If you know anything about the Nashville Predators from the last few years, you know this: the power play has been abysmal.

For the last two seasons, between 2019 and 2021, the Preds’ power play ranked 25th in the league, scoring at a 17.4% rate. It was even worse the two years before that, scoring at a 17.1% rate and finishing 29th in the league between 2017 and 2019.

In other words, if you became a fan of this team during the 2017 Stanley Cup Final run, as many did, you have likely been shocked to see how bad this team can be on the power play, despite the talent and skill on the roster.

That is… until the first two months of this season.

Preds’ power play might be their best offense

Through 18 games, the Preds have scored 14 power play goals on 49 chances. That’s good for a 28.6% success rate and it ranks 3rd best in the NHL.

A top three power play? For the Nashville Predators? Is that possible?

Brandishing a top power play is not just a luxury. It’s a real weapon the Preds have used to fuel a surprising start to their 2021-22 season. Scoring with regularity on the man advantage creates momentum in a game, both by putting goals on the board and by wearing down the opponent. The Preds are 10-7-1, currently sitting in 4th place in the Central, and the power play has been a big reason why.

Perhaps the most encouraging news is that underpinnnig the goal-based success rate of the power play are shot-based metrics that show it’s not just a fluke. Here’s where the Preds rank on the power play in some key advanced stats, based on rates per sixty minutes, via Natural Stat Trick:

  • shot attempts (CF/60): 8th
  • unblocked shot attempts (FF/60): 11th
  • shots (SF/60): 4th
  • expected goals (xGF/60): 10th

They are also shooting at a 16.6% clip on the power play, good for 4th in the league. That will likely come down. But the shot rates and expected goal rates shouldn’t change, as long as the Preds keep doing what they are doing.

And what are they doing? Better puck movement and more decisive shooting.

On Monday against the Ducks, the Preds managed 17 shot attempts on their four power plays. While some components of the power play remained the same as we’ve seen over the years (e.g., Roman Josi captaining the unit at the top of the zone), the real difference is the off puck movement. No longer are guys just standing idly on the wings as other players move with the puck. Mikael Granlund, Ryan Johansen, Eeli Tolvanen, Matt Duchene, all of the most dangerous power play skaters, are active and keeping their feet moving.

Wings aren’t just staying on the boards, they are moving low to high to create space. Guys in the front of the net are creating chaos for the opposing penalty kill to deal with. And there’s more cross-ice passing, which makes the goalies move laterally.

While on the power play, effective movement without the puck makes all the difference.

In previous years, you could watch the Preds’ power play and, if they gained the zone, they’d be standing around just watching. Now they are moving the puck quickly and moving their feet with urgency.

When it comes to finishing, players like Duchene, Josi, and Granlund are shooting decisively. Philip Tomasino even has a couple goals. The playmakers are making plays and the shooters are shooting, something that the power play of old was simply not doing.

And, oh yeah… perhaps their biggest two power play threats, Filip Forsberg and Eeli Tolvanen, still have yet to get in on the action.

Once that happens? Look out.

Will the Preds’ other shoe drop?

Now the elephant in the room.

Will this continue?

If you’ve watched this team for a while, you know that good things don’t last. It would be very “nashville predators” of this team for the power play to fall off the cliff for no reason and then struggle to even get shots off, like we’ve seen for the last 4-5 years. Teams and players go through slumps, and so do power play units.

But the shot based metrics and the off-puck movement I mentioned earlier should give hope. Strategy and tactics don’t go through slumps. Effort, as long it’s there, can mitigate bad luck. And if those things remain consistent, the Preds’ power play should continue to be their best offensive threat.

If that happens, this Nashville Predators team can continue to be a lot better than we thought they’d be.

— Featured image via Christopher Hanewinckel/USA TODAY Sports —