Photo By Andy Martin J
In the first part of this series we started the conversation about how Todd Richards is transforming the Tampa Bay power play from a clock waster to a bonafide weapon of choice. We focused on one of the more important aspects of a great power play, the zone entries. More specifically one of the new additions to the arsenal, the double trailer drop pass controlled entry.
Now let’s move forward to one of the many tactics Tampa Bay is using once they get that entry into the zone. The power play is both set plays and controlled chaos. There are certain structures teams use and at the same time the players on the ice must be able to improvise at a moments notice. Players on the power play must read off the defensive structure and react accordingly. The tactic we are examining in this part of the series is a weak side overload. This is a play that sees four of the five offensive players on one side of the ice. The puck is moved around in that area exclusively, slowly drawing the defensive players inward. Once this is achieved, a passing lane should open up for the fifth offensive player on the opposite side of the ice. This allows for that player, in this case Stamkos, to have a medium to high danger opportunity on net. This is a tactic that the Washington Capitals have perfected using Alex Ovechkin as the trigger man.
So let’s take a look at the full play and then dissect it into segments to see exactly what happened.
As you can see, in this instance the tactic works as advertised for Tampa Bay. Stamkos gets a great opportunity with time and space to take a well placed shot resulting in the goal. Let’s take a look at the build up creating that chance.
After the faceoff is won back to Stralman at the right point, he quickly moves the puck to Stamkos on the left point. Stamkos initially has a decent amount of room to move in to, but it is closed down quickly by Islanders defenders.
Stamkos elects to take a shot on net looking more for a deflection or a rebound than an actual goal in this situation. Namestnikov is there to create traffic and pick up said rebound if it presents itself.
Boychuk tries to clear the loose puck but doesn’t get much on the attempt and Stralman is able to hold it in the zone. He skates down the boards, collapsing the Islanders defense with him, and swings the puck around the boards to the opposite side to a waiting Tyler Johnson.
Johnson receives the pass and, like Stralman, skates the puck up the boards deeper into the zone. The key here is to watch Stralman. He comes from behind the net and has two options of where to fill in space.
As you can see in this screenshot, Stamkos isn’t even in the frame. Normally, Stamkos would move towards Johnson’s side of the ice to support a drop pass to the point. Stralman would then shift out towards the left point, filling the void left by the shifting Stamkos. This path is represented by the red arrow. Instead, Stralman fills in the right point void himself and supports Johnson for a drop pass. This path is represented by the green arrow. What this does is gives Stamkos the ability to get lost in the coverage, and slowly work his way into what we have come to know as his “office”.
Johnson passes the puck down low to Namestnikov. It’s at this point where you can see the Islanders structure is completely gone. The best power plays are able to move the defenders out of the eventual passing and shooting lanes. Tampa Bay was extremely successful in this situation at doing just that.
All four Islanders defenders are now not only below the faceoff dots, but also almost entirely in a straight line. This is a recipe for disaster. As you can see, it allows almost the entire danger area of the offensive zone to be completely open for passing and shooting lanes. The overload of Tampa Bay players, and the passing among them, has effectively done it’s job and broken down the penalty kill structure of the Islanders. Only one thing left to do now.
Two quick passes from Namesnitkov to Johnson and then Johnson to Stamkos, takes full advantage of the open ice Tampa Bay has earned itself.
The pass from Johnson to Stamkos is wide open. Stamkos receives the pass exactly where he wants to be, left completely unmarked at this point, and with all the time and space he needs to unleash one of the deadliest shots in the NHL.
This weak side overload tactic has become a staple for Tampa Bay’s power play. They also have the ability to reverse it and run it on the opposite side, eventually funneling to Kucherov for a similar scoring chance. When you have two of the best shooters in the NHL in Stamkos and Kucherov, this tactic is extremely potent. It works so well that it leaves you wondering how any NHL team can leave one of the best shooters in the game all alone. Yet this is exactly how Ovechkin is scoring over twenty power play goals a year. The way Tampa Bay has been executing on the power play, Stamkos would seemingly be looking at the same success.