Tracking the Storm

Power Play the Difference in Close Games

Wednesday, 01.28.2009 / 4:34 PM ET / Tracking the Storm
By Paul Branecky
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Power Play the Difference in Close Games
Looking ahead at the final few months of the Canes’ schedule, there are games that will be difficult to win and there are games that the team has to have in order to make a serious run at the playoffs.
Paul Branecky
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Last night’s game in New York was the former. All losses are harder to stomach now than they were earlier in the year, but coming up one goal short in a hard-fought road game against a playoff team will be among the easier ones to digest.

The next two games, home contests against Tampa Bay and Atlanta on Thursday and Saturday, respectively, fall into the latter group. The Canes need to win more than they lose from hereon out, and taking care of (currently) non-playoff teams in your own building simply has to be done.

That being said, the game against Tampa Bay is somewhat misleading in that regard. Although they’ve been at or near the bottom of the Southeast standings all season, the Lightning have won six of their last eight games and won’t be a pushover.

”This is one of the hottest teams in the league coming in here,” said coach Paul Maurice. “We’re going to have all we can handle tomorrow night and we’re going to have to be sharper than we were [against the Rangers].”

If they are to win these two games, or many others for that matter, the Canes will need to be better on the power play. It’s been an up-and-down ride all year, and it was down against the Rangers with a 0-4 showing.

The team worked on it Wednesday without Ron Francis, who is still away from the team with a back injury but should be back for Thursday’s game. Since Maurice and Francis joined the coaching staff, the Canes are 10-4-2 when they score at least one power play goal and only 1-6-1 when they don’t. 

Part of that can be explained by the fact that the team plays so many close games. Eight of the team’s 11 wins under Maurice were by one goal, and the other three were by two goals.

“In one-goal games if your power play is 0-for, that’s the area you always look at first,” said Maurice.

“If you add an extra power play goal here and there, then you look at it as a different game,” said Sergei Samsonov. “We’ve had some opportunities we didn’t capitalize on, and that’s something we need to get better at.”

On some nights, one of the biggest problems with the power play is that the team isn’t able to set up in the offensive zone, instead turning the puck over at the blue line or allowing the opponent to control and clear dump-in attempts.

They’ve done better at that lately, but, according to Samsonov, didn’t do a good enough job with that extra possession against the Rangers.

“I think we need to attack a little more,” he said. “We were getting in the zone fairly consistently, but after that we were kind of kept to the outside. We weren’t attacking the net as much as we should. That’s something we need to do a little bit better, especially with everyone watching videos and doing their homework. I think it’s one of the simple things we need to improve on.”

Of course, the opposition has something to do with that too.  Both Tampa Bay and Atlanta are in the bottom half of the league in penalty killing percentage, whereas the Rangers are the best in the league.

SCHEDULE

HOME
AWAY
PROMOTIONAL

STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 p - NYR 82 53 22 7 248 187 113
2 y - MTL 82 50 22 10 214 184 110
3 x - TBL 82 50 24 8 259 206 108
4 x - WSH 82 45 26 11 237 199 101
5 x - NYI 82 47 28 7 245 224 101
6 x - DET 82 43 25 14 231 211 100
7 x - OTT 82 43 26 13 232 208 99
8 x - PIT 82 43 27 12 217 204 98
9 BOS 82 41 27 14 209 201 96
10 FLA 82 38 29 15 198 213 91
11 CBJ 82 42 35 5 227 248 89
12 PHI 82 33 31 18 212 223 84
13 NJD 82 32 36 14 176 209 78
14 CAR 82 30 41 11 183 219 71
15 TOR 82 30 44 8 206 257 68
16 BUF 82 23 51 8 153 269 54

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
E. Staal 77 23 31 -13 54
J. Faulk 82 15 34 -19 49
E. Lindholm 81 17 22 -23 39
V. Rask 80 11 22 -14 33
J. Skinner 77 18 13 -24 31
N. Gerbe 78 10 18 -14 28
R. Nash 68 8 17 -10 25
J. Staal 46 6 18 -6 24
J. Liles 57 2 20 -9 22
J. McClement 82 7 14 -7 21
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
C. Ward 22 24 5 .910 2.40
A. Khudobin 8 17 6 .900 2.72