Key to Dallas Victory Versus Washington: Shutting Down PP Formation Shifts And Swing Entries
A lot of things will need to happen in order for Dallas to beat Washington. They can't take penalties, to state the obvious. But to be even more obvious, they've got to be aware of what makes Washington so good on the Power Play.
Even the most stout hockey experts, philosophers, and hobbyists wouldn't feel the need to waste their time on debating who the best team in the NHL is right now. Yea Chicago has won all the cups, and LA has been drinking from the crown too, but Washington seems to truly have it all this season despite lacking the necessary history to be considered favorites.
Among them is their Power Play. Which is ranked 1st in the NHL. They were ranked 1st the season before that. And before that they were ranked 2nd. For Dallas' Penalty Kill this means basically all the worst parts of the Bible.
If you follow anything I do, you know that I've been fascinated my special teams lately. Most of this is thanks to Arik Parnass, whose special teams work is truly essential for any hockey fan. And with that interest has been a few in depth but amateur looks at how Dallas' Power Play suffers from impatience and rushed formation setting. Or as will be relevant for this post, the wrong personnel for the right philosophy on their PK.
What must Dallas' awful PK do to stop the Capitals' Power Play? Dallas boasts a PK that ranks 20th in the NHL, which is actually better from their previous rank. Which is like saying that they're slowly getting better the way a pig gets cleaner by showering in mud instead of anthrax.
Nobody expects Dallas to shutdown the Caps' power play completely. But if it can avoid letting them go 3 for 3, for example, I'd say we're making progress. As Parnass has talked about, one of the keys to any efficient power play is gaining entry with speed. The quicker you can enter the zone, the quicker you can get in formation.
One way to do this is with a swing entry. Parnass provides the necessary gif:
As well as a brief explanation for what it means for the Power Play formation:
By creating an environment (speed, decoy, polished product) in which Johansson (or Jason Chimera, or Kuznetsov, etc.) can enter the zone on his off-wing, this entry also means the player can easily drop the puck back to the point off the boards once in the zone or rush in for an off-wing (better angle) rush chance, but also is already in the intended position for the 1-3-1.
Once in formation, their movement is next level.
A professional athlete doesn't rely on their reflexes. They rely on their anticipation skills. And how muscle memory assists that anticipation reflex.
If you've ever watched a UFC fight, you've probably seen some jiu jitsu. In jiu jitsu, the motto in grappling has always been position before submission. By switching formations, Washington is executing high level jiu jitsu; position before save percentage submission, as it were. In addition to maximizing their shooting options with quick formation adjustments, the movement forces PK units to react. Once paralysis by analysis sets in, it's already too late.
In addition to everything just mentioned, their second line of Andre Burakovsky-Evgeny Kuznetsov-Justin Williams is outscoring all but five line combinations with more than 100 minutes of ice time per 60 minutes of TOI.
As much as I would have loved to break down the previous special team battle when these two teams met November 19th, NHL.tv was kind enough to get rid of, well...everything. Who knows. Maybe previous games are suddenly watchable.
It must be raining in every nhl arena. Terrible quality #nhl #nhl.tv pic.twitter.com/RfzM3qLsoB— Chuck Yorio (@chuckyorio) February 10, 2016
Or not. Thankfully the Dallas Stars took cues from abstinence programs and did not commit a single penalty against the Capitals in their November meeting. If lightning strikes twice, maybe they won't have to worry about formation shifts and swing entries after all.