The Carolina Hurricanes power play started out the season strong but now is lacking
To start the season, the power play fueled the Hurricanes offense. I covered Carolina’s success on the power play, and the systems they used in an earlier article. By the end of October, the Carolina Hurricanes power play was fifth in the league with a 25.9%, but ever since it’s been a slow climb down the rankings. Now the man advantage is a mess; even prompting Bill Peters to comment that work needs to be done. If the Hurricanes want to start winning more games and move above .500 hockey, the first place they can start is by improving the power play.
At the start of December, the Hurricanes were tenth in the NHL with a 19.7 PP%. Now the Canes are 14th with an 18.8%. That doesn’t seem too bad until one realizes that Carolina only scored one goal in their last 24 opportunities for a measly 4 PP%. In fact, before Skinner’s power play goal against St. Louis on Thursday, the Canes hadn’t scored with the extra man since December 16th.
Yeah, that’s not very good. Especially for a team that with offensive struggles and needs all the help they can get. So why the sudden drop in power play efficiency? One reason could be injuries. Both Justin Faulk and Elias Lindholm missed time during the power play drought and Justin Faulk, especially, is a major part of that unit. But I think the real reason has to do more with the Hurricanes strategies than any personnel issues.
When the Hurricanes power play worked, they played an overload/umbrella hybrid system or a 1-3-1. However, now the Hurricanes seem to stick to just the plain Umbrella system. The Umbrella is basically like the name says. Two point men and one of the forwards form a U-shape with two along the half boards and the other at center ice near the blue line.
And while the Umbrella does have some benefits, for a team that doesn’t have a lot of heavy shots from the point it seems ill fitted for the Hurricanes. Not only does the Umbrella need a good shot at the point to make this work, something Carolina lacks, a team also needs players who can provide screens. Given Carolina’s smaller than average stature, these two factors render the strategy unusable. I don’t think it’s any coincidence that the Hurricanes adoption of this style began simultaneously with their inability to score on the power play.
Here’s what they should do
The first thing the Carolina Hurricanes can do to improve their power play efficiency is to drop the Umbrella system completely. It isn’t working and it doesn’t play to the Hurricanes strengths
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of passing and quickness. Peters needs to focus the team on working the puck down low. This is where the Canes passing skills could shine. Instead of the next pass just being among people at the points, playing down low opens up lanes to the front of the net and the dangerous spots on the ice.
It was especially evident in the Blackhawks game on Friday. In the second period, the Canes went on the power play and it looked like more of the same. But in the second minute, they started working it behind the net and out of the corners. A simple switch turned a toothless attack into one that created some of the best chances the Hurricanes had all night. Chances that extended well past the return to even strength.
But don’t take my word for it, the Columbus Blue Jackets use the same system and they have the number one power play in the league. Jack Han with The Athletic details their power play here:
See how setting up behind the net exposes so many good passing lanes? And like I said, it’s not like the Hurricanes aren’t talented enough to execute this because they do. Staal, Skinner, Aho, Rask, Faulk, Slavin, Teravainen are all great passers and shooters. This system works to their talents much better than the Umbrella. The bonus point is these players ALREADY KNOW THE SYSTEM. It’s something they’ve done before. So why the team continues to use the Umbrella is mind boggling. The plan is there and the players are there; Peters and company just have to implement it. Let’s hope they do before the chances at a playoff berth completely evaporate.