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Breaking Down Film: The Habs power play features great player and puck movement

A look at the Habs' game-winning goal on the power play versus the Bruins

Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

16 games into the season, the Montreal Canadiens lead the league with 34 goals at 5-vs-5 and are second with 15 goals on the power play. Some of that can be explained by the Habs having five players shooting over 20%, but looking at the team's recent work, we can see interesting offensive tendencies which drive both shot quantity and quality.

Working Downhill

Hockey is a simple game. To create offense is to create chaos in the opposing zone, via well-orchestrated player and puck movement. On the game-winning goal against the Boston Bruins on Saturday, Alex Galchenyuk used an increasingly popular play to produce a shot on net, and a high-quality rebound for David Desharnais to put the Habs in front.

The Habs are set up in their 1-3-1 formation with Dale Weise, Desharnais, and Galchenyuk up front, while P.K. Subban and Andrei Markov on the back end.

The play starts with Markov finding Subban for a one-timer, the go-to play for this unit in the last three years. Subban misses the net here, but Galchenyuk is playing high enough in the zone to have plenty of time and space to recover the puck.

The easiest move here, and something most professional and recreational players would do, is to bump the puck back to the point and stop at the hash mark. But that play is very easy to defend - the Boston defenseman (Chara) would come up to cover Galchenyuk, and the left forward (Bergeron) goes up to the point to cover Markov.

Instead of stopping at the hash marks, he takes a couple of strides before dishing off to Markov. He stops right before the blue line, and now the Habs have options. This high F3 position is key, and something many coaches are preaching at both even strength and on the power play.

The first Boston forward needs to be able to prevent a Markov point shot, but also has his eye on Galchenyuk for a return pass. The second Boston forward has his stick in the passing lane to Subban, but cannot vacate Dale Weise in the middle of the PK box.

Markov walks the blue line with the puck on his stick, then makes a return pass to Galchenyuk. This is exactly what we want — he is "working downhill" and is moving toward the area which is the hardest to defend for penalty killers.

"Screening the goalie" and "getting traffic in front" are, in my opinion, the two most misunderstood aspects of generating offense. It is not enough just to get stationary bodies in front of the net and try to squeeze a shot through from the point. All that does is make the shot easier to block and clear.

The screencap above is the ideal: two of the four Boston players are no longer in the shooting lane, and three Montreal players (Subban, Weise and Desharnais) are converging for a possible rebound. In addition, Galchenyuk is about 15 feet closer to the net than on a typical point shot, which will give goaltender Jonas Gustavsson a bit less time to react.

Galchenyuk has an outstanding wrist shot, and he drills this one low to the glove side. Gustavsson is under massive pressure here - three Montreal players are crashing the net, and only one defenseman is in any position to help.

The Swede absolutely has to catch the puck clean to force a faceoff, but he cannot. The rebound pops out to Desharnais, who makes no mistake. 3-2 Montreal, who will make it 4-2 seconds later on an empty-netter to seal the win.

Jack Han is the Video & Analytics Coordinator for the McGill Martlets Hockey team. He also writes occasionally about the NHL for Habs Eyes on the Prize. You can find him on Twitter or on the ice at McConnell Arena.