Welcome to Part 2 of my power play analysis! This article is quite a bit more positive than last time, which is great for me because it's much less depressing to write. Last week's article demonstrated how a power play can be ineffective due to lack of player and puck movement. This week's article demonstrates how a power play can be effective due to player and puck movement.
The Predators have had a mix of abysmal and excellent power play performances so far this year, and thankfully most of them have fallen in the "excellent" category. As of the depressing shutout streak, the Preds are boasting a 19.7% power play percentage, good enough for 15th overall.
Over the last five NHL seasons, the average of the top PP% is 24.1%, or about one goal every four power plays. Given that reference point, it's worth noting that the Predators' power play could probably be slightly better at 19.7%, but is not exactly terrible (for reference, the five year average of the worst PP% was 12.76%). Let's take a look.
Nashville Goal: Shea Weber (2) from Roman Josi (5) and Filip Forsberg (6)
The video clip begins at the seventh picture in this analysis. I started taking screen caps earlier because I wanted to capture the entire set-up of this play, as the Preds have had sustained control of the puck for an extended period of time.
Shea Weber jumps way down into the zone to keep the puck alive and wraps it around the boards to Roman Josi. Mike Fisher is supporting Josi both offensively (potential pass option) and defensively (prepared to back-check if Josi loses the puck). James Neal is circling behind the net as yet another puck support option.
Josi is pressured and carries the puck low. Fisher and Neal continue to provide puck-support options, but as Josi dives deeply into the zone, Fisher will drop back to the blue like to take his place. This is textbook forward support for puck-carrying defensemen, and if there's any responsible center I want covering my blue line, it's Mike Fisher. Filip Forsberg begins to creep into the slot from the far corner, unnoticed thus far by any of the Kings.
Josi notices that Fisher has taken his position and passes the puck back to him. This helps create time and space for the other Predators to find an open spot and possibly set up a scoring play. Forsberg has made it to the slot, still unnoticed, and is just hangin' out and waiting patiently for the puck.
We're what, four frames into our analysis now? Look at how much movement there is already when compared to the fourth frame of last week's article. Notice especially how active Mike Fisher is. Dude is all over the ice, as a center should be, and is pro-actively delivering what his teammate needs, where he needs it.
Weber had dropped down low for the shot, but Fisher chose instead to give the puck back to Josi. As you can tell, he was being pressured by the Kings forward and the last thing Fisher wants is for his cross-blue-line-pass to be poked out for a breakaway. Choosing to pass back to Josi is a much safer move.
Fisher and Josi swap positions again and Josi passes the puck to Neal. Fisher is looking right at Neal and can see that he's going to have immediate pressure, so he heads towards him to again provide puck support.
Neal and the Kings boogie in the corner as the puck approaches. Forsberg sees his chance to help Neal cycle the puck backwards and begins to haul his butt over to the bottom of the circle to become another passing option (the first option being Josi, who is out of sight on the blue like, and his second option is Fisher).
Have you noticed a consistent theme yet? Every player with the puck always has at least two passing options, and his teammates work and move hard to ensure that those options don't disappear. Even though the Preds haven't had a good scoring chance yet, they already have a vastly larger number of options than they did in the previous analysis, and that will serve them well.
Neal is able to get past the pressuring King and make it to the half-wall with the puck. Jeff Carter cuts off the passing lane between Neal and Josi, so Neal has to reevaluate his options. Because Forsberg is still on his horse and moving speedily around the circle, Neal doesn't have to wait very long for help.
Forsberg sneaks along the boards behind Neal and that allows him to quietly drop the puck off to Forsberg. Fisher sees this transfer happen and begins to take off towards the front of the net to act as a screen (or to tip the puck, or whatever else might be helpful).
Forsberg takes the puck up the boards...
And then down the boards...
Look at how much the Preds are forcing the Kings penalty killers to work. Even though the puck movement is largely contained to one half of the ice, they are still having to shift up and down and up and down, and that will start tiring them out very soon.
Forsberg heads into the corner and the LA players begin to close in on him (and Neal, who is poking around the crease) - and somewhat reasonably so. Have you seen Forsberg play? Yeah. So have they. But what happens when Jeff Carter gets a little over-zealous and abandons his corner of "the box" to pressure a player that his defenseman probably could have pressured on his own? Josi is now open. (Foreshadowing! Foreshadowing!) The other thing that really screws the Kings us Fisher buzzing around like a madman.
Tyler Toffoli (King closest to the blue line) has been covering Fisher since the beginning, but for the last few frames he has had to split his attention between Fisher and Weber because Carter dropped down low and now no one is up there to help him cover the blue line. Forcing Toffoli to make one choice opens up the other choice, which is exactly what the power play is designed to do - take advantage of the fact that not every offensive player can be covered!
Forsberg flings the puck up to a completely uncovered Josi.
I don't know how many times I've complained about giving players as much time and space and Josi and Weber have right now, but let me complain about it again for a second: GODDAMN THAT'S A LOT OF SPACE. If you give high-quality players that much time and space, they will make you regret it. As I mentioned in the last frame, Carter follows Forsberg into the corner, and it's a bad move. Carter's defenseman could have helped him out with Forsberg so that Carter could have kept covering Josi at the blue line. But he doesn't. So Josi is free. And Weber locks and loads. And Josi feeds him the puck. Neal slides in front of Jonathon Quick to provide a screen.
Toffoli sorta tries to get over to block Weber's shot but isn't even really a threat, aaaaand El-Capitan puts that sucker right into the back of the net! Quick sees that bullet but ain't gonna stop it.
Here it is again:
What is it about this power play that was so effective?
I talked about how little Anaheim goalie Frederik Andersen had to move in the last analysis, so now go back and look at Quick, especially in the last 3-4 frames when the puck starts to move more threateningly. He's shifting around, constantly readjusting his angle, and at times having to peek around his own players (and some Predators as well). That throws off his ability to react quickly to any shot, never mind Weber's, and we all know how hard Weber's shot is to stop under the best of circumstances.
The Kings penalty killers are also constantly moving and pressuring and looking and reacting to the Predators as they move and as they move the puck, and that's what eventually pays off for the Preds. The Kings apply pressure to the Preds throughout the power play, but just get more and more worn down as they try to maintain that same high level of pressure throughout the entire power play. When you're tired, you make mistakes. Carter's I'll-Be-Damned-If-He-Gets-Away mentality towards Forsberg shows how it only takes one tiny mistake to get the Uh-Oh Ball rolling. Carter only moves as much as he does because Forsberg is moving so much and is so tantalizing, and once Carter is moving, Toffoli has to get moving because of how much Fisher is moving and no one else is there to help him.
See how this works? A moving, shifting power play forces defending players to move, which in turn causes them to make mistakes. Obviously it's easier said than done, but a power play that moves around is going to score a hell of a lot more than a power play that doesn't move.
Now let's compare!
BAD POWER PLAY:
GOOD POWER PLAY:
Pretty stunning difference, eh?
So there you have it. Get moving, Preds.