Special Teams: Habs Pathetic Powerlessplay

Bad news: Montreal’s powerplay is an ongoing concern. Good news: Montreal’s powerplay has been an ongoing concern to start the year before. The kicker is that it’s a relatively easy fix.

If there’s one blatantly obvious sore spot in the Montreal Canadiens’ season to this point, it’s their abysmal powerplay. The Habs with the man-advantage look a little like the Buffalo Sabres do on the powerplay. Or the Buffalo Sabres at even strength. Or maybe just like the Buffalo Sabres.

Poor Brian Gionta. Poor Josh Gorges.

This powerplay, which we’d all like to think is so deadly, currently sits 24th in the NHL with a 10.3% efficiency. For short stretches it has looked rather dominant; for long stretches it has looked rather pathetic.

But is this type of start normal for a club with so many nifty options on the powerplay?

After gathering some data from the past 5 seasons, I’ve settled on the conclusion that it is – sort of.


Montreal’s current efficiency either matches or exceeds the production in two of the past four seasons following game 10. Interestingly enough, the two seasons which generated the most shots on goal per 60 minutes of powerplay time also produced the worst results.

The Habs are currently hitting the net on the powerplay with anything but regularity. On the flipside, they are firing the 3rd most shots at the net over the past five seasons, with the absolute most shot-attempts coming during the 2010-2011 season – oddly enough resulting in the worst powerplay efficiency during the first 10 games.

Two seasons ago the Canadiens had a whopping 55 opportunities with the man-advantage over the first 10 games, capitalizing on 13 of those. Last year the Habs saw 40 powerplay opportunities prior to game 11 and were successful on 11.

If you’re wondering where the Habs finished the year in terms of their powerplay:

  • 2010-2011: 7th overall at 19.5%
  • 2011-2012: 28th overall at 14.3%
  • 2012-2013: 5th overall at 20.7%
  • 2013-2014: 19th overall at 17.2%

Here’s a graph to give you an idea of total shot data during those seasons compared to this year:


While the sample is small for this season, the Habs are generating shot-attempts at a rate that exceeds the finished product of any season or playoffs since 2010; the exception being the 2013 playoffs when Craig Anderson decided to be superman. It’s the SOG/60 that’s a little concerning.

So what does this all mean? The Canadiens are producing the opportunities to register shots as well as any other season – so what gives? Is it simply due to their lack of shots hitting the net? That can’t be since their lowest shots/60 since 2010 through the first 10 games resulted in efficiency over 20%.

I took a look at shot location from the past four seasons to see if I could pinpoint any specific or noteworthy areas where the Canadiens were generating opportunities but alas, I came up empty.

I attempted to sift through some data on Max Pacioretty since 2011 on the powerplay to see if maybe he’s simply not pulling the trigger enough and it’s too insignificant to actually have an effect on the powerplay’s efficiency even this early on.

There’s something going on here, there just has to be.

I circled back to two constants I’ve noticed throughout the years which haven’t been readily used thus far this season: P.K Subban and Andrei Markov need to be on their off-sides to allow for that devastating one-timer and Brendan Gallagher or Pacioretty (depending on which side of the ice the Habs are overloading – and they need to be overloading a side, enough with this umbrella-like deployment) need to be in the high slot.

It is quite literally the only things which haven’t been explicitly used this year on the powerplay.

The Canadiens are generating shots at a rate comparable to any other season, but those shots aren’t as dangerous. They’re soft wristers from the point. They’re jam plays on the side of the net. They’re snap shots off the half wall.

A key to being successful, not only on the powerplay but at any time during a game, is to force the opposing goalie to move laterally to make saves. In addition, quick, hard shots are preferred. That leads me to the following equation:

Make goalie move laterally + quick hard shots = one-timers.

Whether it’s Markov to Subban from point-to-point, Tomas Plekanec to Subban from half wall to point, David Desharnais to Pacioretty from below the goal line to slot, one-timers are vital to the success of a powerplay (that and movement which isn’t exactly too evident with the Habs this season).

I very quickly and easily pulled these video examples, all of Subban, from our good friends over at YouTube:

Here you have Subban from Markov point-to-point:

Here’s Markov to Subban from half wall to point.

Then we have Subban from Markov point to point (Anderson…yeesh).

Again we have Markov to Subban point to point.

Unsurprisingly, it’s the general to P.K. point to point.

Here’s a bit of a twist; Plekanec to Subban cross ice.

Quelle surprise, Markov to Subban one-timer horizontally at the blueline.

Then we have a disallowed goal because it never actually went in, but again, same idea.

The awesome first rounder Andrei Kostitsyn to Subban for the infamous Subban/Price celebration in an overtime win against the Hawks. Ah, the kids. Oh and it was a one-timer cross ice.

Saved the best for last.

It’s all there for you, Therrien. It’s right there in black and white and red and blue and all these other colours in the videos.

Some may think this would “get stale” or even that the opposition is shadowing Subban in an attempt to limit his shot-attempts; to that I say pishposh.


Subban is generating more shot-attempts this season on the powerplay than he has in his entire career. The only problem is that the majority aren’t of the one-timer variety. I’ve witnessed a ton of shots just flimsily directed at the net.

The Habs have proven that it works over and over again. On top of that, teeing up Subban time and time again will inevitably open up the rest of the ice, especially in the slot (where Pacioretty will be on cue). They also have a more mature core now and certainly a better Max Pacioretty and P.K. Subban. The General is still among the best set-up men in the NHL.

Without the one-timer on the point, it limits options for the opposition to defend. Without the threat of a slot one-timer, it limits the options the opposition has to defend. And stop dumping and chasing.

Hey, other teams, don’t go thinking P.K can just snipe from the point, either. Give him room and he’ll do this to you.

It’s pretty straightforward stuff. The Canadiens have the assets to make this a top unit in the NHL.

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