Earlier this week, Jason Gregor posted a piece on how bad the Oilers have been on the power play. We know they’ve had trouble scoring, but Jason brought up the fact that they’ve been simply brutal at generating shots while they have the man advantage. The obvious solution is to just listen to the fans and shoot the puck. In theory that’s fine, but actually doing it is a whole other matter.
When you have a power play and you gain the zone with the puck, you want to make sure that you control the puck as much as possible. Throwing the puck into a crowd and turning the puck over, or putting it into the goalies chest from the half wall after making the opposition scramble for a minute are good ways to kill the work you’ve been doing on the PP. You have to find ways to not just increase your shots, but increase your good shots.
The idea behind the power play isn’t to just use the 5 on 4 advantage, but to instead break down the 5 on 4 into smaller advantages (i.e. 3 on 2, 2 on 1). Each penalty killer is responsible for an area of the ice and your goal is to pull them to the edges of those areas. As the penalty killer extends out, you move the puck to your support, forcing that penalty killer back and another to move. Because you are able to move the puck faster than the penalty killers can recover, this constant movement is what creates the lanes you are trying to exploit. The key for your power play is to be unpredictable for the opposition but predictable for your teammates. Using different outlets goes a long way towards making it hard for the other team to pick up what you are trying to do.
The following are 3 power play goals run using completely different formations and from different areas of the ice. All you are looking for is where the support options are (within 15 feet) and where the penalty killers are. As the puck moves, watch how the penalty killers react and how they move and how new areas of the ice open up.
The first goal is just basic puck movement around the zone (aka around the horn). No fancy give and go, no pick, just move the puck quickly up the wall, across the top of the zone and then back down.
Sam Gagner has 3 support options. Ryan Jones is low, Gilbert Brule is in front of the net and there's a soft area at the top of the zone where either of the Oilers pointmen can get the puck. The pass to Brule is a lower percentage play (he would have to move the puck immediately) as the penalty killers can swarm him from multiple angles.
Gagner chooses to move the puck up high to Tom Gilbert and follows his pass up the wall. Because Gagner moves up towards the blueline, it gives Gilbert 3 potential options: Back down to Gagner, across to Magnus Paajarvi or if the lane is clear take the shot. The Columbus forwards both realize that they have to extend out and as they do it creates that seam across the face off circles.
Gilbert moves the puck across to Paajarvi, who then heads towards the net. The Oilers have essentially set themselves up to outnumber the Blue Jackets 3 to 1 on this side of the ice. Both Columbus players see this and try to react. If you watch closely, you'll notice the lower of the Columbus forwards never actually turns his head to see Gagner. He knows he's supposed to be in that lane, but in trying to recover to get into position he never picks up Gagner.
When Paajarvi gets into this area has several options. He has the shot on net with Jones in front of the goalie. He also has that soft area of the ice down by the goal line that he can either dump the puck into (for Jones to retrieve) or skate to himself. Finally, he has the option Gagner creates by breaking in from the wall. If you watch the play again, you can see how far the Columbus penalty killers have to skate just to keep up with simple puck movement.
This goal involves a bit more movement, with a simple high low shift where the low forward and the forward on the half wall simply switch positions, then a 2 on 1 isolation up high that opens up the seam.
Gilbert has the puck with open options to the left (Ales Hemsky) and right (Taylor Chorney). The Oilers have set up 4 men high in the zone, and left another in front of the net. This forces the Stars to play man on man in front, and play 3v4 up high.
Gilbert moves the puck to Hemsky on the half boards, Penner slides over about 6 feet and Chorney moves down. Moving the puck down to Hemsky caused both Dallas forwards to retreat back down which creates a soft area up high and also causes a pair of penalty killers to gang up on Penner. Horcoff leaves the front of the net and pops out into the corner for support.
Horcoff and Hemsky have switched and Horcoff brings the puck up high towards Gilbert. The Stars forward pursues, but the remaining forward stays with Penner in front. Horcoff and Gilbert work a brief give and go that pulls the Stars forward right out of the box and creates a huge seam. Even if the Stars had recovered, Horcoff still had the low option with Hemsky as a backup.
The theme continues to be simple puck movement. Just quick shot passes and quick changes of direction ends up creating gaps. Hemsky has the puck on the half wall with support high (Chorney) and low (Horcoff). The Stars don't pressure and Horcoff floats into the middle of the PK box. Hemsky sends the puck high which draws 2 defenders up. Hemksy follows the puck and gets into better position to attack the box. Chorney gives him the pass back almost immediately which freezes the top penalty killer high for a moment. That delay gives Hemsky enough time to carry the puck in and causes the Stars to breakdown, and Horcoff is all alone in the prime scoring area.
There are basically 3 things you are doing:
- Multiple outlets for the puck carrier.
- Puck movement to those outlets
- Player movement to create new outlets and into the soft areas of the ice on breakdowns.
As you watch power plays operate, take note of how many times you see the puck carrier get cut off from his teammates and left with no outlet. There is almost no excuse for you not to have an easy puck support outlet. Also take note of whether the play is static (no movement) or fluid. The more you move with the puck, the more the opposition has to move in order to keep up. Each of those movements by the PK comes with the risk of a mistake, especially when several of them have to move at the same time. These mistakes are what you are trying to exploit.