As of right now, the New Jersey Devils are on a goalless streak on their power plays. They have not scored on the power play in their last seven games. They have had seventeen opportunities in those seven games. They have not scored on any of them. They have not scored on a power play since the overtime period on January 2, 2016. John Moore scored this goal to win the game (video from NHL.com):
That was a nice goal. Shame we haven't seen any more on man advantages since.
Needless to say, if the team made a resolution to make the most out of man advantage situations, then they haven't been following it. For 2016 alone, they're 1-for-21. That's bad for multiple reasons. For one, it's just one goal scored. The Devils aren't a high-scoring team and they certainly aren't now due in part to injury and just not having enough offensively talented players. For another, they've been outscored in this stretch. Opposition power plays have scored four goals against New Jersey. Worse, the Devils conceded two shorthanded goals, bring the team to allowing the second most shorties in the NHL. That's not a stat that a team wants to be near the top of at all. For a third point, their conversion rate is awful; only Minnesota has been worse with zero power play goals out of twenty opportunities from January 1 through January 17. There's plenty to be unhappy about. Today, I want to show that this streak of futility even worse than you think.
One of the points I try to make in my recaps is to note how many shots were involved in a power play or a penalty kill. Scoring goals is rare, so getting (or allowing) a number of shots on net speaks a bit more to how that part of the Devils' special teams performed. With that in mind, I went through all of the play-by-play logs (from NHL.com) of the last eight games. That would be the last game the Devils scored a PPG in to the last game the Devils played. I recorded how many shots, how many misses, and how many attempts blocked for both the Devils' power play and the opposition penalty kill. I also took down who took the shot, who got blocked, and who missed the net for the Devils. Here's what I found out after getting all of that data.
(Legend: CF = Corsi For = Shots For + Missed Shots For + Attempts Blocked; CA = Corsi Against = Shots Against + Misses Against + Attempts Blocked Against)
|Date||PP Opp #||Sit.||Length||CF||SF||MF||BF||CA||SA||MA||BA|
|1/2/2016||1||5 on 4||02:00||2||1||1||0||0||0||0||0|
|1/2/2016||2||5 on 4||02:00||3||2||0||1||1||1||0||0|
|1/2/2016||3||5 on 4||02:00||2||0||1||1||0||0||0||0|
|1/2/2016||4||4 on 3||00:40||3||1||1||1||0||0||0||0|
|1/4/2016||1||5 on 4||02:00||1||0||1||0||0||0||0||0|
|1/4/2016||2||5 on 4||02:00||1||0||1||0||0||0||0||0|
|1/6/2016||1||5 on 4||02:00||1||1||0||0||2||2||0||0|
|1/6/2016||2||5 on 4||01:00||1||0||1||0||0||0||0||0|
|1/6/2016||3||5 on 4||02:00||2||0||2||0||1||1||0||0|
|1/8/2016||1||5 on 4||02:00||2||1||0||1||0||0||0||0|
|1/8/2016||2||5 on 4||02:00||2||0||1||1||0||0||0||0|
|1/10/2016||1||5 on 4||00:13||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|1/10/2016||1 + 2||5 on 3||01:47||6||2||1||3||0||0||0||0|
|1/10/2016||2||5 on 4||00:13||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|1/12/2016||1||5 on 4||02:00||1||1||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|1/12/2016||2||5 on 4||02:00||2||2||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|1/12/2016||3||5 on 4||00:12||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|1/14/2016||1||5 on 4||02:00||5||2||1||2||0||0||0||0|
|1/14/2016||2||5 on 4||02:00||1||1||0||0||1||1||0||0|
|1/14/2016||3||5 on 4||02:00||1||0||1||0||3||2||0||1|
|1/16/2016||1||5 on 4||02:00||2||0||2||0||2||2||0||0|
|1/16/2016||2||5 on 4||02:00||5||2||1||2||0||0||0||0|
For those who prefer a game-by-game summary of this chart for the Devils power play:
|Date||PP Opps||PPGs||PP SOGs||PP Misses||PP Blocks||PP CF|
The Devils have had 21 man advantage situations for a total of 36:05 of ice time. Throughout that time, the Devils took 43 attempts on net. That's just over two per power play. 16 got on net, 15 missed the net, and 12 were blocked. Just sixteen shots! Not even a shot per advantage! Per War on Ice, the median number of power play shots in this date range is 31 - nearly double of what the Devils have done. I can't say the Devils have been unlucky (that's true to a degree), they simply haven't been attacking despite having one extra player on the ice.
