The New York Islanders power play in 2016-17 was abysmal. It ranked as one of the lowest in the league, so what do they do in 2017-18 to address the problem? Stop doing the speed behind the puck play.
The New York Islanders had one of the worst power plays in the league last season. That’s not an exaggeration or even an inflation of a below half finish amongst all 30 teams. They actually finished ranked 28th overall.
With a 15% power play efficiency, the Islanders were only better than the Detroit Red Wings (14.1%) and the Colorado Avalanche (12.6%). Only better than two teams that finished well out of the playoff picture, one, Colorado, who had a historically terrible season with only 52 points.
I’ve shown before that this dip can’t be attributed to the Jack Capuano regime. The power play was equally terrible with Doug Weight at the helm. Which makes sense. Weight was responsible for the man-advantage when Cappy was still around.
So naturally he, Weight, will stick with what he knows when he took over. Unfortunately, it wasn’t working then, nor did it work after.
Speed Behind The Puck
One of the issues with Weight’s power play philosophy is his insistence on using the “Speed-behind-the-puck” approach. The strategy that creates a pocket for a trailing player to enter the opposition’s end with, well, speed. Think of it as a power play battering ram. The player picks up enough speed to force the puck into the opposition end.
The issue with that strategy, like all strategies, is that the opposition eventually figures it out. In this case, they just clog up the blue line. The threat of going offside means that not only are the opposition players poised and ready on the blue line but so are some of the player’s teammates. Compounding the clogged blue line issue.
Here’s an example of John Tavares trying, and failing, to pull off this strategy against the Boston Bruins. Some of you will undoubtedly remember this game as the night the Isles power play showed just how feckless it can be; going 0/6 on the night.
Watch how far back he is when he collects the puck, essentially the Isles own blue line. By then, four other Isles players are ahead of him.
One waits on the opposite flank of the Bruins blue line and the other three create a bottle neck for Tavares to enter the Bruins zone. By then, two other Bruins defenders are stationed and ready. Easily stripping Tavares of the puck.
Now For Something Completely Different
Now watch Josh Ho-Sang enter the zone carrying the puck with a better-timed entry. He attacks the line at the same time as his teammates. The Bruins don’t know if he’ll pass or not due to the number of oncoming attackers. The space he’s given allows him to enter the zone with ease and set up the cycle.
On this last opportunity, after what is shown, the Islanders work the puck around the Bruins zone and create a few good chances on net. Of course, they don’t score, but they give themselves the opportunity.
Some might say that Ho-Sang actually started the rush from further back than Tavares did. And that’s true. The puck is picked up behind Greiss’ net. But the difference is in how Ho-Sang attacks the zone rather than try engineer space with a complex, but predictable passing maneuver.
It’s not to say that the Isles should never use the speed behind the puck strategy. If we’ve learned anything from Justin Bieber it’s to never say never. But their penchant for using it more often than not has to change in 2017-18. That will be Scott Gomez’s first priority. Adjusting the Islanders zone entry on the man advantage.
That’s not going to single handily get the New York Islanders to the top of the rankings, but it put them in a good position to create chances. If they can gain the zone they can start getting pucks to the net, then they can work on finishing their chances.