My suspicion is that Ottawa Senators coach Cory Clouston doesn’t really think the referees in the NHL are out to get his team. I suspect he doesn’t really wonder why the Senators have gone three entire games this season without getting a power play opportunity.
I suspect he’s aware his power play is awful and it wouldn’t matter whether referees played pre-lockout “even-up” in calling penalties. And you’d have to think he knows his penalty-killing is in the top third of the league and that a good penalty kill can sap another team’s momentum sometimes. He probably also knows his team sits tied for third in the league with five shorthanded goals, too. He’s likely aware his team’s power play is 25th in the league and it wouldn’t matter if his team got a few more calls, anyway.
But that hasn’t stopped Clouston from wondering aloud why his team seems to come out on the short end of penalty calls. In true Senators fashion, it was done with extreme politeness – probably in both Canada’s official languages, too. But, nonetheless, it was done with a purpose. Instead of railing on the officials and often antagonizing them – a la Pat Quinn – Clouston instead just wondered aloud and talked about how disappointing the whole thing was.
Never mind it’s all hogwash and teams don’t have the unalienable right to get as many power plays as they do shorthanded situations. If that were the case, as indicated by the chart below, the Tampa Bay Lightning would be the only team in the league not being favored or screwed over this season.
But what Clouston did was get into the heads of those officiating his team’s games. You think from now on the referees won’t be concerned they might call a fourth game free of power plays for the Senators?
The numbers back up Clouston’s complaint, even if logic doesn’t. His team gives up more power plays than it gets because in the past couple of years the Senators have both toughened up and slowed down considerably. No longer are they a fast, lethal and dynamic group that easily gets pushed around. Now they’re more of a middle-of-the-pack group in a weak Eastern Conference that can no longer simply strap on the pads and be assured of a win. That transformation has not only made the Senators more ordinary, but it has made them more prone to taking penalties and less prone to drawing them.
And if anybody has a bone to pick with the league over this, it’s Jacques Martin of the Montreal Canadiens. Despite having a forward corps full of small, talented and fast players, the Canadiens draw by far the fewest power plays per game in the NHL and are faced with the third-most shorthanded situations per game in the league. One of the probable reasons Martin doesn’t complain is that his power play is tied for second in the league and his penalty kill is seventh.
Here’s how each team looks with respect to power play opportunities for and against per game (through games of Dec. 22). PP/G represents the number of power plays per game a team receives and TS/G is the number of times it is shorthanded per game.
Ken Campbell, author of the book Habs Heroes, is a senior writer for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog will appear Wednesdays and Fridays and his column, Campbell's Cuts, appears Mondays.
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