For many years the Montreal Canadiens only hope of creating offense was by waiting for power play opportunities, and cashing in when they had an extra attacker.
Things started out that way once again for the Habs this season, but the power play completely dried up over the final eight games of the regular season. The Canadiens failed to find the back of the net on their last 23 man advantages of the regular season, dropping their efficiency to 17.2%. This placed 19th in the 30 team NHL, and is last among Eastern Conference playoff teams.
The Canadiens had a huge opportunity to put the Lightning away in the final two minutes of game one when Alex Killorn took a high sticking penalty with 2:01 to play in the third period. Not only did the Canadiens fail to score the game winning goal on the power play, they failed to even register a shot on goal.
At the end of the night, it would not cost the Habs the game, but if they continue to fail with the man advantage, it will cost them a game soon.
With P.K. Subban and Andrei Markov running the points on the Canadiens power play, the Habs are in an envious position. Subban scored 53 points this season and Markov chipped in with 43, both ranking in the top 20 among NHL defensemen in scoring. They were both huge contributors on the power play until the recent slump, Subban ranking 8th among defensemen in PP points and Markov 11th.
The addition of Thomas Vanek at the trade deadline gave the Habs an incredible first PP unit of Vanek with sniper Max Pacioretty and setup man David Desharnais. Vanek is a great goal scorer and incredible playmaker and Pacioretty finished third in the league in goals with 39, including 10 with the man advantage.
So what exactly went wrong with the Canadiens PP unit of late? Well, it not so coincidentally went silent when Subban stopped scoring. The defending Norris Trophy winner has gone pointless in his last seven games and has not scored a goal in 20 contests. It does not matter what offensive players the Habs use on their power play, the entire unit runs through, and relies heavily on Subban.
It seems that Canadiens opponents have found a way to neutralize Subban on the man advantage. The elite defender averaged 2.5 shots per game on the season, but had just five in the final seven games of the regular season.
The Canadiens penalty kill was tremendous all season, ranking fourth in the NHL at 85.1%. If the Habs can find a way to reboot a dormant power play, they will be difficult to knock out of the postseason.
It is up to Subban to find a way to solve the Lightning penalty kill, and start producing the offense we are all used to seeing him display. My guess is it won’t be long before one of Subban’s PP one timers finds its way behind Anders Lindback.
The Canadiens dodged a bullet after blowing an opportunity in the last two minutes of regulation in game one. If Subban can’t find a way to jumpstart the power play, it is going to cost the team in the very near future.