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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

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STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 WSH 49 36 9 4 161 110 76
2 FLA 51 31 15 5 141 112 67
3 TBL 51 29 18 4 137 118 62
4 NYR 51 28 18 5 146 132 61
5 BOS 51 27 18 6 149 136 60
6 NYI 49 26 17 6 134 121 58
7 DET 51 25 18 8 125 130 58
8 NJD 52 26 20 6 117 118 58
9 PIT 50 25 18 7 129 128 57
10 CAR 53 24 21 8 129 141 56
11 PHI 49 23 18 8 117 128 54
12 MTL 52 24 24 4 137 141 52
13 OTT 52 23 23 6 142 164 52
14 TOR 50 19 22 9 116 134 47
15 BUF 52 21 26 5 119 137 47
16 CBJ 54 21 28 5 135 168 47

STATS

2015-2016 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Faulk 53 15 19 -13 34
V. Rask 51 12 19 1 31
K. Versteeg 52 10 21 1 31
J. Skinner 53 18 12 -3 30
J. Staal 53 12 18 7 30
E. Staal 53 9 21 0 30
E. Lindholm 53 8 16 -8 24
A. Nestrasil 46 7 12 -1 19
J. Nordstrom 42 5 9 2 14
R. Hainsey 53 3 11 -12 14
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
C. Ward 15 11 5 .905 2.43
E. Lack 9 10 3 .901 2.74
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