With the Blue Jackets' early season woes, one of the areas that suffered the most was the Power Play. A unit that was going to be vastly improved on paper coming into the year, they certainly got off to a slow start.
With the suspension to newly minted PPQB James Wisniewski for the first eight games as well as Jeff Carter's foot injury, we hadn't really gotten a chance to see the full top unit until very recently. But, even with that, the numbers are starting to show that this unit might be getting closer to the one we all hoped to see.
It's no secret that the Jackets' PP was at or near the very bottom of the league. The main culprit? An 0-for-20 start on the man advantage. However, if you look at what the unit has done since then--and where their percentage is trending--it might just be turning into the team strength it was projected to be.
Since that dreadful start, Columbus has scored 13 Power Plays goals in 16 games, spanning 68 chances. That's good for a 19.1% clip. Currently, 19.1% would be good enough for ninth in the league. In other words, it just goes to show how much that slow PP start has held them back.
Overall, they have crept up to 14.8%, which is good enough for 22nd in the league. A far cry from "ninth in the league," but still an improvement to be sure. They've managed Power Play goals in 11 of the last 16 games, and twice have scored more than one PPG.
In fact, in their last six games, they've gone 7-fo-23 (30.4%), and that included PPGs against Boston (8th on the PK, 86.5%), two against Nashville (11th, 84.3%), Minnesota (12th, 83.8%), Calgary (15th, 82.4%), and two against Chicago (29th, 73.4%). Other than that last one, none of those teams are pushovers when on the PK (and, of course, tonight's tilt in New Jersey sees the Devils at #1 on the PK...). The point is, they're starting to see results on the PK against decent penalty killing teams.
One of the interesting additions has been Mark Letestu. He has two Power Play goals in six games played in Columbus. More than that, however, is his ability in the faceoff circle. Overall, Letestu is winning 53.5% of his draws. He and Carter are a combined 51-for-97 on the Power Play in the circle, good for 52.6%. When you win more of your draws on the PP, it helps to set up your chances.
The other import who's done the most on the PP is Vinny Prospal. He has six points on the PP thus far, so he's figured into almost half of their PPGs on the season. Prospal has two goals and four assists up a skater, and this only contributes to the fact that he's been by far the most consistent Jackets player in the first quarter of the season.
This is all conjecture, of course, but if you look at how this unit is coming together it's tempting to project it out for awhile and see what we get. Could this unit be part of the solution to salvaging this dreadful first quarter?
The Jackets have had 88 PP chances in 20 games, or 4.4 chances per game. If you multiply that by 62 games remaining, you get roughly 273 more times they will be up a man. If they can hang around their recent 19.1% clip, that would notch them 52 more PP goals, and a season total of 65; they had 42 all of last season. Again, not sayin', just sayin'.
Overall, if the team can continue to build off of their recent stretch (3-1-1 with a brain-fart loss to Minnesota mixed in there), the Power Play may very well be one of the tools to drive that. Let's hope so!