Welcome back to Week Nine 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 December 3rd. Even though it will post on December 4th, it’s written the day before, so the Tampa Bay will be included in next year’s edition.
First, here’s a quick update on the team metrics that this series is focusing on:
Goals / 60: 16th. Last week: 17th
Unblocked Shots / 60: 17th. Last week: 27th
High Danger Chances For / 60: 20th. Last week: 22nd.
% HDCF of Unblocked Shots: 20th. Last week: 19th.
Detroit’s power play improved in goals per 60 and unblocked shots per 60, but declined in the two categories that look at high danger chances.
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 four games (1st is league best, 31st is league worst):
Goals Against / 60: 23rd
Unblocked Shots Against / 60: 8th
High Danger Chances Against / 60: 7th
% HDCA of Unblocked Shots: 14th
Goals Against / 60: 13th
Unblocked Shots Against / 60: 18th
High Danger Chances Against / 60: 18th
% HDCA of Unblocked Shots: 18th
Goals Against / 60: 24th
Unblocked Shots Against / 60: 30th
High Danger Chances Against / 60: 26th
% HDCA of Unblocked Shots: 13th
Goals Against / 60: 9th
Unblocked Shots Against / 60: 20th
High Danger Chances Against / 60: 10th
% HDCA of Unblocked Shots: 10th
Colorado at 9th best in the league at preventing goals at 5v4 was a tough opponent, but Columbus and Boston represented good opportunities to get back on track. Detroit scored two 5v4 goals in the past four games, which isn’t bad, but they were scoring at a higher rate earlier in the season.
Last week, the focus was on looking at what went wrong for Detroit over an eight game stretch in which the team performed particularly bad on the power play.
In that article, I used an image that Prashanth Iyer made to show what areas of the ice have been most dangerous at 5v4 for the last 8 full seasons. Over that eight game stretch, Detroit was not getting as many shots from dangerous areas as they had earlier in the season.
Here are the shot locations from the last 4 games, first for the whole team, then broken up by unit. The overlay is the image mentioned above. The blue shading is where the most goals were scored from in the last 8 seasons, and the darker the shading, the more goals. You can see that there is an improvement in getting shots from better areas.
One interesting thing is that the second unit (Green, Nyquist, Larkin, Mantha, and Bertuzzi) took more shots than the first unit (Cholowski, Vanek, Nielsen, Athanasiou, and Rasmussen).
For this article, I wanted to focus on Mike Green. I’ve felt that since he’s come back from his injury that kept him out of the lineup at the start of the season, he’s made a lot of mistakes on the power play, so I wanted to see if that was true over the last four games.
What I had seen from Green was a tendency to be too careless on the puck. I also thought that he was not moving the puck as quickly and efficiently as Cholowski. The rookie is still being given the most 5v4 time of all defensemen, so it seems that the coaching staff agreed with me that Cholowski has passed Green on the power play.
Let’s Go to the Videotape!
The main area I have seen Green be careless with the puck is on zone entries. This first one shows him falling victim to the trap that has hurt our power play as a whole, trying to force a play that’s not there.
On this play, I’m not sure what Green was trying to do here. My guess is that he thought the player at the top of the screen (sorry, I can’t see the number) was going to move to his left or that Mantha was going to skate more to his right. Otherwise, Green just passes directly to the Blue Jackets player.
The frustrating thing about seeing something like this is that Green can still be an effective puck carrier and mover on the power play. In this clip, Green doesn’t have a passing option, so he takes it himself into the zone. He then makes the safe play again, taking a shot in hopes of a rebound with forwards going towards the net. Also, the defender is between him and the goalie, so there’s always a chance the goalie doesn’t see the puck quickly enough.
On this play, Green makes a simple but good pass to Mantha, but he gets caught too far to the center and can’t keep the puck in after Mantha’s shot misses. When Mantha starts to shoot, there’s no good reason for Green to be moving towards the center and not towards the boards.
Even though Green definitely did make some mistakes that were frustrating to watch, he looked better than I remember before this stretch of games.
This next clip isn’t anything spectacular, but he moves the puck quickly to keep the play going, and the team eventually gets a scoring chance.
The last of the clips involving Green is a sequence of plays in which he made solid decisions.
