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Weekly Red Wings Power Play Update - Week Three

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NHL: Detroit Red Wings at Florida Panthers Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome back for the third 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. At the end of each week starting this week, you will find a list of all the previous editions.

Since this will be a weekly article, there’s the potential for them to become repetitive. The plan is to build up multiple ways of looking at the week’s power plays and use whichever ones present the information best.

5v4 Stats Update

To that end, this week you won’t find embeds of the 5v4 team charts that appeared the first two weeks. If you are interested, you can look at them here.

Rather than go through them in depth, here’s a summary of how Detroit fared at 5v4 since the last article.

Goals / 60: 9th. Last week: 4th
Unblocked Shots / 60: 18th. Last week: 3rd
High Danger Chances For / 60: 12th. Last week: 14th.
% HDCF of Unblocked Shots: 11th. Last week: 20th

Detroit is still above league average in 5v4 goals per 60, and the team’s high danger chances have gone up. What has gone down is the number of unblocked shots. So, things are still good overall, but that drop in unblocked shots is something to keep an eye on.

Since the team has dropped in unblocked shots, here’s a look at which players on Detroit are doing well and which players are lagging behind in unblocked shots.

From watching all of the Red Wings power plays so far this season, I’m not surprised to see Athanasiou near the top. He has come a long way this season in terms of adding to his previously one-dimensional skill set. You won’t see specific clips highlighting that this week, but it was very noticeable. Later on in the video section, we’ll look at Mantha, who was taken off the power play after the Tampa Bay game. Mantha leads the team in this metric, so he can certainly provide value, but he has not been performing up to par.

Data: Natural Stat Trick. Chart: @pflynnhockey

You can see all the 5v4 Individual charts here. In the above chart, the “average” line is the team average. The NHL average is 16.87, so just a bit to the right.

While I knew it would happen, I still wish Hronek stayed with Detroit. He has been much better than Kronwall on the power play, and Kronwall’s continued appearance on the power play is one of the biggest reasons for me to not trust Jeff Blashill’s decision making process.

Shot Locations

The aspect of this week’s article I’m most excited for people to see, other than the improved gif format (you can pause them now!), is shot locations. I’ve been working on improving my R skills, and I finally got to the point to be able to do what you are about to see. Like I said above, these particular images won’t be featured every week (since there won’t be a ton of change from week to week), but they add another dimension to this power play analysis.

These gifs show Detroit’s 5v4 shots by unit, based on the current units. The third one is the players who have played enough time on the power play to matter, but who aren’t currently on the PP units.

Unit 1

Vanek has been very good on the power play, for all his faults at 5v5. The interesting thing to me about the shot locations here is Athanasiou. Most of his shots are coming from his off-wing, which I’ll go into in the video section.

Unit 2

Larkin takes the lion’s share of the shots, which makes sense. His shot’s are more spread out than Athanasiou’s, and he seems to spend more time on his on-wing than his off-wing.

Lastly, Frk took both these shots on the same power play. One of them hit the post. I would have liked to see him get a longer look on the PP.

In future editions, you’ll see different variations of this idea, hopefully including more information about the shots (did they generate a rebound, etc). Also, stick tap to Prashanth Iyer, who wrote the R code to plot the rink and who was kind enough to make me a new version that will show half the rink to allow for a closer look when we get more shots. I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention how helpful Matt Barlowe, Evan Oppenheimer, and Jake Flancer have been in helping me figure out how to get this stuff up and running.

Let’s Go to the Videotape

This week, the clips are broken down into four thematic categories. The idea is to take a closer look at a few different areas of strength or weakness.

Zone Entries

Past editions of this series have looked at zone entries, but there were a few new wrinkles this week.

First off. People really hate the drop pass. But what about the DOUBLE drop pass?! As we’ll look at later, Tampa Bay plays a very aggressive penalty kill. This entry does a good job of countering that. Really, watch. If this had been a regular drop pass entry, I don’t think the carrier gets over the blue line. But by dropping it a second time to Larkin, the center is able to find room to gain the zone.

Dennis Cholowski has been better than anyone expected him to be this season. But he needs to learn not to try to do too much. There was no way he’s ever making this pass. He has an easy, safe pass to Athanasiou, who is great at entering the zone with possession. This home run pass is never getting to Mantha. C-Lo should be looking for the stretch pass, but he needs to not force it.

Cholowski is a rookie, so he’s expected to make these types of mistakes. But Niklas Kronwall doesn’t have that excuse. He makes a very similar mistake, trying to hit Nyquist on a tough pass rather than just making the short pass to his right that has a much higher chance of leading to a zone entry.

