We often think of the power play as a clean phase of the game, with crisp passes sliding through open ice and players getting time to set up and think about their play. We imagine puck rotations, tic-tac-toe setups, and dangles leading to top-shelf snipes.
Well, more often than not, the power play is just as dirty as five-on-five. The controlled entries in the offensive zone don’t always work. Players need to hound the puck to get it back and in control of the team. There are forechecks on the power play and they require even more investment out of the players, as establishing an offensive zone presence is a must. You won’t get a backcheck to create a steal and a counter-attack.
All this to say that I think the Montreal Canadiens have gotten better at the dirty aspect of the power play in recent games. When an entry fails, they stack the puck side of the ice, creating multiple layers of support. This makes it very hard for the other team to immediately turn up the ice and clear the puck as three or four Canadiens players stand between them and the blue-line. This forces the opposition to make a second play to get a clear, which reduces their chance of success.
On Shea Weber’s goal, the team telegraphs the entry and it fails. Josh Anderson loses the puck on the wall, but the Habs collapsed on the Canucks, clogging lanes, forcing them to their backhand, and making second and third efforts to steal possession back.
They finally earn it. The puck moves high and then toward Shea Weber.
The top of the circle remains Weber’s comfort zone. For any other player, the distance is too great to score. But if Weber gets a pass there, he can rip it past the goalie, even without the help of a screen.
The defenceman has lost a bit of his touch on the power play and it is probable that, in the near future, he will be replaced by a more effective trigger-man; one who can move with the power play, create seams, and get to those in more timely ways.
But it was good Wednesday night (or Thursday morning) to have a reminder of the ridiculous bombs that Weber can fire when the conditions are just right.