Welcome back to Week Seven 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 through the games of November 19th.
First, here’s a quick update on the team metrics that this series is focusing on:
Goals / 60: 11th. Last week: 6th
Unblocked Shots / 60: 20th. Last week: 20th
High Danger Chances For / 60: 14th. Last week: 9th.
% HDCF of Unblocked Shots: 16th. Last week: 4th.
Detroit took a step back this past week compared to the rest of the league.
To put in context the penalty killers Detroit was up against last week, here are the 4v5 rankings for the teams Detroit played in the last three games (1st is league best, 31st is league worst):
Goals Against / 60: 1st
Unblocked Shots Against / 60: 2nd
High Danger Chances Against / 60: 3rd
% HDCA of Unblocked Shots: 11th
Goals Against / 60: 30th
Unblocked Shots Against / 60: 31st
High Danger Chances Against / 60: 21st
% HDCA of Unblocked Shots: 7th
Goals Against / 60: 4th
Unblocked Shots Against / 60: 7th
High Danger Chances Against / 60: 2nd
% HDCA of Unblocked Shots: 2nd
New Jersey and Arizona are ranked highly in nearly every category that’s being tracked, but Ottawa has been poor overall on the PK. Detroit has continued to lag the league in 5v4 minutes, falling further behind this week. Yes, it is still relatively early in the season, but Detroit is 25 minutes behind league average.
For some context on this, Detroit has currently played 82:01 at 5v4, or 4:06 per game played. For the last three seasons, here is the lowest team in 5v4 TOI
2015-16: NYR - 358.33 minutes / 4:22 per GP / 6.49 Goals per 60 (15th in NHL)
2016-17: CBJ: - 345:00 minutes / 4:12 per GP / 6.78 Goals per 60 (13th in NHL)
2017-18: TOR - 339:36 minutes / 4:08 per GP / 9.54 Goals per 60 (1st in NHL)
Detroit is currently at 8.05 Goals per 60, which is obviously not as good as Toronto’s rate last year, but noticeably better than the Rangers and Blue Jackets from the previous two years. The short version is that Detroit really needs to find a way to get more time on the power play.
While this series is not specifically focused on Detroit’s penalty kill, Detroit currently has played 12 minutes more 4v5 time than the league average.
There isn’t too much new to look at here, so we’re going to take a week off from this section and....
Let’s Go to the Videotape!
After sitting through what was supposed to be a power play in New Jersey, I decided to mainly focus on areas for improvement. If you’ve been reading this series, you’ll remember that overall the team is doing very well in areas that have been weaknesses in the past. Vanek being out has definitely hurt the team on the man advantage, and Detroit will be happy to see him return shortly, reportedly maybe as soon as Wednesday’s game.
Just a Little Off
The first category of video this week features plays in which something was just a little off, typically a pass.
Here, we are reminded that even though Detroit would eventually score on the 5-on-3 against Arizona, the beginning was pretty brutal, and an encapsulation of what hasn’t been working when Detroit’s man advantage has struggled.
Barring injuries, the player selection on the power play has been improved from recent seasons. Players like Kronwall and Abdelkader have typically been on the power play only due to injuries. It’s a bit puzzling, therefore, why Detroit has both Cholowski and Green out on a 5 on 3.
Rather than have a second point man, a better strategy would be to have a forward set up behind the net. While Vanek is the best on the team at this, someone like Nyquist is a very good passer and would force the penalty killers to have to react to angles they are not used to. Previous editions of this series have shown this (here and here).
While Detroit has been much better at making quick passes at 5v4, here they seem to not be sure what they want to do with the 5-on-3. Then Green makes an awful pass to Nyquist, and even with Arizona being 2 men down, they outnumber Nyquist on the puck, which leads to a clear. Since 5 on 3 time is so precious, you want to keep the puck in at all costs, and nobody goes to help Nyquist. The bad pass is mainly responsible for this clear, but the other part doesn’t help.
In this next clip, a short time later on the 5 on 3 advantage, Green is again the culprit. It makes sense that he wants to be on the left side (since he is a right shot), but he doesn’t read where Cholowski is going and forces the young defenseman to adjust. Then he gets to a good space, but he completely misses an easy pass, leading to another clear.
This is the immediate continuation of the above play, and the less said about this, the better. It’s a comedy of errors as the team can’t enter the zone with a two-man advantage. (We’ll get to the goal a little later)
Dylan Larkin has done so much for Detroit this year, but he still occasionally has the propensity to try to do too much, and this next clip is a perfect example.
His speed and maneuverability make him a perfect candidate to carry the puck on a zone entry. On this play, however, he tries to do it all himself. While the play he makes to beat the first defender works, it’s a risky play, especially against Arizona, who leads the league in shorthanded goals. There is nobody behind Larkin, and a turnover here would lead to a breakaway.
At the offensive blue line, he makes another good play, but it’s the only option he has because he doesn’t have control of the puck. He never regains control of the puck, as the defender clears to the blue line.
Then, it’s Mike Green’s turn (notice a pattern?) to make a bad pass into Larkin’s skates, leading to the puck exiting the zone.
Another player who has played very well overall is Tyler Bertuzzi. In this clip, however, his play leads directly to a turnover and a zone clearance.
In this screenshot, we can see that while Bertuzzi doesn’t have any great options, the pass back to Green is very dangerous because of the Ottawa player’s position. Add to that Bertuzzi being on his backhand, and this is a very high risk pass.
In the video, we see the result.
While making aggressive plays on the power play can lead to success, Detroit players make needlessly risky passes when it’s not going well, which is what happens here.
The last of the negative clips is a surprising one. Mantha has played very well of late, but here against Ottawa, he just misses an easy pass. The team goes from about to set up to having to bring the puck all the way down the ice again, a loss of ten seconds at best.
It Wasn’t All Bad
The last three clips illustrate that while the power play was not as good the previous week as it has been, it wasn’t all bad.
The first clip serves as a transition between the previous ones and the following two. Before we get to the video, take a look at this moment. Nielsen has the puck at the top of the screen. From watching Detroit this year, where do you think he will pass it?
If you said “to the trailing player,” come and get your prize. In general, this is a dangerous pass with the defender in the position he’s in because it’s predictable. In this specific instance, however, Nielsen does a nice job of making the pass earlier than expected, so Mark Stone is caught off-balance when he tries to go for the puck.
It leads to Cholowski being able to take advantage of Stone being stopped as if his skates were stuck in some kind of very hard material, passing to Nielsen and leading to a good zone entry, which in turn leads to several shots.
Arizona is a very good penalty killing team this year, and it’s not hard to see why. They play very aggressively, not giving you time on the puck. It’s similar to the pressure Tampa Bay typically utilizes, which Detroit always has trouble with.
While this next sequence doesn’t lead to a goal, all the players here do a good job of adapting to the pressure. They move the puck quickly and support each other. When the shot from a bad angle misses, Athanasiou is in position to keep the puck from leaving the zone.
The last clip is the lone power play goal last week. This goal has already been (appropriately) discussed at length by this point, but it needs to be in this series because it shows another step in the evolution of Michael Rasmussen as an NHL contributor.
The presence of mind for Rasmussen to make sure his stick is on the ice and in position to put the puck on net, even after being cross-checked, is something you don’t often see even at the NHL level.
And don’t let that take anything away from a great pass from Larkin.
While Mike Green has been Detroit’s best power play defenseman in the past, Cholowski has clearly passed him and should always be Detroit’s first choice at defense on the power play. Green was involved in a large number of plays this past week that led to a clearance or a failed zone entry.
Yes, he was injured to start the year, but he needs to play better if Detroit is going to be able to field two solid PP units.