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Dissecting Bruce Cassidy’s Power Play System And Philosophies: Faceoffs

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Parts One and Two of this series focused on entries and in-zone play. So, we only have one place left to explore in Bruce Cassidy’s power play system, faceoffs.

**Reminder: Much of the information highlighted in this series comes from a 36-minute presentation from Bruce Cassidy on called Principles of the Power Play. If you are looking for more detail than provided in this article, we highly recommend you watch the video in its entirety.**

Now, if you know anything about me you are aware that I’m not a big believer in the importance of faceoff percentage. I truly believe that a terrible team at faceoffs, which wins about 45% has an equal shot of winning the game as an elite team winning them at 55%. No matter what you feel about faceoffs, the fact of the matter is that inevitably, you are going to win some of them.

When the Golden Knights are on the power play, and that happens, here’s what to expect from a Bruce Cassidy power play.

Defenseman to the center of the ice

When a draw is won cleanly back to the blue line, the first action Cassidy wants to see is the puck lugged to the center of the ice. The idea behind this is to establish the 1-3-1 setup as quickly as possible and instantly start attacking. Getting to the center of the ice gives the puck carrier multiple options that may be limited if he stays near the blue line along the boards. Finally, by bringing the puck across the zone, it forces the penalty kill to show their cards. The forwards have to make decisions on how much they are pressuring and the defensemen must decide if they want to collapse and take away the bumper and net-front players or fan out and cover the wings.

Reading cues

Once the puck is moved towards the middle of the ice, there are certain cues Cassidy teaches his power play quarterback to read. The first is the stick of the killer closest to him. That stick position is the number one cue as to where the puck is going to go next. The next cue is the defenseman that stays on the side of the won draw. If he collapses into the middle of the ice, the pass to the circle will be wide open. Or, if he tries to take away the one-timer option on the wing, the puck-carrier is expected to fire the puck along the ice to the bumper who can either accept the pass or tip it on goal.

What is great about these cues is that they are simple to read. Literally, sitting at home, you’ll be able to watch the stick of the penalty killer, then check on the defenseman, and decide where the puck can go. When the read is made properly, it will quickly materialize into a scoring chance almost every time.

Win draw. Move to the center. Make the right decision. It really is that simple.

Numbers advantages

The next philosophy is one that comes into play all over the ice in every situation but is heightened on the power play. Using prescout tendencies, Cassidy likes to have set plays that expose numbers advantages. These are situations where the penalty kill gets overly aggressive in attempting to take away one particular option, leaving a 2-on-1 or a 3-on-2 somewhere else on the ice.

A quick example Cassidy used to explain it in his presentation. When the defenseman aggressively pressures the half wall off the draw, the play calls for a quick pass to the opposite side, then the bumper heads to the back post while the net front slides over to the front post. It’s a 2-on-1 down near the goal and the other defenseman has too much ground to cover to check the bumper standing on the backdoor for a tap-in. Here’s how it looks starting with the draw.

When the draw is won back to the defenseman at the blue line, he quickly walks the line to get to the center of the ice. Notice the defenseman challenging out to the half wall to take away that pass option.

Once this pass to the other circle happens, it’s a race between the bumper (who is in the high slot in the above graphic) and the defenseman caught outside the dots (he’s in the top left of the graphic) to the far post. The offensive player will win that race every time.

In this example, Cassidy’s power play uses both quick puck and player movement to create a numbers advantage in the most dangerous area of the ice. It’s incredibly simple but requires rapid and flawless execution to pull it off properly.

So there you have it, the Cassidy power play system as in-depth as I can go with it. Simply put, Cassidy’s obsession with the power play leads to a wide range of options for the players on the ice, but in the end, it comes down to whether or not the guys can make the correct reads and implement the plays required to make the system succeed. The players in Boston did it year in and year out. VGK will be expecting their players to be able to do the same.


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  1. “It’s incredibly simple but requires rapid and flawless execution to pull it off properly”. OK………….

  2. Jailbird

    Nice story on Kessel in the RJ this morning. Not only should he help us on the ice, but in the room as well!

    • Kenny

      Yea, and he could be a big piece for us on Cassidy’s power play. Let’s hope, eh?

  3. Tim

    Like I said before and I’m sure most agree how can you go wrong with Phil Kessel. 1.5 million give me a half dozen sorry Paul Stansty couldn’t be had too. Some poster the other day said she saw Stansty in church if that’s the case and he and his family still live in Vegas then that’s a blow against the organization. Maybe Patch is right the games the game but we’ve got a 3 o’clock tee time so maybe they just roll with the flow. There may have been a lot more drama in the locker room that never got out. Well it’s a new year clean slate and we’ll see how it plays out.

    • THE hockey GOD

      how is going to church a “blow against the organization “.

      Some people defy logic.

