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!

Comments (34)

  1. I think you’ve missed where Malkin & Neal are now at the point. When most of their scoring comes from below the dot.

    Miserable to watch, because so much talent is being so wasted.

  2. Yes, the 12.5 % Rangers power play is definitely frightening

    • Great point. As I said “here’s the list of the ten most successful powerplays by rate of conversion.”


      • You clearly haven’t watched the Rangers powerplay for the last 4 years. The names have always been scary. The execution and puck movement continues to be brutal year after year. If anything, they scare the home fans because they think they’ll give up a SHG every time they miss the net (which is a lot).

  3. I thought Tampa had Finnish McInnis on the first pp.

  4. You misspelled the Blackhawks nicknames. It’s actually “Wow, Wow, Crap, Uh-Uh, and Hesitant slapshots from the point directly into the opposing forwards shinpads”

  5. Insert Callahan, Remove Girardi to make the PP better.

  6. Isn’t this article more of an inadvertent investigation on how big names on the PP don’t always translate into high conversion numbers? Especially given how last year’s PP leaders had NSH, FLA, COL, TOR, and NYI in the top 10?

  7. Wait, what, no habs?

    They don’t have the name recognition, but they are hovering the top-10 right now and are top-10 in 5v4 SF/60, have a decent 16% shooting percentage (Sharks are at 25% right now, Oilers 22%, that’s unsustainable).

    Oh, and Markov is in the house. Ever since behindthenet.ca tracks these things, the habs 5v4 PP has a 5% shooting% bump when he’s on the ice.

    They’ll finish the year in the top 5.

    • Yeah, Markov’s a more successful PP QB than anyone, say, Pittsburgh can throw at you.

      And no, Crosby and Malkin have not been quarterbacks in the NHL (Gonchar, then Goligoski, then Sullivan).

  8. I think the Senators have to be included in the list.

    Spezza (when healthy), Michalek, Alfredsson, Gonchar and Karlsson

    Sure Alfredsson and Gonchar have seen better days but both can shoot and when you have Erik Karlsson feeding you the puck that certainly helps.

  9. Not like they ever score a powerplay goal, but the Kings can put out a scary group.

    Kopitar, Doughty and Richards have all-around ability to pass and shoot while Carter is a pure goal scorer. And then they’ve got Dustin Brown in front to clean up the mess. Not too shabby!

    Now if the team could actually convert on a 5-on-3…

  10. Point re: Canucks – while in the case of the Lightning, Penguins and Hawks you’ve listed the 5 best players on the team, in Van’s case and a couple of others you’ve listed who they’re using right now. This is inequitable. Further, when the Canucks are healthy, it’s Sedin – Sedin – Kesler, which is the same forward unit that was 24+% over 82 games in 2010-2011. When everyone’s healthy it’s pretty unbeatable.

  11. Whoever is playing the Avs should at least be in the top 10.

  12. What a poorly justified article…

  13. Alright I get it, everyone is scared of Crosby and Malkin on the PP.. and everyone likes to talk about NYR’s new toy Nash.. But really, San Jose at 7th? Come on man. If anyone is scaring me on the PP right now its them sharks.

    • Meh, this was just as “pick your favorite players, put them on the ice together, and OMG FANTASY HOCKEY” post. When, as another commenter noted, you pretty much just proved that so far this season, Fantasy Hockey doesn’t equate to results on the powerplay.

      Sorry – I don’t mean to be harsh, but I usually get much better journalism on this blog.

  14. Back in the day, the Wings would throw out there Datsyuk, Holmström, Hossa, Lidström and Rafalski … Oh man those were the days! Franzen, Zetterburg and Kronwall were on the 2nd unit!

    Sometimes the opposition would tap in an own-goal just to get it over with.


  15. Oil should be number two

  16. A healthy Andrei Markhov immediately puts the Habs on the list. There simply is not a better PP QB in the league, IMO.

  17. I know you don’t want to come off a homer so I’ll do it for you. Any power play with John Tavares coming over the boards is top 10 regardless of who the other 4 are. After ;ast night against the Devils they are up to 37.5% for the year. Unsustainable but wow.

    • Yeah, the Isles powerplay looked crazy good last night. The Devils PK had been very good up to that point…

      • It looked very disorganized last night, to me. But I must say, the PP was the difference in the game.

        I’d jump in about rating the Rangers #2 as unjustifiable, but I’ll lay off, it looks like everyone else has it covered.

  18. Tampa usually has Teddy Purcell on the first PP unit instead of Vinny. Teddy’s arguably more skilled at this point too. Sick mitts!

  19. I think the Wild will quickly move onto this list. The Koivu, Parise, Heatley is buzzing and now that they actually have a solid d-man to put on the point along with Bouchard or Brodin. It is a matter of time till Suter adjusts to a new team and system (and life without Weber). Heatley has been reinvigorated so far (playing on a legitimate first line has a tendency to do that).

  20. people are defiantly missing the point of this blog its the top fear inducing power plays, not the most effective power plays. so in a perfect world where players played where they should and to the best of the ability, you would be hard pressed to find scarier units. so all you people want to prove to people to know something, you probably know alot but just take a seat.

  21. Your hatred for Wang is starting to really come clear (I hate him too). But the Isles have a top 5 Powerplay without question, and the Rangers have not been a good Powerplay team under Torts.

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