Shawn Horcoff's Role Change On The Oilers Power Play

Now playing the role of Ryan Smyth...

Let me take you back to a better time. March 12, 2006. The Oilers were tied with the Anaheim Ducks for 8th place in the Western Conference. The team's new acquisitions, Sergei Samsonov and Dwayne Roloson were settling in and the excitement of a talented team with depth at all positions was sweeping Edmonton. The top line of Shawn Horcoff, Ryan Smyth and Ales Hemsky was generating more than 2.5 points per game and Chris Pronger, Jaroslav Spacek and Jason Smith led a veteran defense.

The team had a top ten penalty kill, and the power play was supposed to get better with the addition of Samsonov. The power play wasn't terrible, mind you, it ranked 14th in the NHL at 18.14%, the highest numbers for the Oilers in both categories since the lockout.

The last time the Oilers have a top half power play, it was Ryan Smyth down low, Shawn Horcoff on the weak side, Ales Hemsky controlling play from the half wall and Chris Pronger and Jaro Spacek on the blueline. This all came to mind last night after watching Taylor Hall's power play goal. After the jump, I'll explain why.

During that time, the Oilers controlled the puck through Ryan Smyth's puck retrieval, Ales Hemsky's puck skills, and the opponent's fear of Chris Pronger's slapshot. The power play was on display below, against the Minnesota Wild on March 12, 2006.

While the setup isn't the same as Taylor Hall's goal last night, three key aspects of the attack are the same. First, after Jarret Stoll keeps the puck in at the right point, he slides it over he slides the puck to Chris Pronger who doesn't immediately look for a shot.  Instead, he pushes the puck down low to Ales Hemsky. 

2006pp1_medium

Hemsky isn't looking to set up a shot from a defenseman, as has been the Oilers' custom since September 2007, rather he's looking to make a play in the chance area.  Ryan Smyth heads to the top of the crease and Shawn Horcoff slides backdoor to the far post.

2006pp2_medium

Now Smyth has hit the top of the blue pain and the weak-side defenseman has been forced to engage him because the strong-side defenseman has to move towards Hemsky.  But the weak-side defenseman must also guard the pass to Horcoff on the far post so he's stuck with his stick somewhere near ice level to defend the pass and his rear end unsuccessfully pushing Smyth out of the crease.  He's trying to defend two plays and isn't doing either well.

2006pp3_medium

Hemsky takes the opportunity to slide the puck through the crease to Horcoff for the goal.

2006pp4_medium

Now compare that to Taylor Hall's goal last night against the Predators.

As I mentioned previously, the set up isn't the same, but the attack is.  Shawn Shawn Horcoff snags the puck below the goal line and cycles up the wall.  The typical Oilers' power play would force the puck to the point and wait around for something to happen.  Horcoff has Ryan Nugent-Hopkins behind him below the goal line and drops the puck to him.

2011pp1_medium

Horcoff heads to the top of the crease, a la Ryan Smyth, while Taylor Hall swoops around the far side post, a la Shawn Horcoff.

2011pp2_medium

Look at the freeze frame below and compare it to the freeze frame from five years ago at 5:30.  The strong side defender has stepped towards Nugent-Hopkins playing the role of Hemsky, Horcoff is drifting to the top of the paint and Hall is sliding up the above the far post.  Look at the defender.  Stick down on the ice to take the pass to Hall away, but he's also got to account for Horcoff in the crease.

2011pp3_medium

Horcoff is standing in Smyth's old spot as the pass goes through to Hall for the shot and the goal.

2011pp4_medium

Relying on defensemen to bomb the puck to the net might be sexy and it might cause the crowd in Montreal to well up in anticipation, but the power play is better off attacking the weaknesses of the defense, especially by isolating the two defenders down low.  Like Chris Pronger proved five years ago, a weak-side pass to an open defenseman is not a bad third or fourth option with a man advantage.

X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

Join The Copper & Blue

You must be a member of The Copper & Blue to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at The Copper & Blue. You should read them.

Join The Copper & Blue

You must be a member of The Copper & Blue to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at The Copper & Blue. You should read them.

Spinner

Authenticating

Great!

Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.

tracking_pixel_9355_tracker