As the Minnesota Wild begin a new season, one area that they have actively sought to improve upon is the power play. Many games are won on a very slim margin of error so a strong power play can often be the difference between a win or loss. Remaining competitive with division rivals is of the upmost importance and an improved power play will help the Wild accomplish this goal.
Minnesota’s power play had its struggles last season. To remedy this, the club added former Minnesota Wild forward Andrew Brunette as a power play consultant. Brunette worked in an advisory role for GM Chuck Fletcher last season. The Wild have charged Brunette with this task of improving the power play by helping the club’s forwards fine-tune their techniques and strategies.
Wild Power Play Has Room For Improvement
The Wild were in the middle of the pack finishing sixteenth overall last season on power play conversions. Minnesota scored just twenty-seven power play goals on one hundred and fifty-one opportunities. The Wild converted on just 17.9% of their opportunities which was a ways off from the Washington Capitals who had the best overall power play at 26.8%.
An interesting aspect of Minnesota’s power play last season was the fact that it was much better on the road than it was at home. The Wild scored just eleven power play goals at home on eighty-three opportunities which equates to 13.2% efficiency. On the other hand, when the Wild were on the road they had much more success with a 23.5% efficiency in which they scored sixteen goals in sixty-eight opportunities.
The Wild did not score on any of their seventeen power play opportunities in the playoffs last season. Their poor performance on the power play definitely played a role in their early playoff exit. Out of the five playoff games that the Wild played against the Blackhawks, two games were decided by just one goal. A stronger power play could have made this a closer series and the Wild will need to do better to make a deeper run in the future.
Minnesota’s one hundred and fifty-one power play opportunities ranked twenty-second in the league last season. While the number of opportunities on the power play were low, the Wild need to do a better job this season with the man advantage to take their game to the next level. One encouraging aspect of the club’s power play last season was the fact that Wild joined the New York Islanders as the only two teams in the league that did not allow a short-handed goal.
Brunette and the Power Play
Wild fans remember forward Andrew Brunette as a productive forward who provided much leadership to his teammates in Saint Paul. In one thousand one hundred and ten career games that spanning from the 1995-1996 season through the 2011-2012 season, Brunette scored two hundred sixty-eight goals, and four hundred sixty-five assists for seven hundred thirty-three career points. He had two stints with the Minnesota Wild while also playing for the Washington Capitals, Nashville Predators, Atlanta Thrashers, Colorado Avalanche and Chicago Blackhawks. Brunette amassed 0.66 points per game over the course of his career as well as 0.71 points per game in the playoffs.
An area where Brunette particularly excelled as a player was on the power play. Out of his two hundred sixty-eight goals, one hundred fourteen came on the power play. Brunette scored over half of his career points with the man advantage.
Brunette’s keen offensive talents and strong leadership as a player lead him to many years of success. He will draw upon this experience to help the Wild improve their power play this year. So far in two games at the helm, aside from unfortunately taking a puck to the chin, the power play unit has already been productive. This is a very small sample size so it is difficult to gauge Brunette’s system – this is a topic that will be revisited by many throughout this season.
After two games, the Wild have scored three goals on the power play in just nine opportunities. More encouraging is that the Wild have scored these goals at home. Again, the sample size is very small so the level of success of Brunette’s system will unfold in the coming months.
There will no doubt be many adjustments and changes. Despite the fact that the club has not yet won in regulation, at a 33.3% efficiency rate the Wild power play is off to a good start. If they can stay consistent on the power play it will pay off in the long-run.
[See Also: Top Five Minnesota Wild Forwards All-Time]
The Wild Bottom Line
The Wild have already made some adjustments to their power play. Forward Jason Pominville recently moved to the point on the first power play line alongside defenseman Ryan Suter. Forward Dany Heatley is also working with the top power play unit with Zach Parise and Mikko Koivu.
This combination of veterans on the top power play line has led the Wild’s second power play unit to be one of the youngest in the NHL. Forwards Nino Niederreiter, Mikael Granlund, Jason Zucker and the recently-injured Charlie Coyle, as well as defensemen Jared Spurgeon, Jonas Brodin and Mathew Dumba have each rotated into the second power play unit.
As the Wild coaching staff gets a better sense of team chemistry there may be further changes to the lines. Early signs show that the Wild are on the right track but can the power play be consistent for the long-term? If the Wild can remain consistent, a strong power play will help the club work towards a playoff berth in the hope of making a deeper run this season.
Tim joined The Hockey Writers in July 2013. He began his tenure with THW by covering the Minnesota Wild and he now writes on the Buffalo Sabres. Tim completed his undergraduate and graduate work at the University at Buffalo. In addition, he is a published historian and a Baltimore Orioles Contributing Writer for LegendsOnDeck.com. Tim’s work for THW has been featured on sites such as Yahoo.com. Follow him on Twitter @TOHockeyTHW