      • Tim

        THG, again misinterpret what I say. For some insecurity reason he’ll distort what people say to either just fuck with them or he is a fucking idiot I’m going with my second observation.
        I made a simple statement that someone saw Paul Stansty in church in Las Vegas so you can conclude he may or may not live here. Which tells me he signed for less money with Carolina which if you use logic he feels Carolina has a better chance to win or he didn’t like the direction the Knights were going or he had a bad experience with the Knights. Were not in the locker room so who knows. Now dip shit / THG turns it around to say what does church have to do with with blow against the organization. All things being equal if I can play at home for more money that would be hard to turn down and yes if that’s the case it doesn’t look good for management especially now when the whole country have made the Knights the laughing stock of the hockey world.

        • Mike StG

          Tim, there’s a fourth possible reason Stastny signed with the Canes, which I believe is probably the most likely reason: because that’s where Max was traded. They’re long time friends and their families are close, they do community outreach together (Pauly & Patch’s kids), and Max could probably use a friend out in NC to hang out with and support him thru his 6-month recovery from Achilles surgery.

          No one seems to mention the fact that Stastny also had an offer from Dallas that he passed up on. A lot closer to home than NC, considering he seems to have settled his family in Vegas. The money was probably fairly close anywhere he might go. I don’t buy the narrative that he was mistreated or lied to, etc. He didn’t have a NMC, so there was no guarantee that he would finish out his contract in Vegas.

          • Tim

            Mike, You make a lot of sense but it looks like Patch may be out for quite awhile so yes there friend but might not play together very much. Who really knows just like our goaltending one day were set the next day we trade for a goalie. I haven’t heard much on Hague I wonder what they think his future is? After a rocky summer things have picked up and with some moves they’ve made I’m a little more excited.

  4. Mike StG


    Thanks for these 3 articles. They’re interesting, informative and will help us see how effective VGK players will be in executing the various elements. Excellent, high quality content. Well done!

    As you mentioned in the last PC, it will likely take some time for players to adjust to the new system and learn their roles. In any event, I think we can look forward to improvement on the PP. Certainly they’ll be less “predictable” as both Stone & Eichel said last year needed to change.

  5. goalie trade

    Vgk just traded for goalie Adin Hill from SJ. ……six foot six.

    for a 4th round pick in 2024.

    Hill cap hit $2.167

    decent backup for LT.

  6. JV

    Looks like Brossiot won’t be ready to start the season. This move puts Vegas at 49/50 contracts. With Hague still unsigned, they really can’t bring in anybody else unless someone goes out. Hutchinson on unconditional waivers would be my pick if needed. Keep in mind Thompson is still waiver- exempt this season. When Brossiot comes back it will be interesting.

    • Mike StG

      JV, I agree. That’s how I read the situation as well. I think this is less a reflection on LT than it is on the LB injury and their lack of confidence in Hutchinson. I also think it was influenced by the Sharks’ position.

      Word was that the Sharks wanted a fairly high pick for one of their goalies. It looks to me like Vegas walked away and signed Hutchinson, basically signaling that they didn’t really need Hill. When the price came down to a 4th rounder Vegas re-engaged and did the deal.

      There’s very little downside to signing and keeping Hutchinson. They can send him to HSK and if someone claims him off waivers then so be it. Or if LT isn’t quite ready they can send him to HSK without risk since he doesn’t have to clear waivers.

      This also gives the team the flexibility to see if any of the goalies step up and set themselves apart from the rest.

      • JV

        Mike, they were asking for a 2nd for Reimer. Had to laugh at that. Surprised SJ didn’t have to retain any salary. 500 K would have been fair, especially since Hill’s actual salary is 2.6M this season. I brought up the contract issue because I held out the faintest hope they would add Milano or Rodrigues to plug the hole on line 3, figuring Hot Dog Man is top 6. Hutchinson isn’t going to do any real damage unless he gets called up.

  7. Jailbird

    Good move on getting the goalie. Solid backup behind LT .

  8. Blitz

    Just depends on the motive of this goalie move. If they don’t have faith, or maybe already know, that LB’s health is an issue, then the move makes sense. If they expect LB to be healthy right away then it doesn’t make since. If their plan is send LT down and keep Hill and LB then I hate it. They need to give LT a chance. If he fails at #1 then do what you have to do, but if they don’t give him a reasonable shot to earn it, that will be a shitty move. We’ll see. They certainly don’t tell the truth in the pressers. Last press conf, paraphrase “we are confident in our current goalie situation”, “LB is going to be healthy”. Two days later trade for another goalie. WTF?

    • Blitz – they, the FO, are no different than all the politicians, both sides , if their lips are moving they are lying, period end of story. LT deserved to be proven he cant be the starter and that won’t happen if these fools continue to create a one problem after another. LT has something most of the team lacks and came up the hard way. I have come to the conclusion they don’t recognize what a value attitude is and often surpasses skill and experience.

      • Blitz

        HD, I agree 100%. I am big on the personality of the team and the value players can bring. I agree LT has something that LB and certainly RL didn’t have. Personality, swagger, confidence, etc. This whole team had it at one time and now it is just robotic. As a fan that watches 97% of the games, it matters for entertainment value.

  9. Kenny

    It seems to me they still have question if LB will be ready for start of season. If so, then no choice but to bring in another goalie.

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