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Weekly Red Wings Power Play Update - Week 18

Toronto Maple Leafs v Detroit Red Wings Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Welcome back to Week Eighteen 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. We took last week off because...well, there weren’t any games played for that edition.

5v4 Stats Update

This section will be different going forward. Rather than a bunch of numbers that don’t show context as clearly as I would like, I’m changing to a visual format that I think does show the context much more clearly.

Additionally for the time being, I am not going to show the high danger metrics. I want to better evaluate the correlation between those chances and goals. For the time being, we’ll take a look at Goals for per 60, Unblocked Shots (Fenwick For) per 60, and Time on Ice per game.

The following three charts show the change for each team in the past week (really two weeks for this one) for these three metrics. The teams are arranged from the current highest to lowest numbers. The arrow indicates if they have improved or declined over the last week. To be clear “last week” includes all games from the beginning of the season to January 22nd, and “this week” includes all games from the beginning of the season through February 4th.

First up is 5v4 Time on Ice. Detroit has been near the bottom of the league for the entire season. They creeped up a little, but they still remain near the basement. If not for Dallas’ decline in this area last week, the Red Wings would be last.

Again, Detroit has been near the bottom of the league in 5v4 unblocked shots per 60 for a while now. The team only declined a little, but considering where they started, that’s still not good.

Because goals are much rarer than shots, each week will likely see more movement throughout the league than the above charts. Philly jumped over five teams in one week, although they’ll still want to see improvement in that area. Detroit pretty much stayed the same from last week.

Since the last article, the team has only played two games, against Toronto and Ottawa. In 4v5 goals against per 60, Toronto is right around the middle of the pack, while Ottawa is in the bottom third of the league in goal prevention while shorthanded.

Shot Locations, Etc

Rather than take a look at shot locations this week with only two games since the all-star break, I wanted to take more of a big picture view of the season up to the break. has some fantastic features, and their team pages have a great selection of stats and options to choose from. Here are three that are illustrative of the team’s performance so far, as well as helping to see stretches of time when the team’s power play was better or worse than typical.

Each of these charts is a 5 game rolling average, which means that each point shows the average of the previous five games.

The first chart shows unblocked shots for. The team got off to a good start , then fluctuated around about 65 or so, with another peak in mid December and a low point in the beginning of January.

The second one looks at expected goals for. The higher the number, the better chances the team is generating. While it doesn’t track perfectly, you can see the same general pattern with this chart and the previous one. This is unsurprising since it logically follows that generating more shots should lead to better chances. This chart shows more clearly that the team has struggled on the power play since a little after mid-December.

Last is a chart that shows GF above expected. If it is above zero, it means the team is scoring more goals than is expected based on the quality of the scoring chances, and vice-versa. Since mid-November, the team has been scoring fewer goals than the quality of their chances would suggest, except for small stretches.

Let’s Go to the Videotape!

Our first clip highlights Detroit doing a great job of puck movement. They’ve been moving both the puck and themselves better over the last few games than they did when the power play was in a rut a couple weeks before the break.

Off the face-off, we see 4 passes in 4 seconds, leading to a Dylan Larkin chance in the slot that is deflected away before 71 can get a stick on it. Andreas Athanasiou corrals the puck and after two quick passes, puts a pass to Thomas Vanek, who tries a deflection play he’s been trying for a while.

While he hasn’t scored on it yet, the fact that it’s an option the goaltender has to think about makes Vanek’s quick passes from behind the net (or to the side of the net) more dangerous. If the goalie overplays the pass too much, he will leave the post open. The second clip shows this play in slow motion, and you can see that it nearly went in, as well as another look at how Vanek almost tipped one in from the back door.

It seems like in every edition of this, I’m highlighting plays from Thomas Vanek. This article is no exception as we see Vanek again at the center of a good series of puck movement. Athanasiou and Larkin also do a great job of moving the puck. This is one of those clips that you have to watch multiple times to appreciate everything that’s happening here. Toronto plays a very aggressive style on the penalty kill, which we’ll look at more closely a little later. Here, the player movement by Detroit combined with quick puck movement allows Vanek to get two good scoring chances.

Every player on the unit has at least one really nice play, with Anthony Mantha making a nice saucer pass to Niklas Kronwall, who handles the pass and immediately moves it over to Athanasiou.

