The Nashville Predators are off to a great start, but if there is one area that needs some maintenance, it’s the power play.
Seriously, it’s awful.
Going into Wednesday’s game in Colorado, Nashville’s power play ranks 30th in the league with an 11.8% success rate. The unit has scored only 6 goals in 51 opportunities. The only team with a worse power play is Columbus, and they’ve also scored only 6 goals.
Something has to change, and I’ve got two ideas.
First, for reference, here are the current power play units as of last Saturday, courtesy of LeftWingLock (note that Jarnkrok was in for Arvidsson on the 1st unit):
The Subban-led unit has scored four goals (Forsberg with three, Smith with one) and the Josi-led unit has two goals (Fiala and Turris). Which leads me to the first change…
Swap Subban and Josi
P.K. Subban has been the defensive quarterback on the 1st unit, the one with better shooters, for a while now. He hasn’t been able to get much going. He has yet to score a goal (despite 11 shots) and three of his four power play assists were secondary assists.
But this change is less about P.K. Subban being ineffective and more about seeing if a different player with a different approach could be more effective with the 1st unit.
Subban brings one important weapon to the power play: his cannon slap shot. And though it isn’t quite Shea Weber’s booming shot, it’s a powerful and usually effective weapon.
The problem is that Subban doesn’t really change up his shot much. Of his 39 shots on the year, 24 are slap shots (61.5%) and only 9 are wrist shots (23.0%). Only Duncan Keith has a higher percentage of slap shots among players with at least 15 on the season.
-If you feel like you’ve seen a ton of Subban slap shots, you were right. I can’t be the only one yearning for more wrist shots, right? Get pucks on net?
(fyi, this is last year and this year combined) pic.twitter.com/RTrbmLFrQq
— Alex Daugherty (@AlexDaugherty1) November 7, 2018
Roman Josi has more balance in his shot types: 20 slap shots (44.4%) and 22 wrist shots (48.8%). Plus, he tends to play lower in the zone on the power play than Subban. This will mean someone on the opposite side has to play a bit higher (probably Forsberg), but that’s an easy adjustment for a forward.
Ultimately, this change is less about Josi being a better power play defenseman and more about finding a spark. Think of it like swapping a rocket-armed, pocket passing QB for a more mobile, run-first QB. Long term, you probably want the pocket passer to be driving the offense. But if things are stagnant, why not put a more dynamic player under center for a while?
Like any football team with a struggling offense, it may be time for a change at QB.
Less Blueline Action, More Low-High Action
While the first change is a personnel adjustment, this change is a tactical one.
Most good power plays generate a variety of high-low and low-high looks combined with side-to-side passing. They get the defense moving up and down the zone, then moving laterally, before capitalizing with a shot.
The Predators can usually get lateral movement from up high in the zone moving toward the goal, as evidenced by this goal by Forsberg, but they don’t do it often enough the other way around.
Look at the Washington Capitals, who have the league’s best power play. They move the puck so well up and down, left to right, in and out of the slot, and across the blue line. They do so with speed and precision. This goal by Nicklas Backstrom is a great example.
Ryan Johansen is the best option for the role as Backstrom on the Preds. He has the vision to make accurate passes from the red line to the more dangerous areas. The problem is that whenever the Preds gain position low in the zone they tend to just feed the blue line.
Feeding the blueline over and over again leads the same results: frequent low danger shot attempts that either get blocked, go wide of the net, or get saved by the goalie. Sometimes these low percentage shots go in, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t low percentage shots.
If the Preds can make a tactical decision to move more “low to high” in the zone and to feed the more dangerous areas of the ice (not only the blueline), they should see more goals go in.
I’ll finish with this. The Preds have one of the worst shooting percentages on the power play this season at only 8%. That will likely increase, but part of improving it is not taking so many lower percentage shots.
It’s easy to be complacent with a team that’s at the top of league, but the Nashville Predators have some holes. If the Preds want to remain at the top, they’ll need to do something about the power play.
— Featured image via Isaiah J. Downing/USA TODAY Sports —