After an 0-for-5 performance on the powerplay last night, the Anaheim Ducks sit 30th in the NHL in powerplay efficiency, clicking at just 8.5 percent. While they don’t have the worst powerplay in the league, that honour goes to the Ottawa Senators, they do have the worst powerplay unit in the league.
The 5-man unit of Cam Fowler, Adam Henrique, Rickard Rakell, Troy Terry and Jakob Silfverberg is the only unit in the NHL to have played at least 20 minutes and not scored a powerplay goal.
This has been the Ducks most used powerplay unit, by far, this season however, Dallas Eakins didn’t put this unit out once in last night’s loss to the Oilers. It’s clear Eakins wants this unit to work but has come to the realization that is isn’t working. So, let’s take a look at why.
First, they don’t get enough shots on net. The Fowler, Henrique, Rakell, Terry, Slifverberg unit has put 16 shots on goal in just over 21 minutes together which works out to 15 shots per 20 minutes of ice-time. This ranks 25th out of the 28 powerplay units to have played a minimum of 20 minutes together. Some context, the most successful powerplay unit this season is the top unit in Boston, which averages just over 24 shots on goal per 20 minutes.
Part of the reason the Ducks top unit doesn’t put a lot of shots on net is due to the fact that it hits the net on fewer than half of its attempts. This unit has attempted 35 shots but only 16 have reached the goalie. Shooting from distance makes it tougher to get shots on goal and the Ducks top unit does plenty of distance shooting.
The Ducks PP1 has managed just 2 inner slot shots on goal in over 20 minutes of ice-time. When you look at their shot attempt map, you will see a noticeable blank space in the prime scoring area of the ice – in front of the net, between the face-off circles.
Why is this a problem? Well, 43 percent of powerplay goals scored this season have come from the inner slot. Getting shots on goal from this area isn’t the only way to score with the man-advantage but it’s the best way and the Ducks top unit has created almost nothing from this high-danger area of the ice. As seen in the shot attempt image, Anaheim’s top unit shoots predominantly from the perimeter, which isn’t the end of the world if these shots create deflections and rebound chances but that hasn’t happened for this unit. They don’t have a single deflection shot on net and have just one rebound scoring chance, arguably their best chance to score this season, which came over a month ago against Detroit.
The other way to create more high-danger shots is to pass pucks into the contested slot area. The Ducks top unit has attempted just under 1 pass to the slot per minute while completing an average of just over 0.5 per minute. By comparison, Boston’s lethal top unit averages about twice as many attempts and completions.
The Ducks top unit rarely attempts to move pucks into the middle of the ice and penalty killers don’t seem fooled by their perimeter shooting approach. Too often, pucks are being drilled into penalty killers bodies. When you have almost as many shots being blocked as you do hitting the net, it’s probably time to look at a new approach.
The Ducks second most used powerplay unit this season (Getzlaf, Steel, Comtois, Ritchie and Fowler) has done a much better job of creating dangerous chances around the net. They’ve been rewarded by scoring twice in just over 11 minutes together.
It will be interesting to see where Dallas Eakins goes from here as he tries to find a recipe that works. Last night, Eakins had Josh Mahura quarterback one unit with Terry, Steel, Comtois and Ritchie. Fowler quarterbacked the other with Silfverberg, Getzlaf, Rakell and Henrique. Approaching the 20-game mark of the season, the Ducks are right in the thick of the playoff mix in the West and getting their powerplay going would certainly help them stay competitive in a wide open Pacific division.
Based on early season results, it might be time to dismantle the Fowler, Terry, Henrique, Rakell, Silfverberg unit all together.
(Photo by Joe Sargent/NHLI via Getty Images)