Power plays have a significant impact on most hockey games. Increase your team’s scoring chances with these essential power play strategies.
Your opponent has just landed in the penalty box, and so you’ll have an extra player on the ice for the next two minutes or more. Be prepared; you’ve earned yourself the most serendipitous moment in ice hockey as your team has got a distinct advantage and is about to go on a power play.
The Power Play and Its Strategic Importance
Power plays are imperative to a hockey team’s success. Whether on a recreational or professional level, the ability to score goals during a power play is crucial.
A player is escorted to the box whenever the opposing team receives a penalty. During this time, your squad gets a numerical advantage during the penalty time with an extra player on the ice–until the advantageous team scores, in which case the power play will end. The exception to that rule is when a player is assessed a major penalty. This type of infraction can last 5 minutes (or longer), and it does not end when the other team scores a goal.
Power plays often deliver a game’s most thrilling moments, and coaches implement various tactics to score while they have an advantage. Rules can allow up to two teammates to serve time in the box in unison; this can result in 5-on-3 moments–the most desirable power play moment.
Efficient power play moments make a significant impact on the majority of games. Here are some most essential tactics that can strengthen your team’s power play formation:
- Limit long passes
- Keep the puck close and your skates moving
- Don’t over-handle the puck
Power Play Strategies
All of the power play strategies used in the NHL can be implemented in recreational hockey games. The Edmonton Oilers are the perfect example of how important a power play can be. They have given the opposing team’s coaches no choice but to highlight the importance of avoiding unnecessary penalties, as they’re one of the best in the world during power play moments.
During the 2019-20 NHL season, the Oilers finished with a 29.4% man advantage. And in the 2020-21 season, they converted 27.6% of their power play chances. In both seasons they reached the final 16, and despite losing in the qualifying rounds, their power play skillset was a considerable part of their success. BetMGM Ontario bettors would flock to the window with their betting tickets to receive great prices on the Oilers scoring in a power play situation, further extending the belief in a team who are dominant when receiving the penalty advantage.
Wagering on successful power play teams aside, let’s take a closer look at the most essential power play skills used today.
The Umbrella Power Play Strategy
Maintaining control when entering the power play is critical. Most NHL teams have implemented the Umbrella strategy, which can be emulated in recreational hockey with somewhat less precision (in most case).
The basic premise is to move the puck between five offensive players, until an opening shot becomes available. Short and sharp passes are crucial, and using the man advantage should become a simple process:
- Force two-on-one situations
- Find the open man and give him the puck
- Unleash shots
- Obstruct the goalkeeper
- Look for rebounds
- Keep the puck in the zone if a defender tries to clear it out of the zone
Naturally, a professional team will use the Umbrella advantage effortlessly. But a rec hockey squad understandably may not execute this power play strategy with the same degree of perfection. Ignore the slap shots and the windup; impressive shots are challenging and can sometimes be more difficult for lower-level players. Recreational hockey players should focus on wrist shots as they’re more effective.
The Overload Power Play Strategy
In an attempt to cause mayhem for the opposing defenders, the Overload tactic is excellent for a team with skilled skaters who can cycle the puck at a high rate.
The forwards focus on overloading the opposition at the half boards. While there’s a consistency in movement down low, the Overload was created to take advantage of defensive holes. Also referred to as the 1-2-2, this power play relies on continuous cycling and movement.
The 2-1-2 formation was designed to withdraw defenders from the blue line as the offensive team overpowers the slot area with forwards, bombarding the crease area.
As the blue line becomes unmanned, defensemen will find more time and space to make a play. Either a slap slot or a back pass to an unmanned forward is the ideal play.
The Spread is most utilized in a 5-on-3 situation, but if your team is strong and can crash the net and screen the goalie, single-man advantages can also be successful.
There are many power play strategies, but the key to long-term success is understanding each player’s strengths and weaknesses. A generalization of all power play formations is to have consistent movement of pucks and skates, pressure the defense out of position, and create odd-man opportunities.