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Weekly Red Wings Power Play Update - Week Two

Wow, what a difference a week (and a Kronwall) makes.

NHL: Detroit Red Wings at Toronto Maple Leafs Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome back to the second installment of the weekly power play update. If you missed the first edition, you can find it here. That article has information on how these articles are set up, so if you missed that one, it would be helpful to take a look there.

There’s a lot to talk about, and surprisingly, some of it’s actually good!

Detroit’s Performance So Far

First off, this is being written on Tuesday, so all stats are through Monday night’s games.

Detroit still finds itself near the top of the league in 5v4 Goals per 60. Even with their horrible performance overall in the last two games, they are still 4th in 5v4 Goals per 60, and only 4 teams have more 5v4 goals than they do. As you’ll see when we get to the video, this is despite some very concerning differences from what we saw last week.

Data: Natural Stat Trick; Chart - @pflynnhockey

Detroit is also still near the top of the league in unblocked shots per 60, checking in at 3rd. Their 5v4 units are just ahead of Toronto in that stat, and we have seen what a monster that power play can be, especially their top unit. It’s good company to be in, and it shows that even though the team needs to fix some things, the power play has overall been one of the bright spots in a pretty dark start.

Data: Natural Stat Trick; Chart - @pflynnhockey

In the area of generating high danger chances, Detroit has actually improved overall compared to the rest of the league from last week, going from just below average to just above. One thing to keep in mind is that a team’s movement from week to week is due to a combination of their performance as well as every other team’s, but in this case, Detroit’s rate has increased by about 2 high dangers chances per 60 minutes. Not a lot, but still an increase.

Data: Natural Stat Trick; Chart - @pflynnhockey

Lastly for this section, here’s a chart I didn’t include last time because I was still working on it. This one shows the percentage of unblocked shots per 60 that are high danger chances. Obviously a team can score on more than just high danger chances, but it makes logical sense that the more dangerous the shots you are generating, the more likely you are to score.

About 25% of Detroit’s 5v4 unblocked shots are high danger chances. The league average is currently 27.58, so Detroit isn’t very far below that. Three teams are over 40%. You’d expect Toronto, but it’s surprising to see the Islanders and Senators above that mark, Ottawa especially.

Data: Natural Stat Trick; Chart - @pflynnhockey

Let’s Go To the Videotape

My goal in these updates is to take a closer look at some aspects of the power play that are either helping it to succeed or causing it to fail. I watch every 5v4 power play from the previous week, and pull clips of the most representative plays.

Red Wings vs Maple Leafs

The team’s power play was up and down against Toronto. One of the reasons it took a step back in some regards from the previous week can be expressed by parodying a classic scene from a classic comedy

In fact, I’m pretty sure I nearly yelled out Brodie’s line when I saw it. To be honest, I knew it was going to happen, but that doesn’t make it any less of a horrible personnel decision. Kronwall can still do some good things on the PP, as we’ll see shortly, but his lack of mobility just kills everything. Let’s take a look at some representative moments from this game.

First Power Play

The unit that started this power play was Nielsen, Vanek, Mantha, Athanasiou, and Kronwall. Detroit’s other unit this game was Larkin, Rasmussen, Bertuzzi, Nyquist, and Hronek.

In this first clip, Kronwall gives a little backhanded pass to Nielsen, who carries all the way from his defensive zone into the offensive zone. Entries have been a problem for Detroit the last few seasons, and I wanted to point out that they’ve been overall a lot better. If you are saying “but I’ve seen some bad zone entries!” They’re coming. Oh, they’re coming.

Here, the good zone entry with possession, combined with a quick decision by Mantha lead to a point shot (that got cut off).

In this next clip (a few seconds after Kronwall shot from the point in the above clip), we see the downside of having Kronwall on the power play. He can’t get to the puck on the boards quickly enough to keep it in. It’s hard to say for sure, but it’s likely a more mobile player would have gotten there. This leads to a shorthanded chance against.

When the other unit comes out a little later on this same power play, we see some of what has been promising about the power play this season. The players move the puck quickly, which is a must with today’s aggressive penalty killing schemes. Rasmussen makes a good pass early in the sequence, but I want to really draw your attention to how he slides to the side of the net and sets up a quick bang-bang play.

The days of having a player just stand in front of the goalie are mostly gone. Yes, there is definite value in screening the goalie, but the best “net-front” players are those who are able to both do that and slide out to provide a one-time pass option that we see here. Rasmussen hasn’t lit the world on fire, to put in mildly, but I really like his play here.

Second Power Play

Like I wrote in the last article, while many Detroit fans hate the drop pass, when executed well, it can be effective. Here we see an OK execution of that entry, but watch how Larkin has no options after he chips the puck deep into the zone and goes to retrieve it. Detroit has to be better at providing options once they gain control in the zone.

Before I said that the bad zone entries were coming? I have no idea what the hell this is supposed to be. If you have an idea, put it in the comments because I am stumped.

It just got worse from here. Larkin dumps it in, but it just leads quickly to another clear. This was not a good power play for Detroit, to put it mildly.

Detroit vs Boston

Even though we’d all like to forget the last two games, there are some important plays to look at.

First up is Kronwall showing that he can still make a good pass, but the next pass from Nyquist is a little off, which is enough to lead to a clear.

Then we come to the 5 on 3 section. If you have small children watching, please put them to bed before watching this nightmare. Detroit should have done so much better with this opportunity.

That being said, I want to use the next clip to show something positive. Detroit has rarely set up with a player behind the net. The pass coming from behind the net is incredibly effective, and few teams seem to take advantage of it. Here we see that Detroit takes advantage of the two man advantage by putting two players behind the goal line. While the execution was flawed, I love this. You’ll see a little later that Detroit has continued to experiment with this, which I hope to see more of.

Detroit vs Montreal

I know we really want to forget that this game ever happened. I honestly didn’t want to watch any of this video, since it would help me to remember how angry I was during this game. But, I’m a professional. (Yes, I know, just go with it).

I’m going to tie these last two clips together because I want to illustrate how effective putting someone like Vanek behind the net can be. I don’t know if this was part of a plan, or if he just did it on his own, but for all his defensive flaws, Vanek can make some incredible passes. He ends up scoring the goal on a wraparound from behind the net, but even without that, this could be a really dangerous setup that I’m hoping to see more of.

If you’re interested in reading more about this, please read this article by Ryan Stimson on why having a player behind the net can be incredibly effective on the power play.

I asked Athletic beat writer (and past and future Fer Sure guest) Max Bultman if the team practiced with players behind the net, and he was kind enough to send me audio of him asking Blashill about it.

Bultman: “Is there an advantage there because as you talked about, how much the power plays around the league look alike, and you’re throwing some variability in there?”

Blashill: “I think some of, you know, there’s a few teams that do it, if you go internationally, especially Russia. Russia does it a lot, and they’re highly, highly effective at it. It’s a little bit easier on the big sheet than the small sheet, but it can be a good.....when you go behind the net a lot of times everybody looks behind the net, and you hopefully get it out to the shooter.”

So Far

Detroit continues to do better than last season on the power play, although they clearly have some issues to work on. Getting Cholowski back in the lineup should be helpful. Against Montreal, Kronwall did not see the ice on the power play. Zone entries continue to be better overall than last season, but there have been some rough patches recently. Lastly, I hope to see more of a player setting up behind the net.

What do you think? Have your say in the comments. Come back next week for the next installment of this series.

Interactive versions of the viz used in this article can be found here. I will be updating them every morning.