Best Power Plays in NHL History
If there’s a more action-packed, white-knuckled, drop-dead important two minutes in pro team sports than the power play in hockey, then so help us, we’ll argue until we get a 10-minute misconduct penalty.
Think about it, people. In no other major league is a piece taken off the game board to reward/penalize the participants for a rules infraction. Suddenly, dramatically, the shackles are removed from some of the most skilled athletes in the world. They now have all that wide-open space around them.
There are more tape-to-tape passes. More unimpeded shots at the net. More gritty, in-your-face shot blocks. More believe-it-or-not saves. More highlight-reel goals. Pretty much more of everything except play stoppages. No icing calls, you know.
Better yet, because nothing can change the momentum of a game more than a power play, successful or otherwise, the stakes are higher. Way higher. Exclude empty-netters, and about 70 percent of all NHL games are decided by a single goal. Win the special teams matchup, you win the game. Yeah, it’s that simple.
So who are the best power-play combos of all time? Here’s our list with a twist. We selected the best version in the history of each franchise and ranked them all from worst to best. Now let’s have at it.
31. 2019-20 Vegas Golden Knights
Note: The criteria was a mix of goals scored, conversion percentage, overall talent and postseason success. Because the nature of power plays differed from era to era based on rules and strategy (power-play percentages were not tracked before the 1963-64 season), we also considered how much teams dominated in a season to give the numbers better context.
Power-play goals/opportunities: 42/191
Power-play percentage: 21.9
Primary unit: Forwards Jonathan Marchessault, Max Pacioretty, Paul Stastny and Mark Stone, defenseman Shea Theodore
Coach: Gerard Gallant, Peter DeBoer
Season finish: 39-24-8 (first in Pacific Division, regular season suspended)
Bottom Line: 2019-20 Vegas Golden Knights
This power-play unit is the best in the long and illustrious history of this expansion franchise.
The original 2017-18 edition is a close second, though.
30. 2017-18 Minnesota Wild
Power-play goals/opportunities: 49/240
Power-play percentage: 20.4
Primary unit: Forwards Mikael Granlund, Mikko Koivu, Nino Niederreiter and Zach Parise, defenseman Ryan Suter
Coach: Bruce Boudreau
Season finish: 45-26-11 (third in Central Division, lost in first round)
Bottom Line: 2017-18 Minnesota Wild
There were no filthy snipers here. Rather, this group relied more on puck movement and strong play at the blue line.
Forwards Charlie Coyle and Eric Staal and defenseman Mathew Dumba offered strength in numbers.
29. 2000-01 Carolina Hurricanes
Power-play goals/opportunities: 72/382
Power-play percentage: 18.8
Primary unit: Forwards Ron Francis, Sami Kapanen, Jeff O’Neill and Shane Willis, defenseman Sandis Ozolinsh
Coach: Paul Maurice
Season finish: 38-32-9-3 (second in Southeast Division, lost in quarterfinals)
Bottom Line: 2000-01 Carolina Hurricanes
One has to go back to their Hartford Whalers days to find a group that scored at a 20-percent clip over a full season. Cue the silly good fight song "Brass Bonanza" here — Da, da, da, da, da-da, da, da.)
We chose this team because they exceeded the league norm by a healthy clip. Da-da, da, da.
28. 2014-15 Columbus Blue Jackets
Power-play goals/opportunities: 53/244
Power-play percentage: 21.7
Primary unit: Forwards Nick Foligno, Scott Hartnell and Ryan Johansen, defenseman Jack Johnson and James Wisniewski
Coach: John Tortorella
Season finish: 42-35-5 (fifth in Metropolitan Division, did not qualify for playoffs)
Bottom Line: 2014-15 Columbus Blue Jackets
Ever recall "Blue Jackets" and "all-time power play" in the same sentence? It's not something you hear too often. OK, never.
Three of the top six scorers were defensemen here.
Sorry, Ogie, that’s all we got.
