Puck Movement, Player Movement, The Canucks Powerplay and the Devils Powerplay

There is nothing I can really say about the Devils power play except that it is horrible. It's one thing that the team doesn't convert on them and it's another that they get scored on during them, when they should be scoring. While they're not last in the league in conversion percentage, they own the worst powerplay in the league on the basis of it not functioning well. The problems with the powerplay are well documented. Despite it continuing to fail, there doesn't seem to be any significant changes with the power play. I think the problems with the powerplay have less to do with the personnel, but rather the puck movement and where it occurs.

If there's one thing i've been noticing with the Devils powerplay, it's that a lot of the puck movement occurs at the back end. There are always three guys handling the puck- Ilya Kovalchuk, the Defenseman at the point (Adam Larsson, Kurtis Foster or Mark Fayne) and the man on the half boards are always holding the puck. Why? Because they want to set up Ilya Kovalchuk for a shot from the point. In theory, that's a good idea. Kovalchuk's an all world shooter. In practise, it's not so much a good idea. Why? Because of where the puck is moved- the blue line.

Moving the puck on the blueline is riskier because if the puck gets picked off, there's no one except the goalie to defend the breakaway. This isn't foosball where there's two defenders behind everyone else to defend the upcoming shot. That's why the Devils are giving up breakaways on the powerplay- because the other teams know to key in on Kovalchuk, they''ll go after him and pressure him. Moving the puck down low is better because there's a lower risk factor. If the other team does pick off the puck while it's down low, the other team won't get breakaways because the point men will be back there to defend, or the other team will have to clear because they have no avenue of attack.

Another point- point shots aren't very good quality shots. They'll either miss the net completely, or get blocked by another team's player- which is often the case. Just because Kurtis Foster can hammer the puck doesn't mean that the other team won't be willing to block his shot. They need to stop trying to get the one big, low percentage shot from Kovy and focus on getting more high percentage shots closer to the net from the other men on the power play.

Look at how the top ranked powerplay of the Vancouver Canucks succeeds- by moving the puck effectively down low. Here's two good examples of why it's so effective- in this clip of a Canucks PPG against the Oilers, the play down low effectively allows for the two point men to get a better shot, leading to Cody Hodgson tipping in a point shot, while Kevin Bieksa is left alone at the left point, assuming an Oiler would've been able to deter Dan Hamhuis from shooting.

Another reason why the Canucks power play is successful is how they move around. The Devils are very static on the powerplay. I don't see Ilya Kovalchuk pinching in as much as I want to see him. Patrik Elias is often glued to the halfboards. Zach Parise is always behind the net. There's absolutely no movement. I've watched every Canucks powerplay goal this season. Daniel and Henrik Sedin are never in the same place. Here you see Daniel down low and Henrik on the half boards. Here you see Daniel scoring from the left side while Henrik's in the middle. The only guy that doesn't move on that powerplay is Ryan Kesler, who scores pretty much every PPG he's scored in front of the other goalie banging the garbage in. The exception to this is the man in front of the goalie. David Clarkson's PPG against Pittsburgh is an example why he shouldn't- because he'll be there to bang home the garbage. From these examples, you can see why they're successful- they move around and generate quality chances 5v4. The Devils stay in the same place and the other team is fully expecting what will happen next.

This example of a PPG is more relevant to the Devils. Sami Salo, the lone point man is wide open while 4 Canucks distract the Canadiens penalty killers down low. While Salo isn't as threatening from the point as Kovalchuk (but is a significant one regardless), the Devils should consider trying to move around and get Kovalchuk space. If Kovalchuk had that kind of space, he'd probably be able to score a goal like that. But keep in mind that Edler, Salo's partner is up front with the forwards instead of being at the point with Salo. It might be harder to get Kovy the same setup, but the idea remains the same- they can still use Kovy to distract the other team down low and set up Foster or Larsson for a big drive from the point.

With that being said, do you think better movement would help the team out on powerplays? Would it help if the team was less predictable when it came to strategies? Leave your thoughts in the comments.

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