Setup, Passing, and Pressure

Caution: this next clip is so filthy, it’s illegal in five states. The biggest thing I noticed this week is that when Detroit’s power play wasn’t working well, it was because they couldn’t counter the penalty killing team’s pressure. In JJ’s key play breakdown from the Carolina game, he pointed out how passive the Wings penalty kill was. We see that again here. In this game, Tampa’s PK was relentless, as is typical, and Detroit couldn’t overcome that except for a few times.

I want to point out here the potential of having each of the half-boards players in the 1-3-1 be playing on his off-wing. In past articles, we’ve seen that Detroit typically doesn’t have a right handed shot on the left half-boards. Yes, yes, yes, I know that we don’t have the firepower of Kucherov and Stamkos. But, having the one-time option on both sides leads to more dangerous chances, and Detroit should aim to set up that way.

In this next clip, Nyquist enters the zone and makes a dangerous pass to Rasmussen, who makes another dangerous play. It worked out here, but they were very lucky to not give up a shorthanded rush the other way. However, there is something positive in the second half.

Nyquist carries the puck behind the net, Bertuzzi goes right to the crease, but Rasmussen pulls back into a great spot for a one-time shot. Later we’ll highlight Rasmussen’s play, but Detroit (outside of Abdelkader) has done a great job of having the net front player slide out for a pass or shot like we see here. I’d argue that these plays are why the team is supposedly leaning towards keeping Rasmussen in Detroit.

The next two videos are one thirty second segment, broken up into 2 in order to be under the 15 second mark. This is Detroit’s power play nearing its potential. The puck moves quickly, players are retrieving the puck and moving it quickly, and the team is providing each other with passing options. Also, since Vanek is setting up on the half-boards, the team has two one-time options (along with Nielsen).

Also, watch how mobile Cholowski is from side to side. This will be a major factor in his 5v3 goal we’ll see in a little bit.

I hate to repeat myself (too late), but it’s easy to see how effective it is to have a right shot on the left side. Vanek could not make this pass if he was a lefty. Yes, the end result is a shorthanded rush against, but the setup was still good.

Anthony Mantha has had a tough start to the season. He was taken off the power play after the Tampa Bay game. So, it made sense to look for possible reasons. Here are the two that stuck out the most.

On the first play, Athanasiou passes to Vanek, who sets up Mantha for a good scoring chance. Instead of shooting, Mantha makes an ill-advised pass. I don’t always agree with Mickey, but when he said that Mantha has to shoot that puck, he’s 100% right.

This next one isn’t really on Mantha, but who knows if a player who had already not finished good chances isn’t given the benefit of the doubt? Again, I think it’s much more the previous play that led to Mantha being taken off the man advantage. I wanted to include this because it’s another example of the team taking advantage of Vanek’s ability to find a good spot to pass from. I am here for Vanek setting up behind the net more often.

Player Highlights: Dennis Cholowski and Michael Rasmussen

These next two clips really shows why I think the team doesn’t want to send Michael Rasmussen back to juniors. Like earlier, they are one 30 second segment cut in half. Rasmussen is constantly moving in front of the net, screening the goalie and moving out for a passing option.

Not that there aren’t other good things happening, but really focus on Rasmussen for this 30 second period. This is exactly what Detroit wants from him. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that he’s likely not going back to juniors, at least for a while.

I’m not enough of a sadist that I would do an entire edition of this series without a goal (assuming there is one). Rasmussen doesn’t get a stick on it for a goal, but there are two things to watch here. First watch how effective the screen is in front of the goalie. Secondly, watch how Cholowski walks the line and waits until the perfect time to shoot. It’s not a hard shot, but it doesn’t have to be. To really show how great his timing here is, there’s a second gif below with three screenshots that illustrate how Cholowski waits until Hutchinson moves his head to the other side of Rasmussen.

I said this on Twitter, but I wanted to make sure that I gave a stick tap to Brad Krysko from the Winged Wheel Podcast. He pointed out that Cholowski waited until Hutchinson moved his head to the other side of Rasmussen before shooting, which is a detail I didn’t catch when watching at full speed. I know that you might say they are our competition, but I think the Red Wings podcast audience is large enough that having multiple good podcasts is a great thing. Obviously listen to our podcasts, but give them a listen too if you don’t already.

So Far

Detroit is still in the top half of the league at 5v4 Goals / 60. Mantha has been effective overall this season on the power play, but his recent power play performance has suffered along with the rest of this game. Cholowski and Rasmussen had great weeks on the man advantage.

What do you think? Have your say in the comments. I’m particularly interested in what you would like to see in future editions. Is there an area you would like me to focus on?

Come back next week for the next installment of this series.


Previous Editions

Week One
Week Two