• Blood in the water

    by  • September 11, 2012 • Hockey • 6 Comments

    I’m in the midst of obsessively re-watching the power plays in Sharks-Oilers games from the last four years, trying to learn something about power plays. The Sharks have this absolutely beautiful little zone entry play that I wanted to highlight.

    It starts in their own end, with the second defenceman, whoever that might be, giving the puck to Dan Boyle. Note Patrick Marleau on the far side of the ice, behind Boyle. Marleau is going to skate very slowly towards the blue line.

    Boyle hits the blue line and skates up ice, angling slightly towards the right side of the ice, getting the forward moving with him. Meanwhile, Joe Thornton is close to the Oilers blue line but ready to make a move – you can Ryan Jones, at the bottom, just behind the red line, looking over his shoulder to his left, keeping an eye an Thornton. Marleau is still meandering towards the blue line.

    All of the sudden, Marleau is in full flight, streaking towards the blue line. Boyle has dropped the puck and cut harder to his right – Thornton brushes past him, which works because Thornton is a left handed shot – he’s in a good position to pick up the puck and move it to Marleau. Note as well that the Oilers defender is already on the blue line on Marleau’s side of the ice – he’s going to be flat footed. Boyle effectively picks Jones out of the play.

    The fight for zone entry is over at this point. Marleau is now moving full speed on a flat footed defenceman. He has two options: if the defenceman is in a better position to defend him, he can simply pass it to the winger on the boards, who can skate in unmolested. If, as here, the defenceman is utterly flat-footed, Marleau also has the option of simply stepping wide.

    The Sharks are probably running this, or some variant of it, on half their breakouts against the Oilers. It’s all aimed at creating that mismatch two on one of the let side. It’s amazing to watch and impressive how effective it is. The Oilers don’t really seem to have any ability to stop it. The really fascinating thing is how simple it is – you;d think basically any NHL calibre players could execute this. It seems awfully organized relative to the Oilers in the games I’ve watched so far.

    Update: This is from the following game. JONES GETS SMART!

    Here’s Boyle and Thornton about to run the play – but Jones smells it!

    He pounces!

    Boyle makes a quick little move with the puck and sends Pavelski in unchallenged. Oilerz.

    Email Tyler Dellow at tyler@mc79hockey.com

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    6 Responses to Blood in the water

    1. mike
      September 11, 2012 at

      it looks like Jones is the one who is causing the mismatch. If he doesn’t bite and wonder up ice, he would be in a position to allow the left dman to rotate towards the right.

      In the bottom picture, if JOnes was 5 feet behind his own blueline and the left defenceman was attacking Marleu, the play would be nuetralized.

      I love the concept of setting up a play where a fast skilled forward is attacking a flat footed defenceman. Pretty smart

      • '67 Sound
        September 11, 2012 at

        If Jones is below the blue line then half your team has now yielded the blue line. Pretty sure SJ figures a way to get it in with 5 guys on 2.

      • dawgbone
        September 11, 2012 at

        The issue is the gap between the forwards pressuring and the back D guy.

        Oilers are setting up in a 3-1 and the idea behind it is to funnel the puck carrier into traffic and force a dump in or a turnover, leaving your trail guy in the zone to go get it.

        When you leave a big gap like that, it opens up too much space all around the ice, either for a chip and chase on the near side, or to go back the other way which forces the player on the weak side to back right up because the the sharks player (Marleau according to Tyler) is coming in at full speed on a 1 on 1 (with the Oilers back D there as well).

        I wrote about 2 of the primary pk zone entry alignments at about this time last year (shameless plug).

        http://www.coppernblue.com/2011/9/21/2436875/preventing-zone-entry-on-the-penalty-kill-part-1

        http://www.coppernblue.com/2011/9/28/2453223/preventing-zone-entry-on-the-penalty-kill-part-2

    2. quirky mcjerk
      September 11, 2012 at

      Someone email this to Krueger!!!

    3. Bruce McCurdy
      September 12, 2012 at

      Excellent work, Tyler, I love the ~one-frame-per-second type of analysis like you’ve presented here. Dawgbone has done the same to good effect as well, and I’ve used that technique a time or two myself, such as here:
      http://blogs.edmontonjournal.com/2012/03/20/breaking-down-a-breakdown-late-tying-goal-by-coyotes-a-tragicomedy-of-errors/

      The drop pass in the neutral zone to activate the late trailer has been a powerplay tactic of a few teams in recent years, including internationally. It’s not just in the offensive zone where the extra man can be isolated to advantage. Helps when you’ve got guys like Boyle, Thornton, and Marleau to execute it.

      In more general terms I would suggest that good execution through the neutral zone will result in a high percentage of successful zone entries for any team with the man advantage, and that most teams have a few set plays that they use to that end. Any PP worth its salt has to be able to gain the zone.

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