Welcome back to Week Twenty-Two 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. The game played on Tuesday, March 5 will be included in next week’s edition.
5v4 Stats Update
The following three charts show the change for each team in the past week, for three metrics: TOI/GP, GF60, FF60. 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 through February 25, and “this week” includes all games from the beginning of the season through March 4. Detroit is highlighted in red.
Detroit only played two games in this stretch. One of the games fits into the category of “that of which we do not speak.” The team had 5 minor power play opportunities against Montreal, but only one against Arizona. They moved past Pittsburgh, but still reside in the bottom tier of the league.
The team didn’t make up much ground in the unblocked shots category either. While it’s better than moving downward, Detroit is now 2nd to last in the league in this area, as they were passed by two teams.
Detroit stays 9th from the bottom in goals scored per 60 at 5v4. Scoring one goal on 6 opportunities doesn’t move you forward, unsurprisingly.
The Arizona Coyotes are not just second in the league in preventing goals at 4v5, looking at the distribution makes it clear that they and Tampa are a step above the other teams in the top tier.
Because of only having two games to cover, this update is going to be shorter than past editions. Here are the shot locations from the past two games, along with the predicted goal value from Evolving Wild’s expected goal model. I know there’s some overlap, but I haven’t yet found a way to fix that. A reminder from last week that the predicated goal number is the decimal equivalent of the predicted percentage of likelihood that a shot taken under those circumstances will be a goal. For context, the average pred_goal value at 5v4 is roughly 8%. For more information, refer to last week’s edition.
Even without the overlay used in previous editions, you can see that well over half of the shots taken are above average in pred_goal, and some are much higher.
I’ll show why that is in the video section. Let’s do that right now!
Let’s Go to the Videotape!
For this edition, I wanted to focus on the two rookies in the first unit, Filip Hronek and Michael Rasmussen. I actually wanted to include Filip Zadina as well, but the second unit didn’t get a lot of time. I plan on focusing on Zadina in next week’s edition, assuming he gets enough 5v4 time to be able to do so.
It’s frustrating how much better the first unit is with Hronek running it because of how obvious it has been for a while that he was a better fit than Niklas Kronwall. He is so much more dynamic at the blue line, much in the way that Dennis Cholowski was earlier in the season.
In the first clip, we see very nice plays from both of the rookies on the first unit. Rasmussen controls a tough pass and gets the puck to Hronek. The defensemen’s movement changes the angle of attack, allowing Mantha a good lane for a one-timer. Larkin nearly cleans up the rebound in the slot.
From watching these 6 power plays this week, I noticed that Hronek does a very good job moving the point of attack, which makes it more difficult on the defenders.
The second clip for this edition shows how the top unit has continued to get better at moving the puck quickly. Mantha keeps the puck in at the blue line, then a series of quick passes sets up Athanasiou. This is such a step up from the power play in the middle of the season.
The next two clips are part of a continuous sequence. In the first one, Hronek drops to Athanasiou, who leaves it for Larkin. Two give-and-go passes later, Detroit is in the zone with possession. Pairing these two up has helped Detroit enter the zone with possession more consistently on the first unit.
The next sequence doesn’t lead to a goal, but it combines several things that have been topics of this series in past weeks. First, look at the quick one-touch passing. The top unit has been doing that much more often in the past two weeks. Especially against a passive penalty kill, the passes have to be quick to open up space.
Then, Mantha makes an aggressive seam pass through the middle, rather than just keeping the puck going around the outside. These passes are more likely to be intercepted, but they are also much more likely to lead to a good scoring chance. Athanasiou couldn’t shoot right away, or this could have easily been a goal. Watch the clip again and notice how the positioning of both Larkin and Rasmussen create the lane for Mantha to pass through.
While the game against the Canadiens was embarrassing, it was a positive sign that during the power play at the end, Detroit’s top unit was still making good plays. Athanasiou pushes the puck forward on the face-off and doesn’t relent until Detroit gets the puck back. Rasmussen sets up Bertuzzi nicely, and Bert sees a deflection opportunity that AA nearly puts in the net. A game to forget, to be sure, but the top unit was one bright spot.
This next clip is similar to the fourth clip of this edition, with Mantha passing across the center of the ice. Great pass, Athanasiou is in the right position, but he just has to receive it better.
Last, but certainly not least, is the one goal scored this past week. Here’s two views of the goal. The first view highlights the deflection by Larkin, while the second one highlights the Mantha pass and the smooth play by Kronwall to take the pass and quickly find Larkin breaking to the net. Kronwall barely played on the power play this week, which I think is good, but it’s also nice to see that he can still make good plays when called to fill in.
The top unit continues to operate at the highest level we’ve seen a unit operate on all season. Filip Hronek has proven that he belongs quarterbacking that unit, and the best part is that it consists of entirely young players.
In the upcoming week, I expect Zadina to get more time on the man advantage, and I look forward to seeing what he can do.
Week Twelve - No Edition This Week
Week Seventeen - No Edition This Week