**Reminder: Much of the information highlighted in this series comes from a 36-minute presentation from Bruce Cassidy on TheCoachesSite.com 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.
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.
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.