Welcome back to Week Four of the Detroit Power Play Update Series. Each week, I’ll take a look back at the previous week’s power play performance. At the bottom, you will find links to the previous editions.
5v4 Stats Update
This article is accurate up to the Dallas game on October 28th. Even though it’s posting on Wednesday, Tuesday night’s game won’t be included this week, but rather next week’s article.
First here’s a quick update on the team metrics that this series is focusing on:
Goals / 60: 11th. Last week: 9th
Unblocked Shots / 60: 21st. Last week: 18th
High Danger Chances For / 60: 10th. Last week: 12th.
% HDCF of Unblocked Shots: 6th. Last week: 11th
The trend is that the team is sinking in the rate of unblocked shots they are taking, but the shots they are taking are more dangerous. This is not surprising based on watching the 5v4 shifts from the last week. When Detroit gets set up, they are doing much better than last season in moving the puck and getting good looks on net. On the other hand, they have recently been much less consistent in getting consistent zone time than they were earlier in the season.
Only 4 teams (PIT, DAL, TOR, ANA) have fewer minutes at 5v4 than Detroit does this season. So, while the team certainly needs to have more sustained zone time on the power play, they also need to draw more penalties. Their small amount of 5v4 TOI is an indictment of their ability to maintain possession (5v5CF%: 48.8% - 21st in the league) and create dangerous chances at 5v5 (5v5HDCF: 82 - 23rd), since those lead teams to take penalties.
Even though Detroit is still above league average in scoring at 5v4, continuing to not generate shots will likely see them continue to fall from week to week.
Interactive 5v4 Charts can be found here
A future edition will cover face-offs in more depth, but do you think that Detroit has been better or worse than league average at face-offs at 5v4? Off the top of my head, I would have said worse because it’s noticeable when a lost face-off leads to twenty seconds down the drain on the power play. I would have been wrong. The NHL average Face-off Win % for players taking 5 of more face-offs is 52.06%. Andreas Athanasiou is 4 for 6 (66.67%), Dylan Larkin is 12 for 19 (63.16%), and Frans Nielsen is 14 for 23 (60.87%). None of the other Red Wings have taken more than 2 face-offs at 5v4.
For this week’s article, I wanted to highlight the play of Andreas Athanasiou. He hasn’t only been taking shots from good scoring areas, but he’s also retrieving pucks and keeping the play moving in the offensive zone.
The video breakdown segment is going to focus heavily on Athanasiou’s goal against Winnipeg because there is so much to look at. First, however, I want to illustrate something I’ve pointed out in the past, which is the effect of Detroit’s PP units not having a one-time option on both half-boards.
In the 1-3-1 setup, having an off-wing forward at each of the half-boards positions allows for a one-time shot on either side. Detroit only has two offensive forward options with right shots: Martin Frk and Thomas Vanek. Frk hasn’t played much this season, and Vanek has proven to be very effective at the net front position (which we’ll see in the video breakdown section), so Detroit doesn’t have a consistent R shot forward on the left half-boards on either unit.
The effect can easily be seen by looking at Detroit’s 5v4 shots taken from a player’s off-wing. Once you get out from the goal-front area, these shots are almost entirely taken from the goalie’s left.
Last season, Detroit had the same roster issue, and even though the disparity wasn’t as high as it currently is, more of these off-wing shots came from the goalie’s left than his right, and the goal disparity is very noticeable.
The clear problem here is that if these dangerous one-time shots are only going to be coming from one side of the ice, it makes the power play easier to defend against.
Let’s Go To the Videotape
This edition’s video breakdown is going to focus heavily on the goal scored by Andreas Athanasiou. To be clear, there were a lot of negative things on the power play this past week. The first minute of the man advantage that led to the goal was pretty awful. A lost faceoff led to an immediate zone clear, and the team couldn’t set up for quite some time.
While Athanasiou scored the goal, every player did one or more things to help the puck get to his stick for the one-time shot. First, the zone entry.
Mantha passes to Vanek, who passes to the trailing Nielsen. Watch what Mantha does after that pass. He glides to the blue line, where his positioning prevents the Jet player from challenging Nielsen, who gains the zone. It’s a play that’s easy to miss, but it is key to Nielsen carrying the puck over the blue line.
Nielsen gives it to Vanek and continues to the net, stopping in front. Vanek shoots, and the puck goes behind the net. Vanek doesn’t stop, and gets the puck back to Cholowski, who fires it back around the net. It’s clearly the best play with Cholowski under pressure, Vanek able to go behind the net, and Mantha and Nielsen in good positions on the left side if the puck continues around the boards.
Here’s a screenshot of Mantha giving Nielsen space at the blue line:
Vanek gives the puck to Nielsen, and at this point, it’s natural to follow the puck back to Cholowski. Instead, however, stay with Vanek and watch him do what he’s done to great effect so far this. He stays there for a second, giving Nielsen a passing option, then as soon as the puck goes to Cholowski, he slides into the crease, providing a moving screen. Additionally, he turns as the puck is shot, setting up for a tap-in if the puck rebounds to the goalie’s left. It’s really a clinic on what a net-front player should do in today’s NHL.
It’s nice that FSD gives us this alternate view of the goal and that they pause it to really see both the timing of Vanek’s screen and the quick, smooth pass from Cholowski. Mantha moves to the crease and is in good position if the puck rebounds to the goalie’s right. Lastly, watch Cholowski slide back after making the pass, putting him in a good position if Athanasiou misses and the puck caroms around the boards.
This next clip shows more good movement from this unit. Athanasiou wins the puck back. Nielsen gets it to Vanek, who has gone behind the net. Mantha is in a good one-time position to the right of the goalie, and Vanek puts the puck through the defenseman’s skates. At first it looks like it’s going to Mantha for the shot in close, and to be honest, that might have been the intention. Either way it makes its way back to Cholowski, who feeds Athanasiou for a one-timer from the same area he scored on. Again, watch Vanek continually moving down low.
Since this week’s focus is on highlighting Athanasiou, here’s one more clip that shows him doing the little things right.
At first it may look like Athanasiou is to blame for not getting the puck in at the blue line. If you stop the clip, however, you’ll notice that the pass from Nielsen is in AA’s skates, and he really has no chance to control it.
He gets back up and slides into a position to give Cholowski an easy pass. Instead of trying to do everything himself, as he’s been known to do in the past, he quickly passes to Nielsen, skates towards the net, then slides over into the half-boards position.
Nielsen and Cholowski play a nice give-and-go sequence, and Mantha finds the open space for a one-timer setup. When the shot is blocked, Athanasiou is open for the one-timer, but he’s a little too far to the side. Vanek sees that and turns his body to set himself up for the shot. It’s a nice sequence again from this unit, and it’s because of quick puck movement, smart positioning, and looking for the one-time shot option.
Even though Detroit looked pretty terrible on a few power plays this past week, the team is still doing a lot of things right. Mike Green coming back means no more Kronwall (for now, at least), and Abdelkader wasn’t on the power play against Winnipeg or Dallas.
As always, please let me know if there are specific aspects you want me to focus on in future installments. Thanks for reading, and come back next week.