In the first part of the sequence, he makes two good passes, the second one setting up Larkin for a good shot.
The play continues, and he makes a nice pass to Nyquist in a dangerous spot. Nyquist ends up not being able to get the shot off, but it was a good read and came close to being a good scoring chance. At the end of this clip, he takes a tough pass from Dylan Larkin, keeping the puck in the zone and getting it back to Larkin. Even though neither pass was easy to control, they both managed to keep the puck in the offensive zone and in Detroit’s control.
On the last clip in the sequence, Green flubs a slapshot, but is able to keep the puck in the zone.
I’m going to close this with the Dennis Cholowski goal against Columbus. It’s a goal in which Detroit kept the play in the zone for a sustained period of time and one in which Detroit did better at some of the issues I pointed out in last week’s installment.
It starts with a face-off loss from Frans Nielsen, but the Detroit forwards hustle to keep the puck from being cleared. Andreas Athanasiou retrieves the puck and passes back to Dennis Cholowski, who passes over to Nielsen, and Detroit settles into the 1-3-1 formation. Cholowski passes to Vanek at the side of the net, an area from which we’ve seen #26 make some great plays this season.
Vanek gets tied up, but fights through to get the puck to Nielsen, who can’t control the hard pass. At this point, it looks like a clear is all but certain until Michael Rasmussen lifts the Boone Jenner’s stick to keep him from being able to send the puck down the ice. David Savard takes the puck, but he is hounded by Vanek who knocks the puck loose. At this point, Vanek, Rasmussen, and Athanasiou are all fighting to get possession.
At first glance, it may appear that Detroit has too many men behind the net. But at the end of this clip Detroit still has two players between any Blue Jacket and their own goal because Columbus’ players are all at or below the goal line. Since two of the Blue Jackets are engaged with Red Wings players, even if Columbus regained the puck here, the chances of an odd-man rush are minimal. Last week, we saw how Detroit wasn’t supporting a puck battle in this area, but in this play, they are rightly committing more players to prevent a clear.
Here, the hard work pays off. Vanek ends up with the puck and carries it behind the net, passing it to Nielsen. Nielsen immediately sends it to Cholowski, who is in the right position to one-time a puck into the net.
This is a goal where a replay is necessary to see everything because you can appreciate first how the pass from Vanek to Nielsen was in the right spot with the right weight for Nielsen to pass immediately to Cholowski. Nielsen’s pass is also such that Cholowski can one-time the puck without having to adjust. Lastly, Rasmussen’s screen is fantastic. We’ve seen him do this jumping screen on several goals this year. Rasmussen definitely took some time to become acclimated to the NHL game, but he’s looked like he’s belonged on the power play for a while now.
So while Detroit’s power play had some really bad stretches over the past four games, there’s still enough of the good sequences to assume that it can continue to improve back to where it was earlier in the season.
With the injury news to Mantha, I imagine we’ll be seeing Abdelkader back on the power play for a while, which is a definite step down in personnel. Also, Bertuzzi will be out for the next two games, so someone else will fill his spot. The obvious choice is Martin Frk, who is the only other forward in the lineup to have power play time this season.
I will fully admit that this may be a bad idea, but part of me wonders if with Bertuzzi out the next two games, and those games being against Tampa and Toronto, meaning we’ll be heavy underdogs in both, it would be worth it to take a look at someone else. The leftover forwards would be Ehn, Glendening, and de la Rose. I haven’t seen anything from any of the three this season to make me think they would be better than Frk or Abdelkader as an option, but maybe it’s worth the try.
Here’s my even crazier idea, although I think it actually could work.
I know, I know. I’ve said that Kronwall shouldn’t be on the power play anymore with Cholowski and Green available. But Kronwall still has the ability to make good passes on the power play, it’s his mobility that keeps him from being a good option at the point. With this group, he doesn’t have to be carrying the puck on a zone entry with Cholowski and Larkin out there. If you put him on the half-boards, he has less space to cover. I’m also not saying this is something the team should try long term, but just until Bertuzzi is back.
What do you think the units should look like until Bertuzzi is back? Tell us in the comments. Thanks for reading, and we’ll see you back next week.