Looking Ahead: The 2014-15 Power Play

Jason Strudwick
August 07 2014 12:40PM

Last season the Oilers took a step backwards on the power play. Their success rate dropped three percent, going from twenty to seventeen. The team ranked just twenty-first in the NHL at the end of the year.

There were three areas that were trouble zones for the mighty Oil.

1. Point Shots

Strong power plays start from the blue line. A d-man that can shoot from the point sets up the low plays. The four penalty killers must respect the D’s shot. They can’t stay down low; it spreads the killers out. A good power play point man has an effective shot. It would be nice if it was a bomb like Souray’s but one that gets through can be just as effective.

Mobility by the D on the point is important. He can’t always count on the forwards or his partner to set him up just in the right place for an open lane. Sometimes it just takes a quick step along the blue line one way or the other to create the lane needed. Getting the shot to the net is a real skill and much harder than it looks. Defending D often will “front” the forwards in front of the net to block the shot before they can tip it.

2. Entering the zone

The Oilers were dangerous coming in the zone when they had the superiority in numbers last year. They created chances and scored off the rush on the power play, and that’s all very positive. They ran into issues when the killing squad did a good job up the ice and didn’t lose any players by getting beat by a pass, falling down, etc.

What to do when there are four defenders across the blue line standing you up? Two choices: turn back or chip it in. Turning back can work, but it burns a lot of energy -- and time -- going back and forth up and down the ice. Everyone has to come back to their own blue line, get organized with speed and then attack once again.

As a killer I liked when teams did this. It was a break in the action for us. The attacking team was also using a smaller area to try and create a two-on-one somewhere on the ice. Instead of having the space from their goal line to our blue line the area was now just the neutral zone. That meant a much smaller chance of something going wrong for the defenders. The passing lanes are also much smaller.

When confronted with this type of situation the Oilers need to have close support and chip the puck to an open area for their linemate to skate into with speed. It is very hard to defend when a guy just chips it off the wall past you and the centre comes flying in to pick it up.

You can’t do this every time because as a power play unit you don’t want to become predictable. Knowing where your speed is coming from, a hard rim or cross ice dump will allow you to retrieve the puck and get into your PP set up. It is all about on ice awareness and knowing what your teammates are doing.

3. Frozen

Last year I thought the in zone set up was stagnant. There was not enough movement. I think a lot of this has to do with my first point, the lack of point shots. The forwards would try to create plays down low but the defenders were over aggressive not fearing a point shot. With this group of forwards movement should be a priority. It is much harder to defend.

This year getting the power play back into the top half of the league should be a priority. Scoring on the power play is one way that players get their confidence going. I think Pouliot and Purcell give the Oilers two more options to run through the power play.

The question is: how will the groups look?

Let’s sort the players available based on where they like to set up.

The Options

Net front - Perron, Pouliot (Gordon, Hendricks)

These two are the obvious choices for in front of the net. You need a guy in front that can make life hard on the goalies, bang home rebounds and pop out into the slot. When they pop out into the slot they change the look of the pp and are an option to take a pass from below the goal line.

Half Wall - Nuge, Purcell (Eberle)

Both of these guys like to have the puck on their sticks. They can control the tempo and create plays from this spot. I like that one is a lefty the other a righty; it gives Eakins the option to set up on both sides of the zone. Nuge sets up to the left of the goalie on the hash marks, Purcell to the right. This makes both guys a threat to shoot from there, and makes the D respect the shot. The can move the puck low, high, shoot or make a pass to the slot. They can’t do that if they are on the other side. Can’t shoot from there on your back hand.

On the point - Schultz, Nikitin, Petry

This group needs to get a shoot-first attitude this year. If each of the guys can get at least a hundred and fifty shots it will create a big improvement to the power play’s bottom line. At times they will think they are being selfish but it is not the case. They will actually be doing their forwards a favour. It will open up the action for the forward to create and find room down low.

Below the goal line - Hall, Eberle

These two are very creative and dangerous players. At times it is easy enough to say just get them the puck and let them work their magic. Hall can drive the net hard on a down low pass from Nuge on the half wall. He can also make a nice pass on the way to the net if he is getting blocked. Eberle is slippery in tight spaces, and has good vision on the way to the net for a pass or a shot. Basically, give them the puck with any kind of space and time down low, then get open.

Wildcard – Yak

Yak is the guy that I am really unsure of. At times I am optimistic about this young player, at others I am not so sure. Where does he fit in on the power play? This will be the hardest part of the puzzle for Eakins and company. I don’t see him in front of the net. I don’t see him on the half wall. He doesn’t take the spot of Hall or Eberle. Where does that leave him?

