Nashville Predators 2016-17 Season Preview: The Power Play
We've covered all the major players for the team to this point, so what about one of the most crucial (and frustrating) units on the team?
Ah, the power play. One of the most exciting and nerve-wracking parts of any NHL game. While it tends to get a lot of attention, it is important to remember that power plays encompass a relatively small amount of NHL scoring and even smaller amount of NHL time.
All teams, '15-'16 season
% of total
Power plays make up less than a tenth of most NHL games in actual game time, and really in the long run don't affect a team's overall scoring output by a significant amount (unless your team is really, really good or really, really bad).
But actually, when you consider the difference in the ratios above, it's no wonder the power play gets so much attention. Power play minutes are two and a half times more likely to produce a goal as even strength minutes. So when that penalty box opens, we cling to our seats.
Given that the power play is an unavoidably fascinating part of any NHL team, and given that there has been at least one major change to to the Nashville Predators lineup over the summer, what can we expect out of the 2016-17 Preds power play?
The Safe Bets
There are probably three names that you can almost guarantee will be a huge part of the Preds power play this year. Those would be Roman Josi, P.K. Subban, and James Neal.
Roman Josi was on the power play nearly 60% of the time last year, almost all of it with his usual partner Shea Weber. As a puck moving, offensive, speedy defensemen, this only makes sense. He can shoot, skate and pass like almost any player in the league. He's patient. He thinks fast. He plays physical when he needs to. He's really the perfect NHL defender for running a power play.
James Neal is a lock as well. If not because has the best shot on the team, then because he has the most power play experience and success on the team:
Then there's Subban. Taking the place of Shea Weber on the man advantage won't be easy. We've gotten quite used to seeing #6 thundering away from the blue-line. But it should be noted that P.K. is not replacing Shea Weber in playing style, only in position. Weber's heavy-duty cannon has been sold, and in exchange we have Subban's all-purpose, medium-duty rifle.
Here he is cranking one home from the point:
Here he is launching one from a bit closer, a bit to the left of the goalie, and with more traffic in front:
And here is pinching down into the circle connecting on a beautiful pass to find a wide open net:
Oh, and here he is scoring from Shea Weber's favorite spot on the power play most of last year:
We essentially traded a military-grade Humvee for a Bentley Continental GT.
Subban has played the 4th most minutes of any player in the NHL on the power play over the last three years and has a 4.07 points per sixty minutes over that time as well. He will be out there for sure.
Most Likely Candidates
If you have James Neal out there, you need to have Ryan Johansen. The Predators need to have scoring threats in all areas of the offensive zone, not just from the blue-line. WIth Joey and Neal, the whole unit will have a more dynamic, "high low" offensive attack. Johansen, who played on a lot of bad power play units in Columbus, can set up below the goal crease and in the corners, quarterbacking the passing and looking for space.
Neal will likely set up a bit higher than Joey, along the wings and in or around the circles. The left-handed Neal can set up in his preferred right circle/wing area, firing one timers. The right-handed Joey can set up on the opposite side, doing the same thing. These guys complement each other and they are world-class scorers, so they need to be out there together.
With the blue-line taken care of and with two sharp shooters on the ice, all we need now is someone with good puck skills who's not afraid to play physical on the boards and can also score at will.
Enter Filip Forsberg. Forsberg has the 5th most minutes of ice-time on the power play on the Preds over the last two years. He also sports a 5.53 points per sixty minutes, which is second best on the team in that span. In addition to all that, Forsberg provides consistent shooting from the high slot area on both sides of the ice.
If you go back and watch Forsberg's 13 power play goals from the last two years, he consistently scores them from those high slot areas, especially the right circle to the left of the goalie. That's just the kind of shot he has, sort of a sneaky wrist shot that sneaks around goalies. Forsberg rounds out the "high low" dynamic that the Preds will likely have out there.
- Ryan Ellis is Subban/Josi light. He hasn't played as much on the power play as these other guys, but he definitely has the ability. Over the last two years, Ellis generated 15.30 shots per sixty minutes on the man advantage, which is 2nd best on the team behind Shea Weber. Put him out there in place of either Josi or Subban for fresh legs.
- Mike Ribeiro doesn't play the same way as most players in the league. He slows the play down and uses incredible patience to find key passes. While this is incredibly frustration to watch during 5 on 5 play, it can be effective on the power play. Once play is established in the offensive zone, having someone who can control the puck easily and make smart passes is crucial. Ribeiro can do that, so he is definitely still an option.
- Craig Smith is the best option for another shooter that can find some room on his own. His shot isn't the same as Neal's, but it is serviceable. When he is out there, look for him to set up in the circles, while also pinching down looking for rebound opportunities.
- Colin Wilson is the best option to replace Johansen below the goal crease, creating that lower presence that can pass and shoot well. As we all know, Wilson's main problem is consistency. Surprise, surprise, he's inconsistent on the power play as well. But if you need a 2nd or 3rd option for a distributor on the power play, he's probably it.
- I suppose you'll probably have to trot Mike Fisher out there at some point. He is serviceable on the power play, just not a great option. He doesn't generate a ton of shots, but is good at screening the goalie and finding rebounds.
While lineups are always changing due to personnel, chemistry, and form, here are your most likely power play units for this season.