Carolina Hurricanes Power Play Needs a Face Lift

RALEIGH, NC - MAY 16: Dougie Hamilton #19 of the Carolina Hurricanes shoots the puck in Game Four of the Eastern Conference Third Round against the Boston Bruins during the 2019 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs on May 16, 2019 at PNC Arena in Raleigh, North Carolina. (Photo by Gregg Forwerck/NHLI via Getty Images)
RALEIGH, NC - MAY 16: Dougie Hamilton #19 of the Carolina Hurricanes shoots the puck in Game Four of the Eastern Conference Third Round against the Boston Bruins during the 2019 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs on May 16, 2019 at PNC Arena in Raleigh, North Carolina. (Photo by Gregg Forwerck/NHLI via Getty Images) /
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The Carolina Hurricanes are struggling to find consistency on the man advantage, but a fresh structure and a few new faces could be the answer.

The Carolina Hurricanes need to address their inefficient power play. At times both last postseason and this preseason, the units on the ice appeared to be thinking too much. They were trying too hard. The result is a loss of fundamentals and lack of confidence.

The Hurricanes managed just 2 power play goals in 25 attempts (0.08%) this preseason. There are a lot of moving pieces and trial and error moments on the power play during preseason, so the successes and failures must be taken with a grain of salt.

Inefficiency throughout the preseason is alarming. In searching for a potential solution, I find it more valuable to assess what is not out there consistently than what is. For me, that would be a 3 forward and 2 defender set up. While most teams will run 4 forwards and 1 defender out on the man advantage, I think the Hurricanes could actually benefit from dipping further into their talented pool of defenders.

My idea for each of the Hurricanes’ power play units is predicated on the importance of the connection between defender and forward, both on their off hand. We also have the personnel to be advantageous with cross ice passing.

There is a clear PP1 and PP2, but we’ll call them by the key player names for now. One of the units would be the Dougie HamiltonAndrei Svechnikov line. The other unit would be the Jake GardinerMartin Necas line.

In the spirit of keeping things simple, the Hamilton – Svechnikov tandem would be accompanied by Sebastian Aho, Teuvo Teravainen, and Jaccob Slavin. There is no sense in overthinking here. Put the best overall forwards with the best overall defenders. Make the opposition worry about both a Hamilton and Svechnikov one-timer. Make them fear the Finns’ presence, too.

The Gardiner – Necas line is the same in theory. When he’s not throwing pinpoint saucer passes, Necas can occasionally shoot from the left circle like he did in Charlotte. Gardiner will get pucks toward the net from the point. The complimenting players would be Erik Haula, Ryan Dzingel, and Brett Pesce.

What excites me here is the speed potential. If this isn’t the fastest line in the league, they’re darn close. Haula and Necas have shown chemistry early on, and that could be exciting if Haula comes close to his 29 goals posted in his last full season. Dzingel potted 26 last season, too. With that kind of finishing prowess, Necas will have a field day threading passes knowing they’ll be on net quickly.

I include Pesce because he adds poise and an extra right shot. A composed and steady player like Pesce could balance a unit with two freewheeling playmakers in Gardiner and Necas. As last season wore on, he grew increasingly comfortable with his offensive upside and used his silent wrist shot, another sneaky power play weapon. He’s quietly talented. Here’s an offensive flash of Pesce taking ankles last Sunday. The guy had a family, man.

What we have for a potential power play solution is one blueprint. We use more of our talented defensemen because they’ve proven capable in all three zones. We dropped Aho and Teravainen on to the penalty kill last season based on this logic. In theory, we could try the same with Slavin, Pesce, and the power play. Each unit has it’s own quirks, though.

What I mean by “quirk” when referencing the Hamilton – Svechnikov unit is that the goal is to simply overpower the opposition with our most gifted players. The combined hockey IQ and creativity of this unit is a lot of fun to ponder. The heavy shots that compliment it don’t hurt either.

Carolina Hurricanes
Carolina Hurricanes /

Carolina Hurricanes

The Gardiner – Necas unit offers a ton of speed and two 25+ goal scorers. The potential is there for plain one timers, cross ice setups, and silent wrist shots from the point. I like to call the one unit fearsome and this unit quick. But, both have the same basic structure.

Honorable mentions go out to Nino Niederreiter and Lucas Wallmark. It feels strange to not include Nino’s shot and board play on a unit, but that’s the price of dipping into your uniquely deep defense pool. I really like Wallmark, too. Nearly every aspect of his game is underrated, and a quarter of his points last season (28) came on the power play. I wouldn’t be opposed to him getting a look.

I understand that this won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. A 3 forward, 2 defender setup is pretty obsolete. There’s also the fact that this approach is undoubtedly top-heavy.  When you watch the team put up a 9.6% conversion rate in the postseason, and then they follow it up with 8% efficiency the following preseason, you start to think way outside the box.

Then again, the Carolina Hurricanes rolled a basketball hoop on to the ice last season. So, there might not be an idea deemed too crazy. Especially if it might result in power play consistency.

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Question for CC Readers: If it were up to you, what would you change about the Carolina Hurricanes power play?