Power play: Who should line up on Flames’ PP1 and PP2 units?

Oct 11, 2023; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Winnipeg Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck (37) guards his net as Calgary Flames right wing Matt Coronato (27) controls the puck during the second period at Scotiabank Saddledome. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 11, 2023; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Winnipeg Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck (37) guards his net as Calgary Flames right wing Matt Coronato (27) controls the puck during the second period at Scotiabank Saddledome. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports /

Through four games, the Calgary Flames’ power play has scored three times on 16 opportunities (18.8%). While the sample size is small, we can reference Marc Savard’s personnel changes on each of the units as a sign that the man-advantage output isn’t quite where he and Ryan Huska would like it. On the other hand, the PK has been very good – 93.3% (100% net, meaning the Flames have scored short-handed).

Last season, the Flames wrapped up with the 19th best power play in the league at 19.8% (17.5% net). If they don’t get the units clicking, they’re on pace to finish in the same middle-to-bottom tier of NHL power plays. As we wrote in our season preview content, finishing the a better power play than last season is one of the keys for a Flames playoff berth in 2024. As a method to win tight games late, get guys like Huberdeau and Lindholm on the scoresheet almost every night, and build confidence among the players, staff, and fan base, the power play has to be better this season.

The setup and approach to the man advantage has been noticeably different on the ice: quicker puck and player movement and an overall more dynamic looking power play. Since it’s early, changing the PP system probably doesn’t make sense, but experimenting with personnel is probably appropriate.

Here are the Calgary Flames current power play units (last deployed in Buffalo on October 19, 2023 per Daily Faceoff):

Current Flames power play units

Unit 1

Ruzicka – Kadri – Lindholm – Andersson – Huberdeau

Unit 2

Dubé – Backlund – Coronato – Hanifin – Mangiapane

Immediately, I see four names that probably aren’t where they should be:

  • Matt Coronato – With an elite release, Coronato should be an anchor on PP1. He should be there every single night. As the rookie adjusts to a full NHL schedule, he’s going to experience all sorts of new challenges. Giving him consistent power play time will provide confidence, a key underpinning of proper player development. Even on nights when Coronato is struggling defensively, feeling the lag of a long season, or not getting first line minutes, tossing him over the boards to rip shots on the power play can do no harm. He brings a shot like no one else and could be used as an off-wing one-timer option. Coronato is also able to read the ice well and distribute at an NHL level.
  • Nazem Kadri – While one could argue that Naz needs some confidence as well and that PP1 would be a great way to build that in him, I don’t see any reason to keep him on the first unit right now, especially when Coronato should probably be there. He hasn’t been able to hit the net in his recent opportunities, so maybe it’s time to bump him down to PP2.
  • Dillon Dubé – I like Dillon Dubé. He’s fast, fit, tenacious, and is still reaching his ceiling. But he’s not a power play guy.
  • Mikael Backlund – A fantastic choice for captain, a great third liner, and a superior two-way centreman who makes everyone around him better, Michael Backlund is a solid special teams guy. Unfortunately, I think the special team that needs him most is the penalty kill and not the power play. Not that a player can’t be on both PP1 and PK1 (I see you, Elias), but it might be time to look elsewhere for secondary scoring on the power play.

NOTE: Shortly after publishing this article, the Flames deployed a PP1 with Sharangovich in Kadri’s place, who was serving a five-minute major for fighting.

Suggested Flames power play units

There are also some players who aren’t on either unit who could benefit from power play time, while contributing to a more successful Calgary Flames PP:

  • Yegor Sharangovich – Like Coronato, Sharangovich has a quick release that has the potential to be lethal on the power play. He doesn’t need to be Kyle Connor or Steven Stamkos, but Sharangovich can definitely shoot and we should probably find out where he fits.
  • MacKenzie Weegar – In Weegar’s case, his being kept off the power play may be more of a function of the 4F + 1D formula being used on both units. Hanifin has also been pretty dang good to start the year, so I get the idea of carrying 55’s momentum onto the PP. With that being said, Weegar has an offensive ceiling he hasn’t yet reached in Calgary, he ended last season playing well, and had a great World Championships tournament with time on Team Canada’s power play in the summer. Moving to a 3F + 2D on the second unit could create some space for 52.
  • Walker Duehr – Duehr is good at scoring goals and the point of the power play is to score goals, so why not give the fourth liner, who’s been buzzing lately, a chance to score some goals on the man advantage?

Based on the analysis above, I’m left with power play units that look like this:

Unit 1

Coronato – Lindholm – Ruzicka – Andersson – Huberdeau

Unit 2

Mangiapane – Kadri – Sharangovich – Weegar/Duehr – Hanifin

Who would you like to see on the deployed when the Flames have the man advantage?

Related Story. Yegor Sharangovich needs to find a fit in the Calgary Flames lineup. light