In past editions, we’ve talked about how the type of forecheck being employed by the penalty killers can dictate the best way for the power play unit to attack them. Toronto often uses a 1-1-2 forecheck, in which one player puts pressure early on the attacking team, with another player putting pressure a little further up ice. In the next clip, you can see when the camera angle changes that Toronto has two forecheckers.

Connor Brown puts pressure on Kronwall near the top of the circles, with Mitch Marner at the Detroit blue line. While Kronwall technically gives a drop pass to Larkin, this shouldn’t be confused with the “drop-pass breakout,” since that involves the drop pass going further back (and typically being passed from further up the ice as well.)

While Larkin is carrying the puck up ice, you can see Athanasiou move laterally to open up space.

Toronto mixes up their forecheck, so it’s not as simple as “well, Toronto does this, so we can do that.” On this breakout, Toronto throws a different look at Detroit. In this screenshot, we see that the two defenders are back, and the two forwards are about 15 feet in front of them. As the play continues, the forward at the top of the screen comes forward to put pressure on Green, while the forward at the bottom of the screen moves back, creating more of a 1-3, which you can see in the second screenshot.

You can see this in motion in the clip below.

I mentioned earlier how aggressive Toronto is on the penalty kill. The next clip illustrates that well. As the puck goes to the corner, all four Maple Leafs are between the boards and the nearest face-off dot. If the pass from the boards is a few feet in front of Cholowski, it’s a glorious scoring chance. Detroit has typically done poorly against high pressure PKs (think Tampa), but in this game, they did a much better job than usual of keeping in motion.

Detroit would score on their last power play of the game, although they almost scored moments earlier.

Anthony Mantha is the standout on this play, although everyone was effective. Mantha finds the seam pass that is so effective at breaking down an aggressive defense like this. They want you to pass around the perimeter while they pressure you into making a bad pass.

This demonstrates something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately while doing this series.

Players in general seem to be hesitant to try this type of pass because it is frequently intercepted, which often leads to a clear. But at the same time, passing around the perimeter against a team that is applying high pressure will often lead to a turnover, typically after spending more time passing the puck around. This type of pass has a much higher chance of creating a scoring chance than passing the puck around the perimeter. So, it seems to me that players should be making this pass much more often, even if they majority of them are intercepted.

Rounding out the Toronto game is the goal. It’s a fantastic pass by Vanek and an equally great shot by Larkin.

Against Ottawa, Detroit only had two power play chances, but the first was a double-minor, and the second was taken with 29 seconds left on the first one, so Detroit had a half-minute of a 5 on 3.

This was an awesome opportunity to score more than one goal?

Spoiler: They didn’t.

This first clip from the double-minor illustrates how much more passive Ottawa’s penalty killers are than Toronto’s. Against the Leafs, Mike Green would have at least one penalty killer come straight to him. Here, he has none.

Then came the 5 on 3. Sigh. This is an illustrative clip of how that went. They’re not standing still, but look at how the motion doesn’t really help. They’re not opening up space, and it’s far too easy for Ottawa’s three players to defend here.

The last clip illustrates something that Ottawa did very well that Detroit couldn’t find a way to beat. Kronwall touches the puck at the beginning and at the end of the clip (and makes a really nice pass), but watch how Ottawa removes him as an option. By being in position so that Kronwall can’t receive a pass, Ottawa’s PK effectively makes it a 4 on 4. Mantha has to bank a pass off the boards, which takes longer and allows Ottawa time to shift their positions to keep the puck to the outside.

So Far

The first two games after the break find Detroit at pretty much the same place they were before the break. Their power play isn’t as effective as it needs to be, although they are doing a lot of effective things. While they only scored one goal on the power play in four opportunities against Toronto, they looked much better than they typically do against a team whose penalty killers apply that much pressure.

Come back next week for another installment in this series! As always, if there’s something you want me to take a look at, put it in the comments, and I will do my best to do so.

Previous Editions

Week One
Week Two
Week Three
Week Four
Week Five
Week Six
Week Seven
Week Eight
Week Nine
Week Ten
Week Eleven
Week Twelve - No Edition This Week
Week Thirteen
Week Fourteen
Week Fifteen
Week Sixteen
Week Seventeen - No Edition This Week