27. 2011-12 Nashville Predators
Power-play goals/opportunities: 54/250
Power-play percentage: 21.6
Primary unit: Forwards Martin Erat, Patric Hornqvist and David Legwand, defensemen Ryan Suter and Shea Weber
Coach: Barry Trotz
Season finish: 48-26-8 (second in Central Division, lost in conference semifinals)
Bottom Line: 2011-12 Nashville Predators
Gritty, not pretty. That described a group who got it done despite a lack of gifted scorers up front. Martin Erat led the way with nine goals.
Instead, the offense was triggered at the back end, where Ryan Suter and Shea Weber formed the best tandem in the league.
There was no more effective spit disturber than Patric Hornqvist in front of the net.
26. 1945-46 Chicago Blackhawks
Power-play goals/opportunities: 38/NA
Power-play percentage: NA
Primary unit: Forwards Doug Bentley, Max Bentley, Bill Mosienko and Clint Smith, defenseman George Allen
Coach: Johnny Gottselig
Season finish: 23-20-7 (finished third in NHL, lost in semifinals)
Bottom Line: 1945-46 Chicago Blackhawks
This unheralded crew excelled on the power play.
That may come as a surprise, but it shouldn’t be a total shock.
All except George Allen are in the Hall of Fame today.
25. 1950-51 Toronto Maple Leafs
Power-play goals/opportunities: 49/NA
Power-play percentage: NA
Primary unit: Forwards Max Bentley, Ted Kennedy, Todd Sloan and Sid Smith, defenseman Jimmy Thomson
Coach: Joe Primeau
Season finish: 41-16–13 (finished second in NHL, won Stanley Cup)
Bottom Line: 1950-51 Toronto Maple Leafs
Strangely, of the Original Six franchises, this one is least known for its electric power-play units.
But these Stanley Cup champs were the rare exceptions with their remarkable savvy and quickness.
Max Bentley had a career season (10 goals, 19 assists) with the extra man, while Sid Smith scored a league-high 12 times.
24. 2018-19 Winnipeg Jets
Power-play goals/opportunities: 62/250
Power-play percentage: 24.8
Primary unit: Forwards Kyle Connor, Patrick Laine, Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler, defensemen Dustin Byfuglien
Coach: Paul Maurice
Season finish: 47-30-5 (finished second in Central Division, lost in first round)
Bottom Line: 2018-19 Winnipeg Jets
This resilient bunch was able to dominate without their big shooter (Dustin Byfuglien) for half the season.
Josh Morrissey, Tyler Myers and Jacob Trouba filled in admirably at the blue line.
Overall, 13 players scored multiple points with the extra attacker.
23. 1987-88 Winnipeg Jets (Phoenix Coyotes)
Power-play goals/opportunities: 110/432
Power-play percentage: 25.5
Primary unit: Forwards Dale Hawerchuk, Paul MacLean and Andrew McBain, defensemen Randy Carlyle and Dave Ellett
Coach: Dan Maloney
Season finish: 33-36-11 (finished third in Smythe Division, lost in division semifinals)
Bottom Line: 1987-88 Winnipeg Jets (Phoenix Coyotes)
Seems that the Coyotes left their power play north of the border when they pulled up stakes three decades ago.
For sheer volume, this team is an all-timer. The Jets' 110 goals in the golden age of power plays ranked No. 2 in league history at the time. Paul MacLean (22), Dale Hawerchuk (20) and Andrew McBain (20) gave this group not one, not two but three 20-goal scorers.
Now explain how this team didn’t win even half its games
22. 2003-04 Ottawa Senators
Power-play goals/opportunities: 80/370
Power-play percentage: 21.6
Primary unit: Forwards Daniel Alfredsson, Radek Bonk, Martin Havlet and Marian Hossa, defenseman Wade Redden
Coach: Jacques Martin
Season finish: 43-23-10-6 (finished third in Northeast Division, lost in conference quarterfinals)
Bottom Line: 2003-04 Ottawa Senators
Depth? A 26-year-old named Zdeno Chara manned the point with the second unit.
Marian Hossa (14) paced seven players with at least five power-play goals.
