Welcome back to Week Five 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 Edmonton game on November 3rd. Even though this article posts on Wednesday, it’s written on Tuesday, so the Vancouver game will go into next week’s article.
First, here’s a quick update on the team metrics that this series is focusing on:
Goals / 60: 7th. Last week: 11th
Unblocked Shots / 60: 19th. Last week: 21st
High Danger Chances For / 60: 10th. Last week: 10th.
% HDCF of Unblocked Shots: 7th. Last week: 6th.
Adding three 5v4 goals in three games certainly helps the team’s 5v4 Goals/60 move in the right direction. The rest of the metrics are holding steady from last week. The team continues to be at the bottom of the league in terms of drawing penalties, so that will still be an area for improvement.
Just a quick update here because it’s going to set up part of the video analysis coming up. Martin Frk has gotten a chance on the PP with Vanek and Athanasiou both out. Both of those two have been dynamite on the man advantage so far, but Frk brings a major weapon with him.
Much has been made of the lack of accuracy of Frk’s slapshot, but so far on the PP that hasn’t been an issue. Of the five shots Frk has taken, one was a goal, two were on net, and two “missed.” One of those shots hit the post, so only one out of five shots completely missed the net. If memory serves, that didn’t miss by much. Of course, five shots is way too early to say that the problem has been solved, but it hasn’t been an issue this season so far.
Let’s Go to the Videotape
For the last few weeks, I’ve been beating the drum of Detroit needing a one-time option on both sides on the 1-3-1. This week, I got my wish. A detailed breakdown of the Frk goal is coming. But first, Michael Rasmussen’s first NHL goal and the first of two he would score in a week on the power play.
Rasmussen Goal (Take One)
Not to sound like a broken record, but look at the work Thomas Vanek does on this play. First he harasses Ryan Murray behind the net to keep him from clearing it. Then he slides to the front to provide a screen when it looks like Bertuzzi might take the shot from the center. After that, he moves out to give Nyquist the passing option.
Goose should get credit on this play as well as he doesn’t wait to make the pass, which likely would have led to the passing lane from Vanek to Rasmussen being closed off. Vanek makes the pass immediately, and Rasmussen finds the one place his stick can be in to get the shot off with three defenders within a few feet of him. Also, don’t ignore Bertuzzi fighting off a trip to get the puck to Nyquist.
With Vanek being out a few more weeks, the Detroit power play will have to step up and fill that creative void he leaves behind. Fortunately, the rest of the week saw Rasmussen and Anthony Mantha both doing a good job of playing that moving net-front role.
Zone Entry and Mistakes
This next clip shows that even though Niklas Kronwall is not able to contribute on the power play the way he used to, he can still bring value. This game, the Red Wings deployed Kronwall and Cholowski on the same unit after the Vanek injury.
Kronwall has passing options on both sides on the breakout, but Columbus shifts to his right, cutting off the pass to Cholowski. Kronwall waits until the Columbus player at the top of the play shifts his weight to Kronwall’s right to make the pass to Bertuzzi. Even without the mobility he once had, he can still make a smart play.
Bertuzzi carries in and eventually gives the puck to Nyquist. Cholowski and Rasmussen (at the net) don’t give Nyquist any good passing options, which leads to the clear. Cholowski seems to be playing more of a forward role on this unit, so it’s not too surprising that he looks like he doesn’t know where to go.
The vast majority of Detroit’s 5v4 zone entries in these three games were good (with one notable exception coming up later), so the team continues to improve from their poor entries the last two seasons.
Tee Time for Martin Frk
As mentioned above, adding Martin Frk to the power play not only adds his howitzer of a one-timer, but he adds that shot from the right of the goalie, something Detroit doesn’t normally have the ability to do.
Just like the goal I broke down last week, there are good plays from everyone on the ice to make this goal happen, so I’m going to do another extended breakdown of this one.
One thing noticeable about watching this sequence of plays that leads to the goal is that there were multiple points at which the whole thing could have fallen apart, but players made the right decision to keep it going.
