The Wild's power play gets a lot of flak with the home fan base, and I'll admit, it's hard to blame them for being frustrated. Under coach Mike Yeo, the Wild have yet to finish in the top half in the league in power play percentage, and this season has been no different. Granted, when the Wild's power play clicks, it looks really nice- the best example of this being Parise's scoring outburst in October. But last night's performance on the power play shows you why their overall play is middling. A lot of perimeter play, trouble getting shots off, and that was when they were able to take the zone.
This isn't the dumpster fire it was last season, when the Wild finished 27th with a 15.9% conversion rate, but it's certainly an area they can improve. Fortunately for them, the Wild may be able to instantly improve their power play by giving a larger role to defenseman Matt Dumba.
Dumba, as many Wild fans will know, is perhaps the most dynamic defenseman Minnesota has had since Brent Burns. His combination of speed, shot, and offensive instincts is a treat to behold, and deadly for opponents in open space. Dumba's already had a bit of time on the power play, but not much. His 63 minutes is good for only 9th on the Wild. This is despite him being productive on the man advantage, where he has 3 goals and 2 assists.
It's not just the skills or the points, though. It's how he's been able to threaten goalies when he's had the opportunity. Dumba leads the Wild with 32 PP shots, which is actually good for 21st in the NHL. This is particularly impressive since just about everyone ahead of him on that list has double or triple Dumba's ice time on the PP. When you account for ice time, Dumba personally takes 30.33 Shots per 60 minutes. That's insane. Here are the Top-5 in Shots/60 on the power play this year:
1. Matt Dumba: 30.39
2. Alexander M*th*r****ing Ovechkin: 28.33
3. Justin "The Good Faulk" Faulk: 22.30
4. Tyler Seguin: 21.88
5. Kyle Palmieri: 21.61
Dumba's not just leading the league in this category, he's practically lapping the field. And this isn't exactly a fluke, either, he was 17th in the NHL last year in Shots/60. His ability to not only generate shot attempts, but to actually get them to the net has been special.
Now, shots don't look like much of an issue for the Wild- again, they're about middle-of-the-pack in that category- but that doesn't account for Dumba's impact. When the Wild have Dumba on the power play they shoot the puck 57.0 times per 60 minutes, a mark that plummets all the way down to 47.1 when Dumba's off the ice. If that seems like a big difference to you, it's because it is. 57.0 Shots/60 would be the second-best figure in the league behind Washington, and the Dumba-less Wild power play would only manage to be 24th.
But Dumba is blocked off from the first power play unit for Minnesota, as Ryan Suter and Mikael Granlund occupy the spots he'd likely wind up at. Saying Suter should come off the top unit is basically beating a dead horse at this point, and in fairness to Suter, he hasn't done a poor job. Same with Granlund. Suter moves the puck up the ice efficiently, and Granlund is really good at getting the Wild into the offensive zone.
At the same time, having both of them on the ice at the same time leaves the Wild without an offensive threat at the perimeter on one side of the ice, allowing defenders to cheat towards Zach Parise. Moving Dumba into that mix solves that problem, giving the Wild a second major shooting threat, and allowing more space for Parise to do his thing. Giving Dumba minutes that reflect his power play prowess is an easy way to improve that part of the Wild's game.
The need to improve on the man advantage is even more critical because of the Wild's inability to draw penalties. They've only gotten 22 power play opportunities in the last 12 games, getting 1 or fewer chances in 7 of those. When you're not drawing penalties, the key is to maximize your chances at getting goals when you do get calls. The Wild simply aren't maximizing their odds if they continue to use Dumba and his absurd shooting ability sparingly.
The time for inefficiency is over. The Wild need to give Dumba more chances to do what he does best.