Meanwhile, Daniel Alfredsson had the most assists (29) in the league.
21. 2010-11 San Jose Sharks
Power-play goals/opportunities: 68/290
Power-play percentage: 23.4
Primary unit: Forwards Dany Heatley, Patrick Marleau, Joe Pavelski, Joe Thornton, defenseman Dan Boyle
Coach: Todd McLellan
Season finish: 48-25-9 (finished first in Pacific Division, lost in conference finals)
Bottom Line: 2010-11 San Jose Sharks
Every elite power play had at least one great passer, and Joe Thornton (24 assists) certainly qualified here.
Joe Pavelski had no peer in the slot area, while Dany Heatley and Patrick Marleau could snipe with the best of ‘em.
Forward Logan Couture gave this well-rounded unit a fourth player with 10-or-more power-play goals.
20. 1969-70 St. Louis Blues
Power-play goals/opportunities: 72/287
Power-play percentage: 25.1
Primary unit: Forwards Red Berenson, Phil Goyette, Ab McDonald, Frank St. Marseille, defenseman Barclay Plager
Coach: Scotty Bowman
Season finish: 37-27-12 (finished first in West Division, lost Stanley Cup Final)
Bottom Line: 1969-70 St. Louis Blues
Power-play efficiency began to take off in the late 1960s around the league, and in the Blues' third season of existence, they were quick to join the party.
Natural center men Red Berenson and Phil Goyette were the linchpins of a juggernaut that featured four goal scorers in double figures.
19. 1997-98 Dallas Stars
Power-play goals/opportunities: 77/385
Power-play percentage: 20.0
Primary unit: Forwards Jamie Langenbrunner, Mike Modano and Joe Nieuwendyk, defensemen Darryl Sydor and Sergei Zubov
Coach: Ken Hitchcock
Season finish: 49-22-11 (finished first in Central Division, lost in conference finals)
Bottom Line: 1997-98 Dallas Stars
In a season that had the lowest power-play success rate (a mere 15.1 percent) of the post-war era, this bunch was far ahead of the curve.
The havoc started at the blue line, where Darryl Sydor (28 points) and Sergei Zubov (34) had phenomenal seasons.
Future Hall of Famers Mike Modano (19 in 52 games) and Joe Nieuwendyk (29) did most of the rest.
18. 2000-01 Colorado Avalanche
Power-play goals/opportunities: 80/363
Power-play percentage: 22.0
Primary unit: Forwards Chris Drury, Peter Forsberg, Milan Hejduk and Joe Sakic, defenseman Ray Bourque
Coach: Bob Hartley
Season finish: 52-16-10-4 (finished first in Northwest Division, won Stanley Cup)
Bottom Line: 2000-01 Colorado Avalanche
Here’s Exhibit A of the importance of the manpower advantage: This franchise won its two Stanley Cups with its two most lethal power-play units.
This deep group featured a half-dozen players with seven power-play goals or more. The acquisition of Ray Bourque proved to be the final piece to the puzzle.
At 40, he ranked second in assists (31) at the position.
17. 2010-11 Vancouver Canucks
Power-play goals-opportunities: 72/296
Power-play percentage: 24.3
Primary unit: Forwards Ryan Kesler, Mikael Samuelsson, Daniel Sedin and Henrik Sedin, defenseman Christian Ehrhoff
Coach: Alain Vigneault
Season finish: 54-19-9 (finished first in Northwest Division, lost Stanley Cup Final)
Bottom Line: 2010-11 Vancouver Canucks
The Sedin Show featured a cast that was deeper than Lost Lagoon, it seemed.
No fewer than 13 others potted at least one goal with the manpower advantage. Two defensemen frequently manned the points, where Alexander Edler and Dan Hamhuis also made contributions.
But they all fell one game short of the ultimate prize.
