The Montreal Canadiens had an abysmal power play last year. One could easily argue that it was the biggest thing that kept them out of the playoffs, considering how close they came. If they’re to have any chance this year, it was the one area they absolutely needed to improve.
It is still very early, but they’re accomplishing that mission. The power play was a major reason they were able to walk through the St. Louis Blues on the road.
They rank tenth in the league with a 25.8% success rate so far this year, and converted on two of five opportunities in Missouri. It’s fair to be cautiously optimistic, as their current clip will be difficult to sustain, but it’s an incredibly encouraging start, and they’re getting things done in such ways that suggest they’ve turned a corner.
Just look at the sight for sore eyes that was Jonathan Drouin’s goal.
When Drouin pushes the puck to Shea Weber at the point, the Blues’ forwards immediately move out to deal with that threat. He defers to Jesperi Kotkaniemi at the other point, who slides down and throws a gorgeous cross-ice pass to a waiting Drouin, who makes zero mistake. It was night and day from what you’d have seen last year.
And that cross-ice movement was reminiscent of the opening goal from Jordan Weal.
Again, a beautiful cross-ice pass by Nick Suzuki opens things up, and Max Domi finds Weal out front for the tally. They weren’t making these plays a year ago, and their predictable reliance on the Weber bomb made them easy to defend against. They have completely changed up this year.
In particular on the afternoon against the Blues, they are spreading things out with the cross-ice passes, and with great success. They’re far less predictable, and this is yielding them quality opportunities.
Even if their current rate is unsustainable, when regression comes, it is hard to see them regressing to last year’s futility with the way they’re moving the puck. Shea Weber has yet to tally with the man-advantage, and he is ostensibly their greatest weapon on that front. If he can heat up too, they could become formidable.
It’s too early to say for sure that they’ve solved the problem, but the early goings clearly suggest that the Habs are on the right track to fixing their biggest weakness.