A good power play is a nice thing to have in the playoffs.
But history shows that it’s not essential for success. Ottawa Senators coach Guy Boucher learned that in 2011 when he was the head coach of the Tampa Bay Lightning.
“We lost to Boston (in the Eastern Conference Final),” Boucher said Friday. “We had an outstanding power play, and it was making us win games. We get into the seventh game, and we didn’t get one single power play, and Boston was at about 3.5 percent power play the entire playoffs, and they won the Stanley Cup.”
Now, granted, the Bruins’ power play did convert five times in the final against Vancouver, while the Canucks’ previously lethal power play went dry when they needed it the most.
So it’s not like special teams can’t have a significant impact in the postseason. To cite two other recent examples, the 2014 Kings (23.5%) and 2016 Penguins (23.4%) each had excellent power plays on their way to hoisting the Cup.
But Boucher is right that champions can be made without scoring a ton with the man advantage. The 2011 Bruins finished at 11.4 percent; the 2012 Kings at 12.8, and the 2013 Blackhawks at 11.4.
What has been necessary, for the most part, is a good penalty kill.
In fact, in the last decade, only one team — the 2015 Blackhawks — has won the Cup with a PK below 83.3 percent. Those ‘Hawks finished the playoffs at 79.0 percent. However, it should be noted that they were excellent penalty killers in the final against Tampa Bay, allowing just one PP goal in six games.
“I know that once the playoffs start, power plays are very difficult,” said Boucher. “You look at all the teams, it’s all the same everywhere. The reason is simple. The guys are so dedicated to defending. They’re in the lanes and blocking shots with a much higher percentage. It’s like there’s five goalies out there, and it’s very tough to manufacture goals.
“It’s just because the playoffs are about paying the price. They’re about desperation. And there’s a lot of that on penalty kills. It’s a lot easier to destroy something than it is to build something.”
The Senators’ power play is converting at just 12.5 percent in these playoffs, and they’re two wins away from the Stanley Cup Final.
Their PK is at 88.0 percent.
2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs — special teams