The Montreal Canadiens power play has been seen as a problem — and rightfully so — for some time now. While it is still early in the year, they currently sit ninth in the league with a 23.8% success rate on the man advantage. Last night, Nathan Beaulieu got his first goal of the year, on a play that illustrates quite well how dangerous the Habs power play can be when they do the right things.
Brendan Gallagher and Max Pacioretty are both involved in a puck battle down low with the Flames defense. When the puck squirts out, and Tomas Plekanec notices that it's likely to be shot down the ice. He intervenes, and pushes the puck back into the corner down low.
Look at the bottom right corner of your screen at the beginning of that sequence. Jeff Petry sees the same thing that Plekanec does, and he quickly bails out of the zone and towards the middle in case of a dump out, or a Flames rush. Nathan Beaulieu holds strong at the line, allowing for the next part of this play to develop.
Plekanec has the puck in the corner, Gallagher is involved in a battle with T.J. Brodie, and Max Pacioretty has a man right on him, so he's also a non option. With Mark Giordano closing in hard towards the corner, Plekanec needs to make a move, so he swings it up to Beaulieu at the point.
The moment that Plekanec made the play to break up the Flames attempt to clear the puck, Petry hustled back into position at the point. This provided Beaulieu with a perfect outlet, and he slides it across to his partner, who is slowly drifting towards the faceoff circle.
Once Petry gets the puck, he continues to slide towards the dot, drawing the Calgary defenders inwards to deal with a potential pass to the slot, or perhaps Petry taking a shot himself. Brodie's broken stick makes it virtually impossible for him to defend Petry's return pass to Beaulieu, who is wide open at the point. The rest, as they say, is history.
This is a short play, but I find some very interesting things in it. First of all, there is a potential penalty on Brendan Gallagher for getting his stick up on T.J. Brodie prior to the goal, but Brodie proceeds to break his stick over Gallagher's leg right afterwards. Best case scenario for Calgary would be both of those infractions drawing calls, and then it's a four-on-three.
The second, and more important thing by my assessment, is the mobility of Montreal's defense on this power play. Petry is in full defend mode just as Plekanec prevents the clear, and he's right back at his point position as soon as he sees that possession is once again theirs. Then having the presence of mind to draw all of Calgary's defenders in, Petry basically serves this goal to Beaulieu on a silver platter.
With Markov/Subban and Beaulieu/Petry as the two apparent defensive power play units moving forward, Montreal boasts a level of mobility that is very enticing. It is still early in the season, but plays like this go a long way to making fans hopeful that the power play can be a legitimate force to be reckoned with.