If you take a gander around popular NHL/Blue Jackets websites, including this one, there have been two major talking points this offseason regarding the Columbus Blue Jackets 2013-14 season. One topic is Sergei Bobrovsky, there is a big question mark next to his name for the season, can he perform like he did at the end of last year and stand on his head when needed? The other hot topic going into this season is scoring, did the front office do enough over the trade deadline/offseason to help give a boost to the scoring department? My point is that we have all been concentrating on these two topics and that we all ignored another area of the Blue Jackets game that needs some work. The power play.
Aaron Portzline, of The Columbus Dispatch, finally brought up this topic. I understand that scoring and the power play go hand in hand, but the power play is still a separate issue. Portzline notes in his article that last season the power play was ranked 28th out of 30. He also mentions that even if the Blue Jackets fail to score with a revamped power play, an improvement can still help in the overall scheme of the game.
“We were stationary too much last season,” he said. “And when your feet aren’t moving or the puck isn’t moving, you’re much easier to defend. I’d like to have more flow. And to be honest, I’m looking more for us to do it the right way than just getting numbers. If we do it the right way, we’re going to score goals.”
[Coach Todd Richards via BlueJacketsXtra.Dispatch.com]
“So we’re working on movement, supporting the puck more, switching spots, creating some confusion for the penalty-killers and opening up some slots for passes or shots.”
[Ryan Johansen via BlueJacketsXtra.Dispatch.com]
With a new system in place, there is a new hope for the power play. That isn’t the only aspect that has changed though. The personnel on the power play has also had a facelift. The two lines consist of forwards Anisimov, Atkinson, Gaborik as the first line, and Dubinsky, Johansen, and Jenner as the second line, according to Portzline. The blue liners include Wisniewski, and Johnson as a pair, and Letestu and Tyutin as the second pair, according to Portzline.
A couple quick notes about a few of the players that are listed above:
Mark Letestu was the leading scorer for the Blue Jackets last season with 13 goals, 3 of which were scored on the power play.
- James Wisniewski scored 4 out of his 5 goals last season on the power play. He was also tied for most power play goals with Vinny Prospal.
- Jack Johnson scored 3 out of his 5 goals last season on the power play.
- Neither Fedor Tyutin or Ryan Johansen scored a power play goal last season.
Giving the power play a makeover should be just what the doctor ordered. I also really liked what Johansen said about their tactics, “confusion for the penalty-killers”, throwing penalty-killers off their game can really make a difference on the scoreboard. As far as numbers go, a percentage in the high teens would be preferable, over 20% may be a stretch considering that would be a 6% increase from last season’s 14.2%. Going by last seasons numbers, a 17% conversion rate would put Columbus around the middle of the pack.
So by now you may be asking, “What should I take away from all of this?”
I think what you should take away from this is that the Blue Jackets realized there weaknesses, and have been addressing them. Watch the power play closely, if you aren’t seeing more player movement, better and more efficient puck flow, and most importantly, a better conversation rate, then the power play isn’t doing their job right.
Read more of Portzline’s article – BlueJacketsXtra.Dispatch.com