Taking Advantage of the Man Advantage

Hannah Foslien

The Minnesota Wild are preparing for a sprint to the playoffs and hope to clinch its second straight playoff berth in a row. If that is to happen, some areas of their play will need to improve, namely the power play.

"Our power play had the opportunity to be a lot better last year than it was. We were sixth in the league in total power-play shots on goal. That tells you we're just not doing enough to score goals," Wild head coach Mike Yeo said before this season when former Wild player was tapped to improve the power play. The improvements made during the offseason seemed to pay dividends for the Wild as the team shot up to number five in the league in power play efficiency with 24.5 percent.

Since October, the Wild have been a putrid 15.8 percent on the power play. it means that the only reason why Minnesota's power play is still hanging on as mediocre is because of their absurd month of October. Fans have seen the power play slide down the rankings from, "Wow! This is a completely different power play!" to, "Wow...we need a completely different power play."

Somehow the Wild have managed to string together wins and gain ground on the Vancouver Canucks to take over the first Western Conference wild card position.

If Minnesota wants to really put together a strong stretch run and head in to the playoffs with a head of steam the power play must improve. The Wild finished the season last year with the 16th best power play in the league with a 17.9 percent power play. This season is virtually the same, currently sitting in 16th again with only a slim improvement with 18.3 percent. Chicago and St. Louis, largely considered elite teams in the league and in the Central Division, currently have power play units converging at clip over 20 percent.

"There are things Bruno can help us with to generate more shots, to generate more quality shots, to teach us different times to take pucks to the net, different positions to be in front of the net that only a guy with that kind of experience can teach," Yeo said in the same interview with the Star Tribune. The Wild were on pace last year over an 82-game regular season to generate almost 352 power play shots on goal. This year? Minnesota is on pace to finish with 345 shots with the extra man. This lack of disparity is probably why the power play hasn't improved as much as they had hoped.

As I wrote previewing the season, the Wild need to provide more movement on in the offensive from players without the puck. Also, shots tend to break down the defensive box and create havoc in front of the netminders.

Even on this Zach Parise power play goal from January against the Avalanche the Wild were dependent on moving the puck around the perimeter while other players were more or less standing around. There was very little movement in and around the slot area. This goal was just a great deflection from Parise, but the goal was not a result of tons of traffic in front or crashing the net.

Andrew Brunette needs to preach to these guys that they have to make hell for goalies by taking lots of shots with traffic in front, this power play will not improve. The Wild will be unable to make the next step and become truly elite without making teams pay for their penalties. The good teams in the league know that special teams are more often than not the difference in games. It could even mean the difference between a playoff series win and loss.

Remember how punchless the power play was versus the Blackhawks last year in the first round? Zero for 17. The Wild went 0-for-17 against a team that was clearly better than them but was there for the taking. If they had scored even a couple goals with the man advantage, last year's playoff series would have had a much different narrative. I'm not saying that the Wild would have won the series, but they surely could have been in a position that they would have had the chance to.

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