There are several other conclusions that I found in tabulating the results. There was no game where the Devils had more shots on net than they had opportunities in a single game in this run. The Devils did not even come close to averaging a shot on net per power play or per minute of power play time so far in this calendar year. There have been eleven power plays with no shots on goal recorded. There have been just five power plays with more than one shot on net - and none more than two. Opposition penalty killers have taken just over half as many shots on net as the Devils' power play. Remember, that they scored twice on their nine shots. There's more but I think the point is clear. All of this, to me, is simply pathetic. The Devils, when up a man (and in one case, up two), simply haven't been able to generate many opportunities. That's why the current streak is worse than you (and I) may have thought. Forget the lack of goals, there's a lack of offense. With an extra skater on the ice. For multiple times in multiple games. Even if a couple of those few shots went into the net, then this would still be very much a problem for the Devils.
Who are the Devils who did make it happen?
There's Kyle Palmieri leading the way in attempts, there's Adam Henrique, and that's pretty much it. Again, that's in attempts. The shots are few and far between. From this perspective, this is where the injuries come into play. It's not just that they're missing Mike Cammalleri, even though his absence is unquestionably the largest. The Devils were without John Moore and David Schlemko for a few games in this run and they've been without Jacob Josefson and, to a lesser extent, Patrik Elias. While the Devils' power play wasn't always great with them, those were regular players. In these eight games, there are those in this chart who haven't played in every game and they were in out of necessity. Among them, only Gelinas would be one I would say merits further consideration for power play time. And that's because we've got two previous seasons to go to for evidence that his shot can be quite useful there. Of course, it's pointless if there's no shot to be created. Still, personnel missing does appear to play a role since this list is top-heavy. If Palmieri isn't attacking, then there's no reason to have much hope of the two minutes being well spent.
If you're one to complain that the Devils aren't firing off as many shots, then you should know that you have a point over the last eight games. I understand why the Devils - and pretty much every team - takes time to set up a dangerous shot on net during a power play. It's not standard hockey where they may get a good match-up and the opposition can be caught out. No, during a power play, the opposition usually has their best defensive players and they're free to just launch pucks away with no icing. Therefore, teams have their own formations and plays to work around that. With an extra skater, one man is theoretically open so they work within that concept. There's far less of a need to rush a long shot from the sideboards or just have a go from an angle like a team would at even strength. In fact, such plays can be costly as they could result in easy opportunities for the penalty kill to clear the puck.
That said, the Devils have taken it too far in the other direction. They're too careful and combined with their other issues, this is what we get. They absolutely struggle to get into the opposition's end. Their passing has not been consistent enough to set up shots, often giving the other team a chance to make a clearance. With a 1-3-1 formation, there's more space for penalty killers to make a clearance. And even when the Devils do get set-up, there's a general lack of initiative being taken. All of that yields what we've been seeing. Since some of those issues occur at even strength, it may be unrealistic expect much better in power play situations. It's still annoying to watch and surely frustrating for the team that the Devils keep getting opportunities in games - often close ones in the last eight games - to get some offense going. Because if nothing else, this little breakdown proves what my eyes have seen: very little offense occurring.
As a last point, I think it's important to recognize the relative lack of offense created even if the Devils were scoring goals. One of the unique challenges of looking at special teams is that a goal makes it a success and a goal can come at any point. A converted power play means more within a game than, say, a power play with three shots or five attempts at goal. As we've seen this season, hot power plays eventually cool off. And when they do cool off, then the underlying issues become much more apparent.
With an All Star break coming up, I may take the time to go in deeper with respect to how much time the Devils have been in the other team's zone on power plays, where those shots are, and more. From a basic view, the power play has stunk in 2016. A 1-for-21 run says a lot. A slightly deeper dive into it shows that run is worse than I expected. Should the Devils want to get out of this, figuring out ways (e.g. a new formation, a new way to enter the zone) would be better rather than hoping for puck luck and/or waiting for guys to get healthy that will help the power play. I think it'll take some better Jimmys and Joes along with X's and O's for a significant improvement; but that isn't likely to happen in 2015-16. Therefore, there has to be some adjustments or other actions because the status quo isn't good enough.
The power play may only play a small portion of a game, but given the team's lack of offense in general, it's a time where they should be able to generate something in the other team's end of the rink. Even if they don't score, I want to see them actually attack and put some pressure on the opposition. That's not even happening and the low attempt and shot totals reflect that. If the coaches and players continue to falter on the power play, it'll be one more part of the game that will undercut their performances and results. If they want to remain a competitive hockey team in the 2016 portion of the season or at least help their all-world crucial goaltender a little, then there has to be more offense generated on the power play - and hopefully soon.