Much has been made about the Penguins' poor power play. Fans have been calling for Assistant Coach Mike Yeo's head since last season. It's entirely reasonable for fans to be disenchanted with the former Sudbury Wolf's special teams strategy; after all, a team with the Penguins' talent both up front and on the blue line should never be 30th overall in their rate of power play success.
I happen to sympathize with those fans because I know that the power play is an important part of a team's overall success.
First, I have to explain a bit of number crunching I used to determine just how important power play success rate is to a team. The easiest way to do this accurately is with correlation coefficients (CC). Sorry for the math nerdgasm you're about to endure.
If you want an extremely thorough (and nearly incomprehensible) explanation, hit the link. If you want a look at the specific coefficient I'm using, it's here, but that explanation isn't a ton better. In layman's terms, correlation coefficients range between -1 and 1. A CC of 1 means that the numbers are completely directly proportional (i.e., when one goes up, the other goes up by the same proportion). A CC of -1 means that the numbers are completely indirectly proportional (i.e., when one goes up, the other goes down by the same proportion). A CC of 0 means that the numbers aren’t related whatsoever and are completely random.
At any rate, since the lockout, the points a team earns and the PP% for that team have a coefficient of about 0.53, which can only be described as "strong". Sure, correlation doesn't equal causation, but this is too strong to ignore. How strong? Check out the scatterplot:
via pghsports.wordpress.com (click for bigger image)
The relationship isn't perfect, obviously, but it's certainly there and it's obvious. Aside from teams like--ironically--the 2005-2006 Penguins, who finished with an awful 58 points yet scored on 18.99% of their power plays, bad teams generally don't score on the power play, and good teams generally do (biggest exception there being last season's Columbus team, with 92 points and a ridiculous PP% of 12.73).
This all certainly suggests that a quick way to turn the team around out of this slump would be to improve the power play. Easy, right?
More on this to come, hopefully tomorrow.