Mar 8, 2012; Glendale, AZ, USA; Phoenix Coyotes defenseman David Rundblad (2) against the Minnesota Wild at the Jobing.com Arena. The Wild defeated the Coyotes 3-2 in a shootout. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-US PRESSWIRE
A sub-par power play has plagued the Phoenix Coyotes for many years. As discussed earlier today, the Coyotes have only been able to crack the top 20 in power play percentage twice since moving to Glendale. They were in the top half of the league only once when they ranked 11th during the 2007-2008 season. This article will discuss the future of the Coyotes power play as well as offer possible solutions to cure its ineptitude.
The future for the power play looks bright as help could be on the way. Oliver Ekman-Larsson is already one of the best young defensemen in the NHL and can quarterback a top line power play. Ekman-Larsson has eight power play points last season which was 25 percent of his offensive production; an improvement from 18 percent the previous season.
In the future, the Coyotes second power play unit could be run by defenseman David Rundblad. Rundblad was acquired from Ottawa along with a second round pick in exchange for Kyle Turris. Rundblad is a puck moving defenseman with a hard point shot who could see significant time with the Coyotes soon. Rundblad already recorded a point on the power play during the six games he played with Phoenix.
Brandon Gormley has become somewhat of a power play specialist in the QMJHL. Gormley was the 13th overall pick in the 2010 NHL entry draft. Gormley has a great first pass to start the rush out of the defensive zone and a heavy shot from the point that finds its way to the opposing goalie. The combination of a left handed Gormley and a right handed Rundblad could make a lethal combination in the future.
There are a few tactics that could improve the power play immediately. The first tactic is that the point men on the power play must keep the puck in the zone. Too often pucks are cleared by the opposing teams around the boards past a vacant point position. The Coyotes need to force teams to clear the puck up the middle or risk turning the puck over.
Another tactic is quite simple: get someone in front of the net. Goalie screening is imperative because pucks can be tipped, rebounds can be possessed and the goalie can be blinded. All three potential outcomes can lead directly to a goal. If someone like Martin Hanzal is to be given power play minutes, his best asset is his size and should be in front of the cage.
A third tactic that can help the power play is speed into the zone. Often times the player carrying the puck in the neutral zone skates laterally or uses drop passes at the red line. This slows down the power play unit and allows the penalty killers to gain proper positioning. The puck should be in the offensive zone to be cycled instead of lateral or drop passes at the blue line that can be intercepted or put the team offside.
For the Coyotes to jump from a playoff team to perennial Stanley Cup Contenders, the power play needs to be as solid as the penalty kill and five-on-five scoring are.