16. 2018-19 Florida Panthers
Power-play goals/opportunities: 72/269
Power-play percentage: 26.8
Primary unit: Forwards Aleksander Barkov, Evgenii Dadonov, Mike Hoffman and Jonathan Huberdeau, defenseman Keith Yandle
Coach: Bob Boughner
Season finish: 36-32-14 (finished fifth in Atlantic Division, did not qualify for playoffs)
Bottom Line: 2018-19 Florida Panthers
Evgenii Dadonov, Mike Hoffman and Jonathan Huberdeau were lethal goal scorers.
When healthy, Vincent Trochek joined Aleksander Barkov as a second natural center to handle the puck and take face-offs.
If not for 13 shorthanded goals allowed, this well-rounded bunch would rank a bit higher.
15. 1974-75 Buffalo Sabres
Power-play goals/opportunities: 83/303
Power-play percentage: 27.4
Primary unit: Forwards Rick Martin, Gilbert Perreault, Rene Robert and Fred Stanfield, defenseman Jerry Korab
Coach: Floyd Smith
Season finish: 49-16-5 (finished first in Adams Division, lost Stanley Cup Final)
Bottom Line: 1974-75 Buffalo Sabres
This group was the main reason for the first division title and Stanley Cup Final appearance in Sabres franchise history.
The French Connection (Martin-Perreault-Robert) accounted for 47 power-play goals alone.
Acquired in a midseason trade, Fred Stanfield served as an experienced upgrade at the point.
14. 2000-01 New Jersey Devils
Power-play goals/opportunities: 71/310
Power-play percentage: 22.9
Primary unit: Forwards Jason Arnott, Patrik Elias, Scott Gomez and Alexander Mogilny, defenseman Brian Rafalski
Coach: Larry Robinson
Season finish: 48-19-12-3 (finished first in Atlantic Division, lost Stanley Cup Final)
Bottom Line: 2000-01 New Jersey Devils
This extraordinarily deep group scored the eighth-most power-play goals in the league despite the fewest chances.
There was an ideal mixture of puck-movers, setup men and bangers here — Scott Gomez, Brian Rafalski, Scott Niedermayer and Scott Stevens at the points, Patrick Elias, Alexander Mogilny, Petr Sykorda and Seregi Brylin at the flanks and Jason Arnott, Randy McKay and Bobby Holik in front of the net.
13. 1998-99 Mighty Ducks of Anaheim
Power-play goals-opportunities: 83/378
Power-play percentage: 22.0
Primary unit: Forwards Paul Kariya, Marty McInnis, Steve Rucchin and Teemu Selanne, defenseman Fredrik Olausson
Coach: Craig Hartsburg
Season finish: 35-34-13 (finished third in Pacific Division, lost in conference quarterfinals)
Bottom Line: 1998-99 Mighty Ducks of Anaheim
In a season that produced the third-lowest power-play conversion rate of the expansion era, these Ducks qualified as mighty.
Teemu Selanne (league-best 25 goals) led four players in double figures, while the 32-year-old Fredrik Olausson produced 32 assists, tops among defensemen.
12. 1976-77 Los Angeles Kings
Power-play goals/opportunities: 68/253
Power-play percentage: 26.9
Primary unit: Forwards Marcel Dionne, Butch Goring, Mike Murphy and Tom Williams, defenseman Gary Sergeant
Coach: Bob Pulford
Season finish: 34-31-15 (finished second in Norris Division, lost in quarterfinals)
Bottom Line: 1976-77 Los Angeles Kings
Marcel Dionne was a Swengali on skates as the cornerstone of the most lethal power play in the league.
He finished with the most shots on goal (league-high 376) and third-most power-play points (46) in his career.
Overall, Tom Williams (15), Dionne (14) and Butch Goring (13) ranked third, fourth and sixth in power-play goals, respectively.
11. 2009-10 Washington Capitals
Power-play goals/opportunities: 79/313
Power-play percentage: 25.2
Primary unit: Forwards Nicklas Backstrom, Brooks Laich, Alex Ovechkin and Alexander Semin, defenseman Mike Green
Coach: Bruce Boudreau
Season finish: 54-15-13 (finished first in Southeast Division, lost in conference quarterfinals)
Bottom Line: 2009-10 Washington Capitals
Percentage-wise, the 2012-13 version was better, but that was in a discombobulated 48-game season.
