The New Jersey Devils went 0-for-6 on power plays in Saturday night’s 2-1 loss against the Toronto Maple Leafs. One of those power plays was a 5-on-3, yet they still could not figure out how to score on the power play. They also went 1-for-5 tonight against the Buffalo Sabres. It forced my inner-coach to come out, here are my thoughts on the power play.
The Devils mostly run between the spread or 2-1-2 and the overload power play formation, especially on 5-on-3 situations. They have done this for some time, but it is ineffective. The main problem is the power play is very predictable and easy to defend. The formation basically spreads out the point men, has one in the slot, and then two forwards placed just below the dots on each side. The Devils try to use this to cross from winger to winger and use the strong shot from Ilya Kovalchuk at the left point. Problem with that is, it is predictable, and I mean extremely predictable.
The overload is mostly used to make tic-tac-toe goals. These goals are pretty, but not worth failing on most of the opportunities. The Devils do not have the skilled players they once had. Now they have to match the formation with the type of players they have.
Penalty killers have taken notice of this predictability of the Devils power play units. The Devils try to get a perfect shot and when they do not, they shoot it directly into the defenseman’s legs. The points are easily covered by the two wingers, and the forwards are easily sealed off by the defenseman down low.
The passes get easily telegraphed and intercepted, thus causing the Devils to have the whopping 22nd ranked 16.8 power play percentage.
The formation I belive the Devils would thrive with is the umbrella formation. If you place Marek Zidlicky (or someone better) at the lone point, Andy Greene and Patrik Elias at left defense and right wing, and then David clarkson and anyone else down low, the power play percentage will sky rocket. The umbrella leaves plenty of voids in the penalty kill. If the opposition runs a box or a diamond, there are plenty of plays to be made from that.
With the umbrella, there is no way perfect to seal off every shot, it also screens the goaltender. Clarkson fits perfect with this formation, he thrives down low and makes teams pay with his deflections and grinder play in front of the net.
The umbrella fits well with the rest of the Devils players. They all are tough, physical, and get love being down low. Compared to the spread the Devils mostly use, the umbrella does not give the goalie much of a view of the puck. Screening the goalie makes any shot more likely to find the back of the net.
Once Ilya Kovalchuk comes back he would be placed at the right wing position at the top of the circle. Here he could still get the one-timers, but the goaltender will now not likely see it. If there is a save made, it is easy for the players down low to tap in rebounds. The umbrella is my perfect fit for the Devils.
Overall, no matter what the Devils do, I do not believe they will be a dynamic power play scoring team. However, if they work on it a little more then they could score more than one out of ten tries.