Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
The beauty of hockey is that you never know when the next goal might come. It's always a bit of a mystery.
Well, not all the time.
A lot of that mystery goes out the window when a team gets a power play.
Think of it like Shaggy and Scooby unmasking the villain at the end of the episode ("And I would have gotten away with it, if it hadn't been for you meddling kids!").
If you take the time to add it all up (don't worry, I already did the math), 24.3 percent of the 2,282 goals scored in the NHL this season have come on the man advantage.
Of course, not every power play results in a goal. In fact, 81.5 percent of the 3,008 power-play opportunities in the NHL this season have been unsuccessful. But the 18.5 percent of power plays that have ended with goals are more than enough to get our attention.
So, who's been doing the most damage with the extra man?
As usual, this issue has layers. If we're going strictly by percentages, the Ducks have been the NHL's most efficient power-play team in 2013 (25 percent success rate). Despite its high conversion rate, Anaheim ranks just 10th in power-play goals (20 in 27 games). That's because they've drawn fewer power-play opportunities than every club in the league except Boston (80 power play chances for the Ducks, 78 for the Bruins).
What we're looking for is the perfect combination of efficiency and opportunity. The Penguins and Islanders embody the best of both worlds.
Pittsburgh is tied with Philadelphia for the most power-play goals in hockey (27 apiece), thanks in large part to the trio of Sidney Crosby (league-leading 13 assists on the man advantage), James Neal (tied for the NHL lead with eight power-play goals) and Chris Kunitz (8G, 4A against teams that are at least a man down).
As formidable as the Pens' power play has been, New York's unit has been just as frightening for opposing goaltenders. John Tavares ranks third in the league in power-play points (15), while Matt Moulson has done the majority of his scoring this season with an extra skater (seven goals on the man advantage, four at even strength).
If you're looking for a more under-the-radar power-play unit, the Canadiens have you covered. Hockey's winningest franchise has been rewarded with 128 power-play opportunities in 2013. That's more than any other team in the league (Philadelphia ranks second with 120 power-play chances).
Generally, forwards are the ones scoring on power plays, but in this case a pair of blueliners deserve most of the credit for Montreal's success. The defensive pairing of Andrei Markov (five goals, 11 assists) and P.K. Subban (five goals, ten helpers) has produced 31 points on the power play this season. Only five other defensemen in the NHL have totaled 10-or-more points on the power play (Niklas Kronwall, Dion Phaneuf, Justin Schultz, Kimmo Timonen and Dennis Wideman).
Yes, it's been a bit of a down year for the Capitals (12-15-1 after finishing seventh in the East in 2011-12). Hardships aside, this group can rack up power-play goals with the best of them. Seeing Alex Ovechkin among the league leaders in this statistic shouldn't come as a surprise (seven of his 11 goals have come on the man advantage), but did you know that Mike Ribeiro is tied for the league-lead in power play scoring (16 points in 28 games)?
Finding out who's good on the power play is just one piece of the puzzle. Even the Crosby/Neal/Kunitz line would have trouble scoring against Boston's penalty kill (allowing goals on just seven percent of shorthanded situations). On the flip side, the Panthers fold like Origami when one of their players goes in the penalty box (killing just 73 percent of penalties this season).
Fantasy owners can process this information in a variety of ways. Sure, the Panthers give out power-play goals like candy on Halloween, but they don't commit many penalties in the first place (318 penalty minutes are the ninth fewest in the NHL). In that same vein, the Flyers almost always have somebody in the box (their 479 penalty minutes lead the league), yet they're actually pretty good at stopping the power play (84 percent penalty kill is seventh best).
Again, it's best to find some middle ground. The Avalanche are pretty weak on the penalty kill (eighth worst at 79.1 percent) and they also get whistled for plenty of penalties (375 penalty minutes this season, ninth most in the NHL). Winnipeg falls under the same umbrella. They're awful at killing penalties (fourth worst at 77.3 percent) and they also can't seem to stay out of the penalty box (10th most penalty minutes).
The power play can be your best friend. Or, if your goalie is going up against the Penguins or the Islanders, it can be your worst enemy.