NHL scout on Detroit power play: “stagnant” and “predictable”

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In his Red Wings playoff scouting report, ESPN’s Craig Custance spoke to a variety of players, coaches and scouts for their takes on the Motor City.

The big reveal? Detroit’s power play could be its undoing.

More, from ESPN (Insider):

“At times it gets a little stagnant,” said an NHL scout. “It gets predictable where the guys are. As a penalty kill, if nobody is moving, it’s easy to cover guys. The Red Wings power play is too stagnant positionally. To have that much skill and not score goals on a consistent basis is beyond me.”

The Red Wings PP currently rank 21st overall (16.2 percent) and 25th on the road (13.8) — stunningly low conversion rates from a team that features the likes of Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg and Nicklas Lidstrom.

Historically, Detroit has been great with the man advantage during the regular season…

2010-11: Fifth overall (22.3 percent)
2009-10: Ninth (19.2)
2008-09: First (25.5)
2007-08: Third (20.7)

…and has used the power play to achieve great postseason success. The Wings scored 20 power play goals in 22 games during their Stanley Cup victory in 2008; a year later, they scored 23 in 23.

So, what gives this year? Hard to say. A few weeks ago, head coach Mike Babcock stressed a need to focus on the basics.

“Focus on winning a faceoff, focus on one breakout, execution when you come in, have a big man at the net and shoot the puck and have good retrievals,” he told MLive.com. “Real simple approach. This has been an ongoing thing for us. I think it’s in our head more than anything.

“The way to get out of it is be simplified and shoot the puck. We’ll get one and get on a roll.”

The ‘big man at the net’ comment is most intriguing. Tomas Holmstrom has been camped out in front of goal for what feels like an eternity but, at age 39, appears to be wearing down. He’s frequently playing less than 10 minutes a night and while nine of his 10 tallies this year have come on the power play, he’s on pace for his worst offensive season since 1998.

(To give you an idea of how crucial Holmstrom has been to Detroit’s PP, consider that he’s scored 242 career goals in a Wings uniform. Half of them — 121 — have come on the power play.)

Detroit’s other “big body” would be Todd Bertuzzi, but he too has struggled to produce. Even though he averages 1:45 of PP time per game he’s yet to score (yeah, zero goals) and has just four assists.

This from a guy that once scored 25 power play goals in a single season.