Coming off a postseason in which the Golden Knights sunk to nearly historic lows followed by a year in which they sputtered all the way through, improvement on the power play is one of the quickest ways to bring playoff hockey back to T-Mobile Arena. It’s not the only reason he’s here, but it’s certainly at the top of the list of why Bruce Cassidy is the Golden Knights’ new head coach.
Prior to the 2021-22 season, Cassidy graciously accepted the role of guest speaker as part of The Virtual Hockey Summit on TheCoachesSite.com. Cassidy’s presentation, which lasted more than half an hour, was called “Principals of the Power Play.” In the video-clip-laden presentation, Cassidy goes in-depth on every aspect of the power play including showing off a few drills to run in practice. He breaks down exactly what his units are looking to achieve and how he goes about teaching the players to get it done. It’s an absolute must-watch for anyone interested in the X’s and O’s of hockey.
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The presentation was so informative about Cassidy’s coaching vision that we are going to use it as the basis of a series of articles releasing over the course of this week and next devoted exclusively to the Golden Knights new power play.
In this, part one, of the series, we’re examining entries. What are Bruce Cassidy’s general philosophies on how to establish the zone on the power play and the systems he implements to do it?
The groundwork for Cassidy’s entire power play system is set up on a simple ideal that pertains mostly to entries but persists in every second his teams have the man-advantage.
Possession before position.
The idea is that all five players need to work together to establish possession of the puck inside of the zone before they head to their assigned positions in the power play setup. When Cassidy draws up entries, there is a role for every player that is separate from what they’ll be expected to do once the team is in the zone. He always wants players to present themselves as options to the puck carrier and work to areas that will help relieve pressure.
Not until the team has full possession of the puck and has broken any backchecking pressure are the players expected to do anything but support the entry. This bleeds into the next philosophy.
Always look to score off the rush.
Typically, we think of power play goals coming from neatly crafted passing plays, but in reality, many of them come before all five offensive players have even entered the zone. As a team comes up the ice to take on the neutral zone setup of the penalty kill, there’s typically an element of speed involved by both the puck carrier and at least one other offensive player. Cassidy’s approach is to look for scoring opportunities off these entries as there can often be a numbers advantage early in a possession.
Cassidy’s most common entry format (which we’ll get to momentarily) includes a player carrying the puck into the zone with speed, another flying down the opposite side of the ice, and a center driving the net. If the defense does not collapse to take away all of these options heading towards the goal, Cassidy wants his players to make the quick play and look to score instantly.
Next, is a simple math equation that Cassidy prefers while many other coaches do not.