The Columbus Blue Jackets Power Play Is Struggling (Again)

By Ed Francis on March 23, 2021 at 10:15 am
Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Haydn Fleury (4) clears the puck as Columbus Blue Jackets center Jack Roslovic (96) deflects the puck during the third period at Nationwide Arena.
Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports

Don't look now, but the power play is struggling.

Yes, again.

Despite scratching and clawing their way back into a playoff spot, the Columbus Blue Jackets are having difficulties when up a man on the ice, an area that has frequently haunted them in the past.

It's nothing that the 5th Line hasn't seen before: Columbus finished 27th last season on the power play, 28th the year before, and 25th in the 2017-18 season. In fact, they're ranked 28th over the last five seasons combined, and 29th (of 31) over the last ten years.

This season, the Blue Jackets converted just one of their first 19 attempts at the 5-on-4. Patrik Laine showed up a few games later, and the Blue Jackets played the month of February scoring seven power play goals on 32 attempts. Nothing to write home about, but 22% for the month is considered a success - especially for this franchise.

The solid February brought their season average to near 20%, roughly the league average this season. But the Blue Jackets have slipped back down to 14.8% and 26th in the league on the man advantage. 

They've scored just twice on the power play since connecting three times in one game in a shootout loss to the Chicago Blackhawks on February 23rd. During that span, they've had 28 power plays, for a conversion percentage of just over 7%. 

To make matters worse, they're struggling particularly bad on the road, where they've went eight straight road games (totaling 18 power plays) without scoring when up a man. 

Some of this comes down to bad luck; they've hit a few goal posts and they've been the victim of a few dazzling saves by the opposing goaltender. 

For as often as he switches lines at even strength, though, head coach John Tortorella seems to have his "favorites" on the power play. When looking at forwards, Patrik Laine (2:39) and Cam Atkinson (2:33) see the most power play time. Those are certainly two players you want on the ice when up a man, no debate there.

Behind them, however, is Nick Foligno. He's averaging 2:17 per game on the power play, and has just two points on the power play this season: one from a goal on January 21st, and an assist on a Seth Jones goal February 2nd. 

Meanwhile, Oliver Bjorkstrand has three power play goals on the season - despite seeing an average of only 1:46 per game on the special teams unit. Max Domi has two goals, and averages 1:53. 

Tortorella is quick to bench players who aren't producing, but for some reason, the power play units seem to be exempt from that mindset.

If the Blue Jackets are going to stay in the thick of the postseason race, they're going to need to find a way to increase their power play efficiency. From a purely statistical angle, their best chance to do that could be to put skill players (Bjorkstrand) on the ice in place of grit and grinders (Foligno).

With a power play converting at under 15%, what do you have to lose?


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