He has great offensive skills so you need to find him a place on the power play. I guess that leaves him on the point but this makes me uncomfortable. The Oilers gave up thirteen shorthanded goals last season. Does putting him in that spot reduce that number (not that they were all on him last year)?

It is up to Yak to play himself into the power play conversation. As on right now I have him on the outside looking in.

My units look like this to start the season.

  • No. 1 Net Front - Perron
  • No. 1 Side Wall - Nuge
  • No. 1 Goal Line - Hall
  • No. 1 Blue Line - Schultz/Petry
  • No. 2 Net Front - Pouliot
  • No. 2 Side Wall - Purcell
  • No. 2 Goal Line - Eberle
  • No. 2 Blue Line - Schultz/Nikitin

The Nuge unit sets to the goalie’s left side. Everyone is on their one timer side, a threat to shoot. Perron pops out from the net to be a one timer option for Hall down low. Both D can shoot from their one-timer sides.

The Purcell group sets up to the right on the goalie. Same thing here, everyone is a one timer threat to shoot, including Pouliot from the front of the net. Nikitin is getting fed pizzas by Schultz for big one timers from the point.

I really like these two groups. If I am Eakins I go with the group that is rolling that night. Both are dangerous so defending teams can’t match up.

I think I am really close to what we will see opening night. Maybe I should have become a PP coach.

5cf6b487166aced0cd781e41bfef915e
Jason hosts the Jason Strudwick show from 9pm to 12am, weeknights on the team 1260. He is an instructor at Mount Carmel Hockey Academy and loves working with the kids. Having played over 650 games in the NHL, Jason has some great stories and unique takes on life in the NHL. He loves Slurpees and Blizzards. Dislikes baggy clothes and close talkers.
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#51 Butters
August 07 2014, 11:12PM
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Why is it not one MSM writer in this town thinks Yakupov can bounce back?

He was a consensus number one pick, he broke Steven Stamko's rookie scoring records in Sarnia, won the rookie scoring race in 2012-2013. It is befuddling too me that no one has said; "he just had a bad year".

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#52 justin
August 08 2014, 12:50AM
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Butters wrote:

Why is it not one MSM writer in this town thinks Yakupov can bounce back?

He was a consensus number one pick, he broke Steven Stamko's rookie scoring records in Sarnia, won the rookie scoring race in 2012-2013. It is befuddling too me that no one has said; "he just had a bad year".

A great coach will use all his players skill set in game to win. A great coach will inspire his players to perform. A stupid coach hold grudges and put some players in dog house. Yakupov has a great shot, quick release, he should be dangerous on power plays. Power play is so simple, team has 1 more player, get the puck in the zone give it to open man and shoot the damn puck. Oilers always pass around, try to get a perfect shot for goals, why don't they shoot the puck and go for rebounds? It's that simple, to score goals you have to shoot the puck. They pass around let other team settle down and out muscle them to loose puck or turn it over. It's frustrating to watch the game, good teams shoot the puck from all over. Good teams has players out play other team players on the ice. Work ethics can be coached, look at Detroit and LA Kings.

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#53 Spoils
August 08 2014, 06:43AM
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Yak needs to be on PP 1. In fact the PP needs to be built around him. If that ultimately fails, fine, but we need to try. The upside of getting him going is to big to pass up.

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#54 Andy P
August 08 2014, 07:18AM
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Quicksilver ballet wrote:

I just hope Eakins is fired before they consider moving Nail. Yakupov could be the key to getting this turned around.

Where there's smoke (Anton Belov) there's fire. Won't take long again before these players start playing like they want him gone. Thought they did a pretty good job of trying to send that message last season.

Craig won't be able to tune out the passionless play of his team this year. Look at what changing the coach did for the Eskimos this season. Results matter.

Why is it so difficult for so many people to comprehend that when you get the same problem happening - players tuning out part way through the season - year after year with different head coaches each year but the same Assistant Coaches, that the problem is with the ones that stayed not the ones that left? This happened with MacT, Quinn, Renney, Krueger and Eakins. Were they all smitten with the same flaw or was the team responding to a bigger situation? Just look at the track record and correlate that to who came and went and when.

I don't think Eakins is as good a coach as MacT, Renney, or Krueger. I don't think he has what it takes to lead a team to Stanley. But I do think that this team will play more competently with a more positive attitude this year unless Dallas gets in the way of the good people he has hired in the off season.

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#55 Spoils
August 08 2014, 07:22AM
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Also, what about Draisaitl. I've been hammering back the neon Leon kool aid lately... In my mind he is basically already better than kopitar.

Kidding, but seriously, where might he post up, besides the AHL.

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#56 Dan 1919
August 08 2014, 08:19AM
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David S wrote:

I almost passed out a bunch of times last season repeatedly punching myself in the face every time the puck wafted through Jultz and out past the blue line during the PP.