Not only did this Capitals team also lead the league in power-play goals, but it put up a franchise-record 121 points along the way.
Alex Ovechkin (13-23), Nicklas Backstrom (11-26) and Mike Green (10-14) each had at least 10 goals and 20 assists with the manpower edge.
10. 2019-20 Edmonton Oilers
Power-play goals/opportunities: 59/200
Power-play percentage: 29.5
Primary unit: Forwards Leon Draissaitl, Connor McDavid, James Neal and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, defenseman Oscar Klefbom
Coach: Dave Tippett
Season finish: 37-25-9 (finished second in Pacific Division, regular season suspended)
Bottom Line: 2019-20 Edmonton Oilers
In their peak 1982-83 season, the Wayne Gretzky Oilers had a 29.3 percent success rate, but the league norm was a robust 22.6 percent.
The McSaitl Oilers were even better in the 2020 season and came close to becoming only the fifth team to reach the big three-oh in league history.
Ten shorthanded goals took them down a few pegs.
9. 1987-88 Calgary Flames
Power-play goals/opportunities: 109/383
Power-play percentage: 28.5
Primary unit: Forwards Mike Bullard, Joe Mullen and Joe Nieuwendyk, defensemen Gary Suter and Al MacInnis
Coach: Terry Crisp
Season finish: 48-23-9 (finished first in Smythe Division, lost in division finals)
Bottom Line: 1987-88 Calgary Flames
Has there ever been better defensive partners than Gary Suter and Al MacInnis, who combined for a crazy 89 points with the extra man? Discuss.
Joe Nieuwendyk was the equivalent of a one-man power play himself. His 31 power-play goals were second to Tim Kerr in league history at the time. Oh, and we would be remiss not to mention that Hakan Loob lit the lamp nine times, too.
Hey, we love to say Hakan Loob. You got a problem with that?
8. 2018-19 Tampa Bay Lightning
Power-play goals/opportunities: 74/262
Power-play percentage: 28.2
Primary unit: Forwards Nikita Kucherov, J.T. Miller, Brayden Point and Steven Stamkos, defenseman Victor Hedman
Coach: Jon Cooper
Season finish: 62-16-4 (first in Atlantic Division, lost in first round)
Bottom Line: 2018-19 Tampa Bay Lightning
This ridiculously talented five was so dang dominant, few crumbs were left for the rest. They accounted for all of the team's 74 power-play goals (which led the league) except 14.
Moreover, opponents scored a mere three shorthanded goals.
Then the playoffs began.
7. 1973-74 New York Rangers
Power-play goals/opportunities: 66/222
Power-play percentage: 29.7
Primary unit: Forwards Rod Gilbert, Vic Hadfield, Jean Ratelle and Bobby Rousseau, defenseman Brad Park
Coach: Larry Popein, Emile Francis
Season finish: 40-24–14 (finished third in East Division, lost in semifinals)
Bottom Line: 1973-74 New York Rangers
No magic formula here.
Start with the GAG (Goal A Game) line, among the most potent of its time. Insert Best Defenseman Not Named Bobby Orr at one point. Complement with howitzer shot at the other.
Rinse, score, repeat.
6. 1972-73 Philadelphia Flyers
Power-play goals/opportunities: 74/257
Power-play percentage: 28.8
Primary unit: Forwards Bobby Clarke, Gary Dornhoeffer, Bill Flett and Rick MacLeish, defenseman Tom Bladon
Coach: Fred Shero
Season finish: 37-30-11 (finished second in West Division, lost in semifinals)
Bottom Line: 1972-73 Philadelphia Flyers
This marked the season that the Broad Street Bullies began to make their black-and-blue marks. Yet this group thrived on more than physicality alone.
Forwards Bill Barber, Ross Lonsberry and Simon Nolet and defensemen Andre Dupont and Jean Potvin provided strength in numbers.
