Powerless Power Plays: What’s Wrong and What Can Change?

With 25 games played so far this season, it seems as though finding the perfect opportunity on the power play is a thing of the past for the Detroit Red Wings.

In 2014-15, Detroit’s power play was second in the NHL behind the Washington Capitals. The team’s power play percentage was an averaged 24% and they managed to score 70 goals on 294 opportunities. During this season, Jim Hiller was the man who oversaw the power play and it is obvious that his absence has affected the team’s man advantages. At the end of the 2014-15 season, Hiller left the Detroit and headed to Toronto along with head coach, Mike Babcock.

After the departure of Babcock and Hiller, the WIngs hired Griffins’ head coach, Jeff Blashill along with their assistant coach, Pat Ferschweiler. Just like in Grand Rapids, Ferschweiler was hired by Detroit to oversee their power play. With the presence of a new coaching staff, it was obvious that the power play was starting to deteriorate. Over the course of the 2015-16 season alone, Detroit’s man advantage fell from second amongst the thirty teams to thirteenth. That year the power play averaged a 19% with 50 goals on 266 opportunities.

After the conclusion of the 2015-16 season, the Wings demoted Ferschweiler to the press box and hired John Torchetti, the former head coach of the Minnesota WIld. This brings us to the 2016-17 power play and the main reason behind this entire article. At the start of the season, it was not apparent that the power play was going to be an issue… again. Back when things were going well, 25 games ago, Detroit’s man advantages were more structured. For example, there was much more puck movement. The team was strong when it came to cycling the puck and making sure that both the offense and defense were involved. Also, the team’s zone entries were one of their power play strengths at the start of this season. Players were using their speed to their advantage and were successful gaining access to the offensive zone. Unfortunately, we can not say the same positive things about Detroit’s current power play. With just over a quarter of the season played, the Red Wings’ power play is twenty-first in the NHL at a whopping 15% with 13 goals on 87 opportunities. It seems as if everything that the team did well at the start of the season, they are lacking at currently. One of the Wings’ biggest weaknesses are their lack of being able to take care of the puck. The team seems to be having a difficult time keeping the puck in the opposing team’s zone even when having an extra man on the ice. Secondly, the Wings pass up multiple opportunities as far as shooting is concerned. From a spectator’s perspective it is apparent that the team uses a lot of their time on the power play attempting to set up their shots rather than just taking them when they can. It is arguable that it is a good thing to set up your shots, and don’t get me wrong, it is, until the lack of shooting becomes an issue. Finally, as mentioned before, zone entry was not a concern when the season started but it seems to have become a bigger issue as time has gone on. Recently it seems that the Wings have been entering the zone slower forcing them to dump the puck in hopes of regaining control when in reality they’re leading to turnovers.

So you may be asking yourself, how does a team fix a power play that has struggled this badly? Well for starters, using players like Dylan Larkin and a healthy Andreas Athanasiou on the power play will for sure help diminish the lack of speed when it comes to zone entries and puck possession. As far as shooting is concerned, it may be in the Wings best interest to attack the net at every opportunity and to stop examining every play. Two minute man advantages are over in the blink of an eye but that same single power play can be the difference between blowing a lead and putting a game away.

Overall, the Detroit Red Wings’ power play needs work but putting all of this aside, we have to remember that a power play is just as much speed and skill as it is hockey sense and paying attention to crucial detail.

*This was a pair article written by Valerie Kojack and Tyler Sealey and all opinions are our own.

Stats: http://www.ESPN.com/NHL/Statistics

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