The good news for the Montreal Canadiens is they finally scored a power-play goal on Monday night, putting their season totals at one goal in 13 man-advantage opportunities.
The bad news is the goal came in overtime, meaning they were playing with an abundance of open ice due to the reduced number of players on the ice. The goal will help the Canadiens’ psyche heading into their next game, but it’s certainly not a situation that will commonly arise throughout the season.
However, there is a potential solution for the power play, particularly on the back end.
First, we must identify the issue holding the Canadiens back.
Montreal sits at 25th in shots attempts per 60 on the power play, with just 85. Florida leads the league with 153, almost double. They’re 23rd when it comes to generating high-danger chances, which is slightly better than their shooting rate, but the Rangers, for example, produce almost three times more quality chances on the power play.
Simply put, the Canadiens don’t shoot often enough and they aren’t taking many shots from areas that are conducive to scoring.
A quick look at some of the recent games confirms the theory: power play shots are few and far between.
As it stands, Chris Wideman is the only defenceman that has taken a shot on the power play, and he’s only managed to get the puck on the net once in 13:31 of ice time.
The likely reason for the lack of shots from the point is the Canadiens’ system with the man advantage, which can be summed up with five simple words: get the puck to Caufield.
On paper, it’s a wise strategy. Caufield is one of the best shooters in the league and if he has extra time and space, his shot becomes even more deadly. But much like the former power play strategy (get the puck to Shea Weber), it’s a very predictable system with little to no variance, which makes it quite easy to shut down.
If the Canadiens are to increase their shot totals, they would be wise to give rookie Jordan Harris an audition on the man advantage.
He’s quickly shown he knows how to get pucks on the net, as evidenced by his current 5v5 shot rate, which leads all Montreal Canadiens players.
As you can see, Harris has taken more shots than even Caufield this season, owing to his mobility and anticipation at the blue line.
If Harris can get pucks through traffic at 5v5 in the NHL, it stands to believe he can do the same on the power play, where time and space are more abundant, as he did when he played for Northeastern University in the NCAA.
It’s worth noting in 2020-21, Harris scored 4 power play goals and added 7 assists in just 19 games.
Habs prospect Jordan Harris scores in double overtime to win the Beanpot for Northeastern pic.twitter.com/qdOB4o0pva
— Brady Trettenero (@BradyTrett) February 11, 2020
Harris wasn’t just getting pucks to the net, he was opening up passing lanes as well as rebound opportunities for his teammates. It created a sort of controlled chaos, with players jumping on opportunities and defenders struggling to predict where the puck will end up.
There’s certainly a risk factor using a rookie as a power play quarterback, but given the Canadiens have used forward Mike Hoffman, among others, as the last man back, trusting Harris wouldn’t take a significant leap of faith from the head coach.
Martin St-Louis has shown he has no issue trusting rookies in crucial situations, as we saw when he started Kaiden Guhle against Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Unlike Wideman, Jordan Harris may not have much professional experience in this particular situation, but he has the exact type of skill set the Canadiens require to improve the quantity and quality of scoring chances they generate on the power play.
(Statistics via NaturalStatTrick)