The Canadiens’ power play needs to improve, and Jesperi Kotkaniemi can improve it

After going 1-for-6 on Saturday night, the need for a better man advantage is becoming apparent.

After a shootout win at home against the Pittsburgh Penguins, it seems harsh to bring out something negative, but the reality is that even if Montreal scored on one power play yesterday, the man advantage as a whole was abysmal.

The game should never have made it to a shootout, with a long five-on-three in the second period and Pittsburgh holding on for dear life, and definitely not with a four-on-three in overtime. Montreal should have iced the game on one of those chances.

The power play was often slow, unimaginative, and disorganized. There seems to be no playbook, precision, or attention to detail at all.

It looked okay early in the second period, on what seemed to be a set play, when Jesperi Kotkaniemi was on the half-wall and sent the puck down to Artturi Lehkonen just at the edge of the trapezoid, centring it with a one-touch pass to Shaw, who just missed the opportunity.

Even the goal that was scored wasn’t the result of a good power-play structure. Jeff Petry and Jonathan Drouin were set for some quick give-and-go passes from the point to the half-wall, but Drouin kept hold of the puck after just one pass and kept the tempo low. While his shot was on target and Tatar managed to squeeze in the rebound from behind the net, the fact still stands that is was not the result of an effective setup; it looked more like a fluke.

It was even more obvious during the long five-on-three. The tempo was slow, there were two players behind the net, and passes were off by a couple of metres in some instances.

The same is to be said in overtime, when it almost seemed that the puck was more in the defensive or neutral zone than in the offensive zone. The power play seems unimaginative, and it was unimaginative last year, too, with the whole idea being to get the puck to an open Shea Weber, who would blast it with ferocity towards the opposing net, and the three defenders standing in front waiting for that to happen.

What is needed is to really draw up a playbook, in a similar fashion as an attack in basketball or a play in American football; a set play that every player knows. With faceoffs improving, it should come naturally to set up and run a play that is more than “send it to Weber for his big shot,” or “have Drouin eventually make a pass to a stationary player.”

The creativity is there. Drouin, Max Domi, and Kotkaniemi have it. If speed and precision are added to Montreal’s power play, it would easily rise a lot higher than the 11.8% that it is currently resting at.

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