For the love of god Dallas and Craig figure out a way to teach Justin Schultz the advantages of retaining possession in the opposing zone during the powerplay. Another season like last year and I won't be able to explain the bruises on my face to my boss anymore.

No kidding, those exact missed passes going back into the Oilers zone just keep rewinding in my head every time I picture Shultz wanting the big cash contract right now.

I think he's mistaken knowing when to apply his energy at select times that guys like Pronger and Niedermayer did, for just not trying that hard all game. It's like as a rookie he's got a cocky nonchalant attitude that he doesn't have to move his @ss to get the puck, or grab it with two hands on the stick instead of trying to use one hand and not be able to handle the pass altogether.

Not that I want to trade him so early but he's got a slight attitude problem and if they can get a proven Dman or a 2C I wouldn't lose any sleep at all.

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#57 hemmertime
August 08 2014, 08:19AM
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Quicksilver ballet wrote:

Not much into mathletics but goal differentials the last 3 seasons:

Renney/Krueger -27 2011-2012 82 season

Krueger -9 during the 48 game 2012-2013 season

Eakins -67 during the 2013-2014 82 season. For a defense first/prevent offense coach, a considerable step backwards.

Two words: Doob Nick

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#58 Hall the time
August 08 2014, 08:28AM
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Spydyr wrote:

Kane has just come off his second Cup,Stamkos is a threat to win the Rocket Richard trophy every season.Yak just ended fourth in the green jacket race.

There is a little bit off difference between Yak and the other two.

Ok then Dallas, your right.

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#59 Harlie
August 08 2014, 09:28AM
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David S wrote:

I almost passed out a bunch of times last season repeatedly punching myself in the face every time the puck wafted through Jultz and out past the blue line during the PP.

For the love of god Dallas and Craig figure out a way to teach Justin Schultz the advantages of retaining possession in the opposing zone during the powerplay. Another season like last year and I won't be able to explain the bruises on my face to my boss anymore.

The first rule of Fight Club..

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#60 LOIL99
August 08 2014, 10:10AM
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Will wrote:

-Team high 9 assists in 7 games during 2011/12 WJC

-52 assists in 69 games during rookie OHL season for sting

-Another 5 in 7 games in 2012/13 WJC

- and finally highlight passes like this:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vl15TpZR8k0

Is he the league's premier passer? No. But is it accurate to say that part of his game is underrated?

Well that I leave up to other fans as my opinions have not gotten a lot of traction here lately.

Haha. This response is awesome. 100 "cheers".

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#61 2004Z06
August 08 2014, 10:23AM
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Eakins is here! Kreuger is gone and not coming back. Get over it!

Yakupov was a massive liability last year. You can blame the coach all you want, but the coach was not responsible for him turning over the puck and trying to deke out the entire opposition on his own. That was all Yak. How about you start putting some responsibility on these players and stop making the coaches the scapegoat every year.

Will Yak get better? Of course he will, he is young but my god people he is not the second coming.

5 coaches + same results! How can anyone honestly still think this is purely a coaching issue?

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#62 OilClog
August 08 2014, 12:01PM
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No Yak shot on either Powerplay.. No thanks, delete this article from life.

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#63 Serious Gord
August 08 2014, 12:48PM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

This "underrated passer" take is based on what, exactly?

Is there an "advanced" stat for passing?

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#64 Serious Gord
August 08 2014, 01:01PM
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2004Z06 wrote:

Eakins is here! Kreuger is gone and not coming back. Get over it!

Yakupov was a massive liability last year. You can blame the coach all you want, but the coach was not responsible for him turning over the puck and trying to deke out the entire opposition on his own. That was all Yak. How about you start putting some responsibility on these players and stop making the coaches the scapegoat every year.

Will Yak get better? Of course he will, he is young but my god people he is not the second coming.

5 coaches + same results! How can anyone honestly still think this is purely a coaching issue?

Baloney.

As anyone who has ever been coached in sports or business or school knows, what your coach does or doesn't do CAN have a massive impact on your success. That's why the great hockey players in Nigeria never develop - they don't have the coaching amoung other things.

So yaks struggles last were due in very large part to the coaching - or lack of it - he was given. To be sure some of the responsibility lies - as it always does with the player, but Eakins and his underlings share a significant part of the responsibility for his failings.

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#65 Rama Lama
August 08 2014, 02:42PM
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How about having the Nuge as the "rover"........moving from half wall to the opposite half wall, occasionally setting up behind the net and pretending he is Gretzky.

He seemed to have a lot of luck setting up the PP from wherever the play dictated, especially behind the net.

Of course being stapled to a certain zone and not moving around makes the PP predictable. The outcome of that is eventually goals dry up because the opposition knows exactly how to neuter the play.

Eakins owns that!

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