Defending the Power Play

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defending the power play
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5 successful strategies for killing penalties

By David Franco

Defending the power play is a crucial aspect of ice hockey. In this article, we will discuss the five most commonly used strategies for defending the power play, compare their effectiveness in the NHL, and discuss the difficulty level of its execution for rec hockey players.

Box Formation

The Box formation is a popular strategy for defending the power play. Four players form a box in front of the net, with two players at the top of the box and two players at the bottom. The players in the box move in unison to cover the passing lanes and prevent the opposition from getting shots on net. The player at the top of the box is responsible for pressuring the puck carrier and preventing them from making a pass.

The Box formation effectively prevents shots on net, but can be vulnerable to cross-ice passes and shots from the point. Additionally, it requires strong communication and coordination between the four players in the box, which can be challenging to execute consistently.

Diamond Formation

In this formation, three players form a diamond in the defensive zone, with one player at the top of the diamond and two players at the bottom. The player at the top of the diamond is responsible for pressuring the puck carrier and preventing them from making a pass. The players at the bottom of the diamond move in unison to cover passing lanes and prevent the opposition from getting shots on net.

The Diamond formation can be more flexible than the Box formation in preventing shots on net. However, it can also be susceptible to cross-ice passes and shots from the point. In addition, like the Box formation it requires strong communication and coordination between the three players in the diamond.

Wedge +1 Formation

The Wedge +1 formation is a more aggressive strategy. In this instance, three players form a wedge in the defensive zone, with one player at the top of the wedge and two players at the bottom. The player at the top of the wedge is responsible for pressuring the puck carrier and preventing them from making a pass. 

The two players at the bottom of the wedge move in unison to cover the passing lanes and prevent the opposition from getting shots on net. The +1 player is responsible for staying in the middle of the ice and preventing cross-ice passes.

The Wedge +1 formation is effective at pressuring the opposition and preventing shots on net. But it can be challenging to execute consistently. It also requires the +1 player to be disciplined and stay in position.

Diamond Box Hybrid Formation

The Diamond Box Hybrid formation combines both the Box and Diamond formations. In this setup, four players form a diamond in front of the net, with one player at the top of the diamond and two players at the bottom. The player at the top of the diamond is responsible for pressuring the puck carrier and preventing them from making a pass. 

The two players at the bottom of the diamond move in unison to cover passing lanes and prevent the opposition from getting shots on net. The fourth player is positioned in front of the net to provide additional support and prevent shots from getting through.

When preventing shots on net, the Diamond Box Hybrid formation can be more flexible than Box or Diamond formations alone. However, it requires strong communication and coordination between the four players.

Pressure Formation

Pressure formation is a highly aggressive strategy. In this case, four players apply pressure on the opposition players, preventing them from getting set up in the offensive zone.

This formation can effectively disrupt the opposition’s power play and prevent them from getting shots on net. However, it requires skillful execution, strong skating ability and communication between the players.

How Effective Are These Strategies in the NHL?

These strategies are commonly used in NHL games, and their effectiveness varies depending on the situation and opposition. However, according to statistics compiled by NHL.com, the Box and Diamond formations are the most popular for defending the power play. For example, during the 2020-21 season, the Box formation was used by teams on 46.8% of penalty kills, while the Diamond formation was used on 23.8% of penalty kills. Conversely, the Wedge +1, Diamond Box Hybrid and Pressure formations were rarely used.

In terms of successful penalty killing, the Box and Diamond formation were among the most beneficial strategies for defending the power play. During the 2020-21 season, the Box formation had a success rate of 79.5%, while the Diamond formation had a success rate of 81.5%. By contrast, the Wedge +1, Diamond Box Hybrid and Pressure formations had lower success rates.

The Difficulty of Execution for Rec Hockey Players

The Box and Diamond formation tactics are generally easier to execute than the other strategies, due to their simpler structure and reliance on basic defensive principles. However, all five strategies require strong skating ability, communication, and coordination among the players.

To effectively defend the power play, rec hockey players should focus on the basics of defensive positioning and communication. They should also work on strengthening their skating ability, which is essential for effectively executing these strategies.

The Bottom Line

Defending the power play is a crucial aspect of the game, and there are several strategies that teams can use to prevent their opponents from scoring. The Box and Diamond formations are the most commonly used and most successful strategies in the NHL. The Wedge +1, Diamond Box Hybrid and Pressure formations are the least used but can be effective in certain situations.

David Franco is a sports fan and dedicated writer who has been analyzing teams, players and plays in order to provide the most accurate opinions around the sports universe.

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