5. 1995-96 Pittsburgh Penguins
Power-play goals-opportunities: 109/420
Power-play percentage: 26.0
Primary unit: Forwards Ron Francis, Jaromir Jagr, Mario Lemieux, Tomas Sandstrom, defenseman Sergei Zubov
Coach: Eddie Johnston
Season finish: 49-29-4 (finished first in Northeast Division, lost in conference finals)
Bottom Line: 1995-96 Pittsburgh Penguins
Super Mario put up 31 goals and 48 assists. On power plays alone, people! And Mario Jr. had 20 and 31, respectively. (That would be Jaromir Jagr, of course.)
Add accomplished point men Ron Francis and Sergei Zubov to the mix, and this team deserved to be penalized for too many Hall of Famers on the ice.
4. 1952-53 Detroit Red Wings
Power-play goals/opportunities: 52/NA
Power-play percentage: NA
Primary unit: Forwards Alex Delvecchio, Gordie Howe and Ted Lindsay, defensemen Red Kelly and Marcel Pronovost
Coach: Tommy Ivan
Season finish: 36-16–18 (finished first in NHL, lost in semifinals)
Bottom Line: 1952-53 Detroit Red Wings
The Canadiens provided the impetus for a change in power-play rules not long afterward — more about that later — but this Hall Fame lineup paved the way for it.
At 20, Alex Delvecchio made a seamless transition to the production line, where Ted Lindsay and Gordie Howe were still very much in their primes. Meanwhile, the 22-year-old Marcel Pronovost provided some fresh legs for Red Kelly to work with on the back line.
Four others scored three or more goals with the extra attacker.
3. 1978-79 New York Islanders
Power-play goals/opportunities: 81/260
Power-play percentage: 31.2
Primary unit: Forwards Mike Bossy, Clark Gillies, and Bryan Trottier, defensemen Stefan Persson and Denis Potvin
Coach: Al Arbour
Season finish: 51-15-14 (first in Patrick Division, lost in semifinals)
Bottom Line: 1978-79 New York Islanders
The Isles set the current standard for power-play success in the 1970s decade, when they converted at least 30 percent of their chances three times, the first to do so in league history.
The percentages say the 1975-76 edition was the best of the bunch, but sorry, unh-unh, we’ll take a pass, Bubba.
We gotta have this one. You know, the one with Bossy and his 27 snipes at the right side.
2. 1969-70 Boston Bruins
Power-play goals-opportunities: 81/279
Power-play percentage: 29.0
Primary unit: Forwards John Bucyk, Phil Esposito, Ken Hodge, Fred Stanfield, defenseman Bobby Orr
Coach: Harry Sinden
Season finish: 40-17-19 (finished second in East Division, won Stanley Cup)
Bottom Line: 1969-70 Boston Bruins
In the final seven full seasons that Bobby Orr manned the right point, the B’s ranked first or second in power-play goals in the league each time.
We settled on this group for four reasons.
1. Their combination of skill, size and savvy was off the charts.
2. They converted at the highest rate of any team in the Orr era.
3. Their power-play percentage remains on the short list of best ever.
4. They hoisted the big prize when all was said and done.
1. 1955-56 Montreal Canadiens
Power-play goals/opportunities: 66/NA
Power-play percentage: NA
Primary unit: Forwards Jean Beliveau, Bernie Geoffrion, Bert Olmstead and Maurice Richard, defenseman Doug Harvey
Coach: Toe Blake
Season finish: 45-15–10 (finished first in NHL, won Stanley Cup)
Bottom Line: 1955-56 Montreal Canadiens
There was a time when NHL teams were allowed to score as many goals as possible on a given two-minute penalty. Well, this star-studded cast created such an outcry around the league.
It grew louder when Jean Beliveau scored a hat trick in 44 seconds early in the season. The rulemakers set a max of one per customer before long. Not only did every one of this Fab Five go on to the Hall of Fame, but so did Dickie Moore and Henri Richard, the first two off the bench.
Nope, power plays don’t get any better than this.