The Winnipeg Jets' red-hot power play came up big again Friday night in a 3-2 win over the Calgary Flames. Conversely, the Flames once again got themselves into penalty trouble which has been an all-too-common theme for them this season.
Trailing 2-1 in the third period, the Flames put themselves down two men and Paul Stastny made them pay on the ensuing 5-on-3 power play — the Jets' second power play goal of the game. And it proved to be the game-winner. Calgary is averaging over three penalties per game — eighth most in the NHL — while the Jets take the second-fewest penalties of any team.
To say staying out of the box will be important for the Flames tonight is an understatement — especially when you consider how good Winnipeg’s power play has been lately.
The Jets have the league's second-best power play in March. They are second in power play goals (12), following Tampa Bay, and second in power play percentage (34.3 per cent), following Montreal. Converting on over a third of your power play opportunities is not something that any team can maintain over a long period, but the Jets' success with the man advantage is no fluke. Winnipeg is at or near the top of the league in several key performance areas over the past few weeks. Let’s take a look at three areas of the Jets' power play that are driving its success.
Hitting the net
Sounds simple, right? Hit the net and you’ll improve your odds of scoring on the power play. Well, even the most skilled players on some of the top power play units in the league struggle in this area from time to time.
Take the Toronto Maple Leafs, for example. The Leafs haven’t scored in fifteen straight opportunities with the man advantage. They are hitting the net on 31 percent of their shot attempts, which is the worst mark in the league during that stretch. This hasn’t been a problem for the Jets, who are hitting the net on just over 60 per cent of their shot attempts since the start of the month (best in the NHL).
Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler have combined for eight shot attempts and have hit the net on all of them, with two finding the back of the net. Paul Stastny, who scored the game-winner on Friday, has put six of his seven attempts on net. Andrew Copp, who does most of his damage in front of the net, leads the Jets with four power play goals this month and has put seven of his nine attempts on net.
Every Jets forward has put over half his shot attempts on net on the power play in March. Again, a simple but important element of any successful power play.
The closer you are to the net, the easier it is to hit the net and score goals. The Jets have done a great job of generating shots from the net-front, inner slot area by passing and shooting for deflections and rebounds.
Winnipeg ranks second in power play inner slot shots per two minutes of power play time in March. Both of its power play goals on Friday came from this, the most high-danger scoring area on the ice.
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Winnipeg has done an outstanding job of recovering rebound chances, and then putting them on the net and into the back of the net. The Jets have recovered just over two-thirds (67.9 per cent) of all available rebounds this month, which ranks third overall.
From recovery to producing meaningful chances, no team has done a better job in March than the Jets, as they lead the league in rebound scoring chances. On two occasions, these chances have resulted in a goal.
Having two power play units that can score the way the Jets have lately provides a huge special teams advantage. Confidence is such a big part of being successful on the power play and Jets head coach Paul Maurice sees a lot of confidence from both units.
“Having two that can score and feel like they can score when they go over (the boards), they play differently,” Maurice said after the Jets' win on Friday.
When you put a high percentage of pucks on net, you are more likely to benefit from second chances and less likely to rim the puck around the boards and out of the offensive zone. Precision shooting from quality areas and a good clean-up crew around the net have taken the Jets' power play to another level in March.
Calgary has done a good enough job on the penalty kill in March ranking 10th overall, it just needs to stay out of the box. If the Flames aren’t more disciplined tonight, don’t be surprised if the talk after the game is once again about the Jets power play being the difference-maker.