Personnel Decisions Have Made Minnesota's Second Power Play Unit Irrelevant

Photo Credit: Harrison Barden (USA TODAY Sports)

The Minnesota Wild couldn’t afford to repeat their historically bad start on the power play from last season. So far, so good, as they’re already miles ahead of last year through the first two games of the season.

Sure, going 1-for-6 isn’t fantastic, but it’s already a massive improvement from their 0-for-16 start last year. Even after the punchless streak was broken, Minnesota stumbled their way to a mark of 5-for-74 into early March. So when Kevin Fiala scored on a nifty pass from Mats Zuccarello in the season opener, the Wild could let out a huge, collective sigh of relief.

Head coach Dean Evason made sure the Wild focused on the power play early and often through camp. “It’s an area that is our priority, for sure,” the Wild coach explained. “It has to be better. We know that, everybody knows that, and there will be some different looks, and there’ll be some different people on it for sure.”

The first power-play unit was dominant in the preseason. Often holding the zone for a minute to a minute and a half, the line moved the puck with relative ease around the offensive zone. They’re expected to do some damage with proven scorers Kirill Kaprizov, Jared Spurgeon, Joel Eriksson Ek, Fiala, and Zuccarello.

The problem is, Evason placed almost all his eggs in one basket with the first power-play unit. As a result, the second unit has become an afterthought.

With so much star power loaded up on that first unit, it stands to reason that they’ll see the lion’s share of the minutes. They’re certainly capable of playing a full two-minute minor’s worth of power play. But what happens when they struggle or they are tired from a shift when they draw a penalty?

These things happen, which is why there should be some importance placed on the second unit. However, Minnesota didn’t put much emphasis on “scoring prowess” with theirs. In fact, Alex Goligoski and Matt Dumba have the most career power-play points of anyone in that group.

Career Power Play Points

That forward group is not part of an ideal power play set up by any stretch of the imagination.

It’s one overlooked aspect of assigning Adam Beckman and Marco Rossi to the Iowa Wild. The second unit suffers when the Wild healthy scratch Rem Pitlick. It could also certainly use a healthy Matt Boldy to distribute the puck and make plays.

Foligno isn’t the worst player to put on a second power-play unit. He provides a net-front presence and creates havoc around the net. However, he would be better suited for a penalty kill if the team wants to add special teams minutes.

As for Greenway, when he was drafted and through his time at the World Juniors, that net-front spot on the power play looked to fit him nicely. However, he hasn’t blossomed into that role at any point in the NHL. Not to mention, he doesn’t shoot at the volume that is necessary for the man advantage.

The second power-play unit hinges on the defensemen to not only quarterback but also provide all of the offense. Dumba has shown through two games that his propensity to shoot the puck is back. He’s creating offense from the blue line. But no matter how good he is, if Dumba has to do all the heavy lifting, that will not maximize his talents.

More overlooked is that if the opposition is somehow able to stymie the first unit for any reason, Evason doesn’t have the option to ice another unit with as good of a chance to score. If he needs a change-of-pace, he’s relying on north-south grinders with a lack of creativity to score important, game-changing goals. Hopefully, Boldy, Beckman, or Rossi will be called up to rescue the second unit from irrelevancy by midseason.

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Photo Credit: Harrison Barden (USA TODAY Sports)

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