The St. Louis Blues thought they were going to have one of the best power play units in the league when practices began prior to the 2021 NHL season. On paper, it looked really good.
While it never quite felt like it since the Blues often did not pass the eye test, statistically, the Blues had one of the better power plays in 2019-20. Taking what should be a strength and improving it should not make the unit regress.
Unfortunately, that has been what happened so far. As of February 9, the Blues have the fifth worst power play in the entire league.
They rank 26th and are a just under two percentage points behind the team in 25th. They are scoring at a truly awful 11.7% of the time with a man advantage.
Some of the other teams might have their numbers even out as they catch up in games. Regardless of the team’s rank, however, under 12% is just not acceptable. Anything under 20% is not acceptable really.
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Another thing that is unacceptable is the Blues odd resistance to trying something different. While they have made a tweak here or there moving a guy to a different unit, there has been no real alteration in what the Blues are actually doing.
One major tweak they should make is going back to the old-school style of having two defensemen on the power play units. This will not fix a bunch of problems, but it would give the Blues a different look if nothing else.
Additionally, it would utilize the team’s strength. St. Louis has at least four defensemen capable of contributing on the power play and they have often only used two, sometimes three.
In today’s league, it is en vogue to have one defenseman manning the point and either run the power play more from the half wall or behind the net. Among many different things, there were two main reasons for this.
One is that when it was first implemented, it was different and thus it worked because teams were not used to defending four forwards, who were all spaced throughout the zone. Another reason is teams lacked offensively efficient defenders, so they did not want to send someone out there just for a body.
The Blues can easily use two defenders on each of their power play units because they have guys with the skills to not miss a beat offensively. This would also limit shorthanded breakout attempts because you’d have more players who are used to thinking they might need to get back.
St. Louis brought in some of these guys to help the power play as it is. Torey Krug was brought in as a power play quarter back and the team has actually used him as that.
Conversely, Justin Faulk was also used to being on the top power play unit while with the Carolina Hurricanes. In 2019-20 and to start the 2021 season, the Blues were not even using Faulk on the power play at all.
You could excuse that when the special teams unit was doing alright last season. With the continued struggles in 2021, it made no sense to keep trotting out the same kind of power play, but the Blues have.
It also makes no sense to continue using Vince Dunn on that unit, but that’s a personal recommendation. If the Blues are determined to utilize his offensive potential, they might as well not keep other players on the bench because of it.
If the sudden removal of Colton Parayko from the power play is due to injury, that’s fine. If it is because the Blues want more forwards out there, it does not make enough sense.
There have been plenty of offensive forwards left off the power play in years past. The Blues do not really have that special player that anyone would consider a real snub if left off right now.
As it stands, if the Blues went with two defenders, things would even out righty/lefty. You’d have Faulk and Parayko as right handed players with Krug and Dunn as lefties.
All four are capable of sliding up the wall if you want to keep running things from deeper in the zone. Or, you can have them at the blue line, in a more traditional formation, since the offense tends to run from the point for the Blues anyway.
At this point, what could the change hurt? You’re failing to score almost 88% of the time and putting an extra defender with offensive talent out there will not make that number go any further the wrong way.