Though the Nashville Predators power play may not look like much, it has deceptively become one of the NHL’s best over the course of October.
The Nashville Predators took on the New York Rangers on Saturday and the results did not please. The team looked rather lethargic but the power play looked especially tired. They struggled to get things going, resulting in a four to two loss.
To the eye, the Nashville Predators do not have a strong power play. They love to rim the puck around the boards to find space. In fact, sometimes that seems to be their only goal. Some players do a good job creating space for themselves, but the majority of participants do not hold the puck well. Too often, the puck gets turned over and before long, the penalty expires.
The basic strategy aims to push the puck high and crash the net as a defenseman shoots into the chaos. Emphasis is placed on blitzing down low to gain control of loose pucks, followed by an immediate pass to the points along the boards.
This differs quite a bit from the trending umbrella power play where one defenseman sits high, one forward screens the goalie, two forwards sit at the top of the circles on either side of the ice and one forward sits in the high slot. The Washington Capitals may utilize this system the best (observe this when Nashville plays Washington on November 11th).
Though the Predators use a simpler strategy than most, does that mean they have been left behind by strategically advanced teams?
Forsberg Embracing The Strategy
As of October 23, Filip Forsberg sits in a three-way tie for the league lead in power play goals. We know he looks good as of late and that he has lit the lamp six times thus far, but a league leader?
For some reason, this really surprises. It doesn’t seem like Filip really commands a power play, nor does he get all the opportunities. In fact, it would be less surprising if P.K. Subban or Mattias Ekholm lead the league. Those guys get all the chances. Filip just digs it out of the corners and passes it to the top of the zone, then goes to the net. But, maybe there’s something to that strategy.
In this goal on October 14 vs the Chicago Black Hawks, Filip takes a juicy rebound off of a P.K. Subban slap shot. Forsberg sets himself up perfectly to receive the rebound and gets rewarded. A pass to the point earlier in the sequence leads to a P.K. shot and Forsberg goal.
This goal, scored October 12 vs the Dallas Stars, showcases Forsberg’s ability to move the puck on the half-boards, get a pass to the point, then follow up the rebound. Again, the strategy remains the same. Get the puck in, gain some level of control, feed the defense, and get the rebounds off their shots.
But some teams just have guys who get in the right place. It doesn’t really indicate overall success to have one player do well on the power play. So how do the Predators fair as a team?
When looking at a power play, three factors must be examined.
How many chances does the team get to go on the advantage?
This month, Nashville has gone on the power play 35 times in eight games (4.38 times per game). Only six other teams in the NHL have had more power play chances this year. What does this tell us? Nashville draws penalties. They do things that make other teams take penalties to slow them down. Teams that don’t get many power plays usually play slow and do not threaten opposing teams with highly skilled and fast movement. This is a huge advantage for Nashville.
What percentage of the time does the team convert on the power play?
The Nashville Predators convert on 22.9% of their power plays. The league average is 19.27%. This puts Nashville as the tenth best in the league for converting power plays. Not converting on your chances separates teams with lots of potential and teams with lots of points. In order to get anywhere in this league, power plays must result in goals.
How long does it take a team to score on the power play?
So far, the Predators have spent 54 minutes and 43 seconds on the power play. Their average time on the power play when divided by their 35 chances is 1:34. The closer a team’s average to two minutes, the fewer goals they have scored (a full two minutes means the power play likely expired before a goal).
What advantage might a quick strike team have? Consider some less frequent penalty situations. five on three power plays, double minors and major penalties all benefit teams that score quickly. In the case of the five on three and the double minor, one goal concludes one minor. If a full two minutes or more still exists on the second penalty, the team on the advantage stays on the advantage. If a team takes 2:01 to score a goal, the power play finishes with only one goal scored.
A major penalty allows for an unlimited amount of scoring because the full duration of the penalty must be served. If Nashville, for example, scored a goal every 1:33.8 on a fiveminute major, they would end the power play with three goals.
How Good Can They Be?
To recap, the Nashville Predators lie within the top ten in the following categories:
- Power Play Opportunities
- Five on 3threeGoals (lead the league with three)
- Power Play Conversion Percentage
- Overall Power Play Goals
- Home Power Play Conversion Percentage
In addition to all that, Filip Forsberg is tied for the league lead in power play goals (4). So how good can the Nashville Predators power play be?
The biggest factor in any future success goes back to a simple hockey fundamental. Hit the net! As of late, Nashville can’t seem to get their shots on goal. Correct that one issue and the team will continue to find itself among the best power plays in the league. The amount of success this team can have is truly up to how well they master the fundamentals.
Simple hockey combined with determined, energetic play rivals even the most strategically complex play. Good shots coupled with traffic in front of the net lead to goals. Because that will never change, the Nashville Predators will be successful.