sacrifices his shot at their expense. I would like to see him on a line where he is being fed pucks similiar to Monny.

    • deantheraven

      BP likes to put out the PP2 first sometimes to give the top unit an even better match up. Second unit would stand a better chance with one of the two I mentioned, even without higher ground..

  • Chucky

    I am always concerned with the shift after a power play because of that I would like to see Kylington and Anderson on the points for the PP and follow with Hamonic – Hanifin. Because the second line has already been broken up, it makes sense to have the forwards a mixture of second and third line players and have the fourth line intact to play the following shift.
    There is more harm in being scored on during the shift following an unsuccessful power play than in not scoring and it is a guarantee that there will be more unsuccessful power plays (nobody has a 50% with the man advantage).