The Wraparound: The Panthers’ power play is a mess

panthers power play
Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images

The Wraparound is your daily look at the 2022 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs. We’ll break down the NHL playoff games today with the all-important television information.

• Catch up on Wednesday night’s action, which included overtime and a 15-goal game with NHL Rink Wrap.

Kyle Connor, Jaccob Slavin and Jared Spurgeon were voted as the finalists for the 2021-22 Lady Byng Trophy. 

• Here is the full Second Round schedule with dates and TV info.

The 2021-22 regular season was the best the Florida Panthers organization has ever seen. They finished with the league’s best record to win the first Presidents’ Trophy in franchise history; they had the best offense the league has seen in decades; and they have already advanced to the Second Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time in 26 years and just the second time ever.

There are a lot of positives and successes here.

But great success brings great expectations. Even though the Panthers are in the Second Round at the moment, playing in Game 2 against the defending back-to-back Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday night, they have not really been overly impressive in the playoffs to this point.

They struggled against the Washington Capitals more than most expected and needed several come-from-behind (and overtime) wins just to get through. At one point they were just a couple of inches away from being down 3-1 in the series if Garnet Hathaway‘s shot at an empty net had gone in the net in Game 4 for the Capitals.

[NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs 2022 schedule, TV info]

That sort of effort and performance may not be enough against a team like the Lightning. There is perhaps no area that needs more immediate improvement for them to have a chance in this series than their power play. Through the first seven games that unit has been, in a word, rough.

After being one of the best power plays in the NHL during the regular season, they enter Game 2 having yet to score a goal in their first seven playoff games, currently sporting an 0-for-21 mark. Even worse than the lack of goals is the disorganized look of it and the fact they are not even really generating any strong chances or looks. It would be one thing if they looked crisp and were creating shots and chances and the puck was simply not going in the net. Sometimes that happens. You keep at it, trust the process, and trust that the correct process will lead to the desired results. But the process is not even good right now.

Consider the following numbers.

  • The Panthers are averaging 104 total shot attempts per 60 minutes of power play time this postseason. That is ninth among the 16 teams that have played in the playoffs.
  • They are averaging just 38.6 shots on goal per 60 minutes. That is 14th among the 16 playoff teams, ahead of only Nashvillle and Dallas. They averaged 52.9 in the regular season.
  • Their 47.5 scoring chances per 60 minutes is 13th among the playoff teams, while their 20.8 high danger chances per 60 minutes are also only 13th in the playoffs. They averaged 54.7 and 20.7 in the regular season respectively.
  • They are averaging 5.22 expected goals per 60 minutes of power play time, a mark that is only 15th in the league. Nashville is the only team worse. They averaged 7.24 in the regular season.

What is interesting here is the Panthers’ underlying power play numbers (shots on goal, shot attempts, scoring chances, high-danger scoring chances, expected goals) in the regular season were all among the bottom half, and in some cases, the bottom-10 in the league. They have never at any point this season been consistently good at generating shots and chances. But their overwhelming talent still produced a lot of goals.

[NHL Power Rankings: Top Second Round storylines]

Are the goals stopping now because the quality of competition and goaltending is consistently better? It’s possible. Just a run of bad shooting luck from highly skilled players? Also possible. It could also be possible that the power play has been flawed all season and got better results against the inferior competition you sometimes get to play in the regular season.

It is very possible to win in the playoffs without a good power play. It is not a necessity for winning, and if one of your special teams units is going to be good you need it to be our penalty kill. But it is still helpful to get some offense from the power play to swing a game, especially when you are not generating a ton of offense during 5-on-5 play. The Panthers are a dominant team off the rush and when they get into games where teams trade chances with them and turn it into a track meet through the neutral zone. So far in the playoffs they have run into some teams that have been able to slow that down and it is significantly impacting their ability to score goals and create offense. It is a big reason they have not looked as impressive in the playoffs as they did during the regular season.

[Data via Natural Stat Trick]

NHL PLAYOFF GAMES TODAY

Game 2: Tampa Bay Lightning at Florida Panthers, 7 p.m. ET — TNT, Sportsnet, CBC, TVA Sports (TB leads 1-0): It is probably a little too early and too soon to call this a must-win game for the Panthers, but they really need to win this game. You can not lose the first two games at home against the Lightning and reasonably expect to win four of the next five games (three of which are in Tampa Bay) and win the series. The Lightning roster may not be as deep or strong as it has been the past two years, and Brayden Point might be injured, but Nikita Kucherov seems to have found his game in Game 1 of the series and Andrei Vasilevskiy looks like he is also getting back on track after a slow start to the playoffs in the First Round against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Game 2: St. Louis Blues at Colorado Avalanche, 9:30 p.m. ET — TNT, Sportsnet, CBC, TVA Sports (COL leads 1-0): The first game of this series may have gone to overtime, but do not let that confuse into thinking it was an evenly played game. It was not. Colorado absolutely dominated it from start to finish and with at least five shots off the post behind Jordan Binnington throughout the game it could have very easily been just a few inches away from a very different outcome and score. Binnington played great, make no mistake, but the Avalanche got a ton of good lucks and with some better luck would have run the Blues out of the building. This series resulted in a four-game sweep for the Avalanche in the First Round a year ago and the first game of this series looked very much like that series. The Blues need to bring a lot more if they are going to have a chance to keep this series competitive.

PHT’s 2022 Stanley Cup previews
• Hurricanes vs. Rangers

Lightning vs. Panthers
Avalanche vs. Blues
• Flames vs. Oilers
Makar, McDavid lead Conn Smythe watch after First Round
NHL Second Round predictions
Storylines for the NHL’s Second Round

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