April 22, 2012

Thunder weak on power plays

As Thunder coach Kevin McClelland points out, not all power plays are created equal.

As Thunder coach Kevin McClelland points out, not all power plays are created equal.

Some can last just seconds before the team with the advantage draws a penalty of its own to even the sides. Such circumstances have befallen the Thunder on multiple occasions during the ongoing CHL playoffs.

That doesn’t make Wichita’s 5.1 percent success rate look much better, though. The Thunder has converted on 2 of 39 power-play chances, a down cycle after the hit-and-miss showing during the regular season.

The Thunder certainly doesn’t lack for scoring — Wichita is second among playoff teams in goals per game — but when presented with an edge it usually fails to capitalize.

After going without a power-play goal during the first four games of the Berry Conference finals against Texas, the Thunder broke through on Saturday when Daniel Tetrault helped Wichita toward a 2-1 overtime win. Despite the drought, Wichita leads the series 3-2 and can close it out tonight on the road.

"Percentage-wise, it’s something you don’t even want to look at," McClelland said. "It’s ugly. We’ve been getting some open looks and some opportunities, and they’re just not falling in. (Wednesday’s Game 3 loss) would have been a good chance for us to get a couple power-play goals. We had the opportunities, we just didn’t produce."

The Thunder ranked sixth during the regular season, when it fulfilled 18.7 percent of its power play tries. That area of the game never truly established itself as a strength or weakness, mostly because Wichita rarely struggled to score in any setting.

When Wichita did convert a power-play goal, it was most often due to its superior scorers and less because of creative formations. McClelland orchestrates brief practices that address power plays but don’t make them a point of emphasis.

"Just because you have a 5-on-4 doesn’t mean you quit working," McClelland said. "Sometimes I think our team has a lack of work in going to the traffic areas.

"Everything right now for our team is on the perimeter, so we have to get in the areas that you’re going to get a whack to score a goal. We want to do things the pretty way, and you can’t do that this time of year."

The Thunder, which has won seven of 10 postseason games, isn’t the only team that has shown that power-play goals aren’t always a key to success. The past two CHL champions, Bossier City and Rapid City, each ranked 9th in that category during the postseason.

Their percentages, however, were much higher than Wichita, and the Thunder is the only team remaining that can continue that trend — all of the other conference finalists have scored at least five power-play goals. Tetrault has both of Wichita’s.

"We work on it and come up with different schemes that are going to help out," McClelland said. "Right now, anything we incorporate is not getting done. It only takes one ugly one and all of a sudden things can get on a roll."

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