First, Dylan Larkin gets waved out of the circle. Justin Abdelkader comes in to take the faceoff. Larkin (up through November 5th) has a 64% faceoff win rate (16 for 25) at 5v4. Abdelkader has a 33% rate (1 for 3). So, a player who doesn’t take as many faceoffs and does not do as well when he does wins the faceoff cleanly. Green takes the puck and makes a quick cross-ice pass to Dylan Larkin.
At this point, Larkin is almost immediately under pressure. He could dump it in, but Detroit’s other players are not in a good position to retrieve it. He could try to force it to the middle, but that’s a really low percentage play, and the most likely outcome would be a rush the other way. Instead, as you’ll see in the next clip, he realizes he has more time than it seems, and he pulls the puck back to pass to Green, who has moved into a position to give Larkin the passing option.
As said above, Larkin makes the safe pass back to Green. Since the Red Wings forwards are stuck in a static position, Green needs something to happen in order to find a good path into the zone. Enter Martin Frk. #42 comes back and loops around Green, both gaining speed to chase down the upcoming dump in and also going to the opposite side of where the defenders are facing. Larkin does the same thing a little after Frk, so he can be moving into the zone to provide options after the puck retrieval.
Mantha follows the play up and rims the puck around the boards, where Green is waiting. Just like Larkin earlier, Green is receiving the puck with pressure fast approaching.
This clip starts just before the last one ended so you can see just how great a pass this was from Green to Larkin. #71 deserves credit here for seeing that Green needs him to come back for the pass to avoid dumping the puck in, which would likely have been cut off by Andy Greene (#6).
Frk makes a good play to come back for the puck, then turns and passes to Anthony Mantha, who has moved from in front of the net to behind the net to give Frk a passing option.
For the goal, we switch to the overhead angle.
Mantha passes to Larkin, then moves to the front of the net. Larkin passes to Green, who fakes the shot with Abdelkader screening Schneider. Vatanen realizes the Green is going to Frk, but because #42 can one-time this shot, it doesn’t matter, and the defenseman can’t get there in time. If the defense moved reacted differently, Green has Larkin to his right for a one-timer as well. This is the benefit of having two one-time options, and I will now step down off this soapbox.
Rasmussen Goal (Take Two)
This is included because it’s hard to believe just how open Rasmussen is on this play. From talking to All About the Jersey writer CJ Turtoro, it turns out that this is a good example of Detroit taking advantage of a defense pair not used to playing on the penalty kill.
According to Turtoro, Will Butcher and Damon Severson rarely play on the PK, and because Vatanen was the player in the box, and Ben Lovejoy and Andy Greene were already out for the first half of the penalty, Butcher and Severson were out there. Even though New Jersey’s defense was poor on this play, Rasmussen was in the right position and took advantage of a rebound.
Green Drops it Like it’s Not (A Good Idea)
Detroit has done much better at utilizing the drop pass entry this season than the past few, but not everything is a Helmerroids meme (aka sunshine and butterflies).
Mike Green loses focus and drops the puck like he plans, and he doesn’t realize that Tobias Rieder reads the play, intercepting the pass for a shorthanded chance.
Kronwall Needs to Mix It Up
This season, Kronwall has mostly been put on the power play because of injuries, which is a good thing. As covered in previous editions, he can still make good plays, but his lack of mobility hurts.
One thing I noticed while doing this series is that this season, Kronwall almost always makes the same entry pass. In fact, he did it in the first clip in this article. Without looking, try to see if you can remember what he typically does.
If you said “he passes to his left to a player along the boards,” pat yourself on the back. The interesting thing is that it works the majority of the time. Here it is successful for getting into the zone, but Bertuzzi can’t keep control of the puck, and it gets cleared quickly.
The last clip is the attempt to gain the zone after the previous clear. Edmonton reads the play and Ryan Strome covers the pass to Bertuzzi. Kronwall doesn’t have a good option and tries to force the puck to Nyquist. He has Rasmussen at the top of the screen, but Kronwall is always going to his left.
Detroit’s zone entries have been better than last year, but the Green clip and the two Kronwall clips above show that the team has to be careful to not get complacent and always try the same thing.
Losing Vanek is going to really hurt for the next few weeks. Rasmussen and Mantha need to step up in his absence, and early signs are promising in that regard. Athanasiou possibly coming back on Friday will help keep the power play going in the right direction.
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.