A year ago tomorrow I wrote about the five teams I absolutely could not stand watching on TV. The list has changed since then – I’d pull Carolina and Minnesota out of the rotation entirely, and maybe put them in my top 10 – but it was a fun exercise. I followed it up with the five teams I most liked watching a couple days after, and that’s changed too. The Flyers wouldn’t even be close to #1 anymore.
This year, I thought I’d give it a slightly different twist: Instead of doing teams, I wanted to do the lines I most enjoyed watching. The problem is, coaches like to spread around the talent, so I’ve narrowed it down to powerplay units. Some teams are stuck without any elite talent, while others can put out a five-man unit that literally looks like an all-star team. They may not necessarily have the highest conversion rates, but when your team is up a goal late in the game, these are the units you’d least like to see hopping the boards.
With a stick-tap to DailyFaceoff for some of the information, here are…
The NHL’s 10 Scariest Powerplay Units
(Honourable mention: The Carolina Hurricanes, who could conceivably run Eric Staal, Jordan Staal, Alexander Semin, Jeff Skinner and Pitkanen or McBain over the boards. Not too shabby in a pinch.)
#10 St. Louis Blues
Currently: 4th overall, 30%
2011-12: 25th overall, 15.2%
Who: David Perron, David Backes, TJ Oshie, Andy McDonald, Alex Pietrangelo
Why: No question marks.
That goes for most of the teams on this list, but all five players can finish, can shoot, and make good, creative decisions with the puck. There’s a Norris Trophy candidate playing quarterback, and a horse with hands (Backes) around the net. Mix that with nifty play-making, and they’re a tough group to stop.
#9 Boston Bruins
Currently: 24th overall, 12.5%
2011-12: 15th overall, 17.2%
Who: Tyler Seguin, David Krejci, Milan Lucic, Nathan Horton, Zdeno Chara
Why: Well, certainly not their conversion rate, but for similar reasons to the Blues: A horse with hands in front (Lucic) and a killer on the backend. Only the Bruins killer, Chara, happens to possess Earth’s hardest hockey shot (yes, I’m disregarding silly KHL measurements). Mix in one of the best young players in the game and two other great players, and you get yourself in the top 10. Now, they just need to prove it.
#8 Edmonton Oilers
Currently: 2nd overall, 34.4%
2011-12: 3rd overall, 20.6%
Who: Taylor Hall, Nail Yakupov, Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins,
Ladislav Smid Justin Schultz
Why: I dug up most units at DailyFaceoff.com, but I’ve taken the liberty of instituting the “Let’s Be Honest” clause, as in “Let’s Be Honest – if you need a goal in the dying seconds you’re playing Smid over Schultz? No.”
As you can see by the numbers, the Oilers powerplay has been deadly (they have a good second unit too), and frankly, I think they’re a year or two away from being number one on this list. They still have potential to reach as far as PP1′s go, and for now, I’d still rather see this group come out than say, Crosby’s (not #1, FWIW). The fact that I’m explaining why they’re this high on the list is a good sign for them.
#7 San Jose Sharks
Currently: 1st overall, 35.3%
2011-12: 2nd overall, 21.1%
Who: Patrick Marleau, Joe Thornton, Joe Pavelski, Logan Couture, Dan Boyle
Why: Well, those stats look purty darn good, for starters.
But mostly just the fear factor. They’ve played together for awhile, they’ve proven they can put the biscuit in the basket at a high clip, and your only thought on the penalty kill is “Okay, we just need to keep it out of…..well, all of their hands, and we’ll be fine.”
#6 Detroit Red Wings
Currently: 28th overall, 9.4%(!)
2011-12: 22nd overall, 16.1%
Who: Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk, Johan Franzen, Damien Brunner, Niklas Kronwall
Why: Well, certainly not their conversion rate…but for fear factor? Yeah. But I mean, holy hell, Zetterberg and Datsyuk, plus a horse who can finish and a solid PP d-man and a skilled rookie? How have they been so poor in practice when they’re this good on paper?
#5 Vancouver Canucks
Currently: 16th overall, 18.9%
2011-12: 4th overall, 19.8%
Who: Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin, Zack Kassian, Jason Garrison, Alex Edler
Why: see: first two names listed. The other three could be Dog Meat, A Tarsier and Three Staplers Held Together With Duct Tape and they’d be deadly. Butfortunately for the Canucks, they’re not. They’re off to a slow start, but they’ll click again.
#4 Anaheim Ducks
Currently: 15th overall, 20%
2011-12: 21st overall, 16.6%
Who: Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf, Bobby Ryan, Teemu Selanne, Sheldon Souray
Why: We’re sort of at that point where you don’t need a why. They have four truly excellent forwards, one who perfectly fits the “front of the net” mold (Getlaf), one with a great one-time bomb (Perry), one sneaky slickster (Selanne), a pure goal-scorer (Ryan) and probably the 2nd hardest shot in hockey (Souray).
#3 Tampa Bay Lightning
Currently: 4th overall, 30%
2011-12: 25th overall, 15.2%
Who: Steven Stamkos, Vincent Lecavalier, Ryan Malone, Martin St. Louis, Matt Carle
Why: Ste-ven Stam-kos, clap, clap, clap-clap-clap. (Note: after each “clap” a puck rattled off the crossbar and went in.)
#2 (tie) Pittsburgh Penguins
Currently: 11th overall, 22.7%
2011-12: 5th overall, 19.7%
Who: Evgeni Malkin, Sidney Crosby, James Neal, Chris Kunitz, Kris Letang
Why: Like I said, self explanatory now, but the emergence of James Neal over the past couple years as a holy #$%$ next-level scorer put this unit over the top.
#2 (tie) New York Rangers
Currently: currently 25th overall, 12.5%
2011-12: 23rd overall, 15.7%
Who: Marian Gaborik, Brad Richards, Rick Nash, Michael Del Zotto, Dan Girardi
Why: As you can see, they’ve had their struggles turning potential into reality, but they’re still a frightening pile of super-skilled all-stars with the potential to do something nasty at any given moment.
#1 Chicago Blackhawks
Currently: 10th overall, 25%
2011-12: T25th 15.2%
Who: Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Sharp, Marian Hossa, Duncan Keith
Why: Otherwise known to opponents as “Wow, Wow, Crap, Uh-Uh and Oh Man.” They don’t always play together, but if they need one, they can put out the best five man unit in the NHL.
Do your best to avoid commenting things like *pushes glasses up nose* “Actually, Tampa Bay splits Lecavalier and Stamkos up into two units because…” …I get it. They don’t always play together. But if they desperately need one, they have the option to chuck the above groups out to make it happen, and that’s a scary thought. Let me know if you think I missed a team!