Entry Strategy

by Ryan

I am not a hockey genius.

In fact, the more I write here the more I want to learn about hockey in order to get better. There is plenty about the game that I don’t know, and so what I have to say here may not make any sense at all. Still, this has bothered me for a long time, and last night was the breaking point: I hate the way the Sabres enter the zone on the power play.

You know what I mean. Those stupid little drop passes in the neutral zone that are somehow supposed to fool the other team. Rather than playing dump and chase or simply establishing possession in the offensive zone, the Sabres have taken to stopping juuuust short of the blue line and putting the puck backwards to another player. It’s clearly by design, and it bothers me to no end.

I’m pretty sure I understand what they are going for, but it’s just not working. I think the intent is to create some sort of Mighty Ducks Flying V scenario, the perfect execution of which would look something like this:

Still, what usually happens is that the blue line looks more like this:

Think about it: the other team’s penalty killers are lining up on the blue line to put pressure on the puck carrier, and you want to put another two or three players in the way for them? Even worse is the fact that those players are now stationary, effectively killing any hopes of recovering a puck that goes to the corner. It seems to severely limit the options the power play has in setting things up, and complicates what should be relatively simple: getting inside the offensive zone on the power play.

Now maybe I’m wrong, but I just don’t understand the purpose. Last night the Sabres were 0-2 on the power play, a sample size that is way too small to truly make any assumptions. However, the eyeball test tells me that the entries into the zone are unnecessary and downright stupid. Perhaps I’m missing something, and I’m more than willing to hear reasons why they do that. I’m not one to think I’m smarter than people actually in charge of planning a power play, but to me almost everything about the power play seems counterintuitive .

But maybe I’m wrong. As I said, I am no hockey genius. Anyone have some input on this? I’m willing to hear arguments for sure.

6 Comments

  1. PKB

    My beef is that they do this too often. The PK unit comes to expect it. It used to work great now it works just okay.

    My guess is they do it because if the Sabres play dump and chance with MacArthur, Connolly, and Vanek they feel it doesn’t give them much of a chance. Those guys can not check. It’s hard enough for good checkers to be able to regain possession and set things up on the PP when all the PK unit has to do is disrupt and dump it out of their zone. It’s just too easy against some of the Sabres forwards.

    They’d rather have Connolly try and slip through an opening between players that are stationary and then be able to set up within about 5 seconds. Getting past 4 stationary players seems difficult with a guy like Pominville but Connolly is deceptive enough to get these guys out of position. All he needs is a little opening and then he’s by you.

    Just my 2 cents.

  2. Rob Ray was pitching a fit about this last night. According to him, they’re dropping the pass back too late, and as a result, everyone gets stuck flatfooted at the blueline.

    A few weeks ago Robi pointed this play out when it was working, but it’s definitely jumped the shark now.

    It seemed like a dippy little plan even in the best of times. It’s time for a less cutsie approach to the blueline, Lindy!

  3. I heard Connelly say on WGR two weeks ago that they saw Washington do it and wanted to steal it. Of course, the trailing player there is Ovechkin, and he’s going a million mph and breaks through the line, does a dip to the right, and scores from 25 feet out. We’re doing it slowly and poorly, and the other teams have figured it out by now.

  4. Yes, 0 for 2 is a small sample size – but I think 0 for 8 on Saturday night proves your point a bit more, yes? (Admittedly, I didn’t watch much of the Pittsburgh game for various reasons.)

  5. Steve

    I first recall seeing them do this last year, and it’s pretty stupid. I thought they had abandoned it but this year they’re back at it. It seemed to work slightly better but it’s still not good.

  6. I thought we stole it from Detroit last year. Roy was doing for us what Datysuk was doing for them.