The Golden Knights power play was much maligned last year. They finished the season 25th in the NHL, converting on just 16.8% of their chances.
To make matters worse, it didn’t improve with the addition of one of the most dangerous power play weapons in team history, Mark Stone. After the deadline, Vegas hit on just 7 of 45 power-play opportunities or 15.6%. They picked it up dramatically in the postseason, running at a 27.5% clip, but it was all against the same team, and it fell off a cliff in Games 6 and 7 when they went 0 for 5 and gave up a shorthanded game-winner.
This year, the Golden Knights have connected on 6 of their 20, 30%, which has them in 6th place in the NHL through 6 games.
Last game in Los Angeles, the power play looked unstoppable, going 3 for 3 and creating opportunities consistently. I set out to figure out what, if any, differences there were on the power play between now and last year (especially in the playoffs when the personnel was most similar).
The first thing to focus on is the entry. Vegas consistently uses a drop pass which leads to a puck carrier with speed brinign the puck through the neutral zone. He then brings it in himself or drops it off to one of the two wingers standings at the blue line. The Golden Knights strayed from this entry for a bit in the playoffs, but returned to it by the end of the series. So, for the most part, that’s completely unchanged.
The units are not far off from what they were against the Sharks in the postseason. The better unit includes Max Pacioretty, Mark Stone, Paul Stastny, Shea Theodore. The other unit includes Jonathan Marchessault, Reilly Smith, and William Karlsson. The difference that Cody Glass in now in for Alex Tuch on the first unit, and Nic Hague and Valentin Zykov are in for Colin Miller and Cody Eakin on the second.
What this has done has created a small difference in the default layout the Golden Knights use once they enter the zone and are completely set up. It’s literally the only difference I can find, but there does seem to be a contrast in how the units operate due to the change.
To illustrate it, we head to the grease board!
Power Play setup last year with Tuch
Power Play setup this year with Glass
As you can see, the only difference is where Glass and Tuch play. Tuch is set up directly in front of the net with the idea of screening the goalie and picking up rebounds, while Glass is under the goal line as an extra passing option.
The main difference is the options that are presented for the two guys in the circles when they have the puck (Pacioretty and Stone).
Last year with Tuch
This year with Glass
There are five options with Glass under the goal line. As opposed to there only being four with Tuch in front of the net. Plus, it allows for a pass to Glass in a place in which he has options, while a pass to Tuch basically has to go directly back from where it came.
That being said, with Tuch there’s a body directly in front of the goalie making the shot a much better option because the goalie can’t always see it. With Glass, there’s an extra passing option, which spreads out the four penalty killers, and likely opens up the passes to Stastny or through the seam to Stone or Pacioretty in the other circle. However, without a screener, the shot from Pacioretty or Stone has to be perfect because the goalie can see it. Here’s how it looks in reality.
Last year with Tuch
This year with Glass
Through six games, it’s made a big difference as it’s accentuated Stone and Pacioretty’s roles on the power play. With more options, Stone has fed a bunch of passes through the seams to Pacioretty and Max’ shot has been so lethal that he hasn’t needed the screen in front of the goalie. In addition, Stastny’s been left open a bit more in the slot (likely due to penalty killers trying to take away other options) which led to both of his goals against Los Angeles.
The other unit has used Zykov in the role Glass has been in, with Karlsson in Stastny’s spot. It hasn’t been nearly as successful, though the sample size is minuscule.
It’s a tiny little wrinkle, and one is not necessarily better than the other. There are benefits to both, it just depends on the personnel on the ice. Glass’s positioning has seemed to help create more time and space for the other four on the ice and even without the screener in front, the puck is finding its way past the goalie.
Time will tell, but the other unit may be better served to have the body in front of the goalie (especially if it’s Tuch). That will create more space to shoot at, which should help Marchessault, Karlsson, Smith, and Hague in a big way from the point.
As for now though, we’ll probably be seeing more of Glass and Zykov under the goal line as opposed to in front of the goalie. If it keeps working, it may make an interesting dilemma once Tuch comes back. If not, it’ll further highlight how much this team is missing #89.