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Power plague

Caps' Ovechkin has more PP goals than all Jets combined

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To find the Jets' last power-play goal, you have to go back to Oct. 29 in St. Louis, where Blake Wheeler (seen skating around Alex Steen) scored.

BILL BOYCE / THE ASSOCIATED PRESS ARCHIVES Enlarge Image

To find the Jets' last power-play goal, you have to go back to Oct. 29 in St. Louis, where Blake Wheeler (seen skating around Alex Steen) scored.

It will not come as news to most Winnipeg Jets fans that the team's power play is struggling. The continuing labours of that particularly notorious unit have been well documented over the past few seasons -- and once again this year.

But what is new is the sheer depths to which the Jets power play has plummeted of late, a journey to the bottom tidily encapsulated in the following two statistics:

-- With just six goals in 68 power plays this season -- and just one in their last 44 -- the Jets were officially as of Monday morning the owners of the worst power-play in the National Hockey League, their 8.8 per cent success rate with the man advantage ranking them 30th of 30 teams;

-- Alex Ovechkin has more power-play goals than the Jets this season. Seriously. Ovechkin's seven power-play goals for the Washington Capitals are one goal better than what the entire Jets roster has produced with the man advantage.

Now, having a lousy power play doesn't necessarily doom a team to failure. The Anaheim Ducks currently have the most points in the National Hockey League despite a 26th-ranked power play only marginally better than Winnipeg's at 11.8 per cent.

But it is also probably not a coincidence that of the teams with the 10 worst power plays in the NHL, seven of 10 would be out of the playoffs if the post-season started today.

And so it would seem fair to suggest if the Jets intend to build a meaningful playoff push on the momentum they've begun to generate with three wins in the last four games, they are in all likelihood going to have to start making opponents pay for their penalties on the scoreboard, sooner rather than later.

And the Jets know it. Indeed, they know it too well -- and that might be the problem, says the head coach.

"People are losing sleep over this," Claude Noel said at MTS Centre Monday morning after a light skate in advance of travelling to Detroit, where the Jets will face the Red Wings tonight.

"What happens in cases like this -- and it's happened before, it happened last year -- is there's a lot of raw emotions," said Noel. "People really start to grip things. The more attention you bring to it, the more pressure builds and mounts. Players feel it, everybody feels it. So you have to try and balance it, while you're teaching it and showing it, and just be patient. Try to stay with it, try to keep pushing through it.

'Eventually it will go in if we just stay with our system'

-- winger Devin Setoguchi

"We're not happy with it. We recognize it, we know it, we see it, we hear about it all the time -- we're doing the best we can to try and get it on the right track."

So if that's the angst the struggles of the power play is producing behind the Jets bench, what's it like for the guys who are actually on the ice playing on that power play?

"When you get in these situations and jams, there's a lot of pressure to score. The media's all over you -- it's just all added pressure that doesn't need to be there," said forward Devin Setoguchi. "When you look in the league right now, pretty much everyone is doing the same thing when it comes to power play. And for us, we've got a lot on our mind right now and everyone is all over our case and we just need to go out there and play. If we make the plays we need to make, goals will go in for us eventually."

Setoguchi was asked if it can all be likened to a hitter in baseball mired in a slump and making things even worse for himself by gripping the bat all that much tighter.

"I think that's exactly what it is," replied Setoguchi. "We get a power play now, you're hearing from our fans before we even start. There's just added pressure that doesn't need to be there. Sure, we're 1-for-44 or whatever -- maybe next game we go 4-for-4?

'I've thought we've had some good looks and created some offence off of it -- it's just a matter of starting to put the puck in the net'

-- captain Andrew Ladd

"I pride myself on being a goal scorer. Some games they go in every game. And sometimes you go 20 games and can't buy one. For us, it's just keeping it simple. Eventually it will go in if we just stay with our system."

Jets captain Andrew Ladd says -- and his head coach agrees -- that Winnipeg's power play has actually been generating more scoring chances lately -- including on a pair of man advantages Sunday night in a 5-4 shootout win over San Jose at MTS Centre.

The problem, alas, is those chances still aren't ending up in the net.

"I've thought we've had some good looks and created some offence off of it -- it's just a matter of starting to put the puck in the net," said Ladd.

"Confidence is a big thing, especially in the power play," Ladd continued. "All it takes is a little bit of success and you find for whatever reason the pucks start going in and you start making the plays you need to make."

paul.wiecek@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 12, 2013 C1

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