The Blues’ power play went from good to bad very quickly in the regular season. To this point, it hasn’t returned to being a threat, and it has hurt the Blues.
The Blues have had 13 power play opportunities in the first three games of their Quarterfinal series against the Los Angeles Kings, yet, they have just one goal on the man-advantage. Their measly 7.7 percent power play conversion rate is ranked 14th out of the 16 playoff teams, and quite simply, it has to improve.
To put the Blues’ suffering power play in perspective, The Pittsburgh Penguins, who have the best power play in the playoffs, have six power play goals, while having the same number of opportunities as the Blues. The Penguins, like the Blues, are up 2-1 in their series against the New York Islanders, but the Penguins are unlike the Blues in regards to offense. The Blues have just four goals thus far in the playoffs, while the Penguins have 13. That means that 46 percent of the Penguins’ goals have come on the power play. The Blues would be up 3-0 in the series, and would not be having to worry about close games if their power play was clicking.
The Blues have a wealth of skilled forwards that play the power play, but the ability to finish is lacking. It’s not as though the Blues are lacking opportunities, they are just lacking when it comes to converting. That being said, the team is not in desperate need of radical change.
In their first three games, the Blues have done a fine job of keeping puck in the zone, and applying pressure, and Game Three was perhaps their best showing yet. However, they aren’t burying the easy chances, and it is costing them. They aren’t about to give up, though.
“I just told the players to stick with it,” said Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock. “You can’t get discouraged because you missed opportunities because it affects you down the line. We had players apologizing to other players about missing. We don’t need that. Just keep going.”
“When you miss (the no-brainers) it discourages you. We talked, after the game, about the three chances where the goalie wasn’t in the net that we missed. That comes back to haunt you.”
One glorious chance from Saturday’s Game Three comes to mind when thinking about missed opportunities. The Blues, looking to tie the game, were on the power play in the second period, when a nice feed found Alex Steen alone near the side of the net. Jonathan Quick was out of the play and Steen fired the puck high. It was perhaps the Blues best chance of the night, but it was another one of those unlucky plays that are haunting the Blues. Burying a few of those would certainly lift the Blues’ spirits.
When asked what he thought needed to be done about the power play, T.J. Oshie didn’t think a change was necessary. He just thinks the team needs to do what they are doing, but do it with more efficiency.
“Just keep shooting. We have to get to the net and firing pucks on net,” he said. “The more pucks we shoot the better chance we have of scoring. We just can’t frustrated, can’t get down on ourselves, we just have to keep shooting the puck and getting guys to the net.”
Another problem the Blues are having is getting the pucks through to Jonathan Quick, even with the extra man. The Blues have only 14 power play shots in three games, while some of the top man-advantage units have over 20.
It’s not rocket science. The players know what they have to do, that is apparent. The game plan is there but the execution is not. Hitchcock has seen some things that can improve, but he stressed that they were some minor tweaks. The majority of improvements must come from the players doing what they have been, but finding ways to convert. It’s a strenuous task when it nothing is happening, but the Blues are hoping to turn their power play into a momentum-gainer, rather than just another two minutes of hockey.
“I think there are little tweaks that we can help them with,” said Hitchcock. “But at the end of the day it is just keep going.”