One of the biggest advantages a team can have is having exceptional special teams units. However, when a team struggles to produce when given the man-advantage, it can really be detrimental to a team’s success. That was certainly the problem for the Montreal Canadiens last season.
In 2017-18, the Canadiens had a power play success rate of 21.2%. This past season, they dropped off to 13.2%, good for the second-worst power play in the league, with only the Nashville Predators having a poorer success rate. With talented players throughout their lineup, there should be obvious improvement for the Habs special team this upcoming season. Let’s see who head coach Claude Julien will throw out out on the ice when the opponent visits the sin bin.
First Power Play Unit
Max Domi, Brendan Gallagher, Tomas Tatar, Phillip Danault, Shea Weber
Arguably the best defenceman on the Canadiens roster, captain Shea Weber has been a mainstay on the power play for the majority of his career dating back to his early days with the Predators. His booming shot is his biggest strength, but his offencive awareness is what helps him produce. Despite only having six power play points in the last two seasons, he will be on the point firing bombs from the point.
Danault and Tatar will be looked upon as playmakers below the goal line and around the crease. Danault has never scored a power play goal in his NHL career, but brings a level of awareness around the net that can help set up his teammates. With more time on the man-advantage, Danault’s numbers will certainly increase.
After being excommunicated by the Vegas Golden Knights, Tatar found some resurgence after being traded to the Canadiens in the Max Pacioretty trade last fall. He scored a career-high 58 points, eight of which came on the power play. He could be someone who can flip-flop between playing down around the net and help run the umbrella up top on the left point.
The bulldog himself, Brendan Gallagher, has given defencemen and goaltenders headaches below the hash marks since day one. His hand-eye coordination helps him tip shots from the point (that are not going for his head), and then his strength on his stick is what gives the ability to outwork the opponent for rebounds.
Domi’s offencive outburst last season reminded fans why he was one of the biggest prospects back in 2015. He can run the power play from either the left or right point. He has hands that can make plays in tight, and an underrated shot that fools goaltenders. When Danault or Tatar swing out to the corner, Domi can use them as options for a quick give-and-go. Domi’s quickness to find open areas helps him create even more scoring chances.
Second Power Play Unit
Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Jonathan Drouin, Joel Armia, Artturi Lehkonen, Jeff Petry
Despite not having a booming shot like Weber, or having hands like a forward, Jeff Petry has been a catalyst on the power play for the last two seasons. In the 2017-18 season, Petry’s 23 power play points were second to Alex Galchenyuk and were tied for second on the Canadiens with Max Domi with 11 points.
The other right-handed weapon is Armia. For the first time in his career, he earned substantial power play time. In his first season in Montreal, the Pori, Finland native mustered six points with the man-advantage, but it is his tools that will make the biggest impact. He has a shot that can be tough to track in the high slot and can make plays around the net with soft hands.
One asset that will be around the net with Armia will be the younger Artturi Lehkonen. Lehkonen was used hardly at all on the power play, but that does not mean he would not be a weapon. He has great hand-eye coordination, and is able to work off opposing defenders right on the doorstep. He has only scored four power play goals in his career, but is certainly a dark horse in the Montreal lineup.
Kotkaniemi made an immediate impact in his rookie season, and was one of the best first-year players in the NHL in 2018-19. Only five of his 34 points came on the power play, but his talent creates a plentiful of scoring chances. He can work the puck off either side of the umbrella, along with having the versatility to make plays from below the goal line.
Most likely playing up top on the power play will be Jonathan Drouin. Drouin tied his career-best in points last season with 53 and led the Habs with 16 points with the man-advantage. Definitely one of the most dangerous weapons on the power play. His shot can beat the best netminders, while his vision finds teammates in open areas. Similar to Domi on PP 1, Drouin will be the go-to guy for this power play unit.
I’m a broadcast journalist from West Michigan, with an incredible passion for the game of hockey. After playing in goal for 16 years, I realized that my time on the ice was up, and chose a slightly different path working in the media. It is just as demanding, just a little less physical.