September 05, 2023

Bryce Salvador

The Devils' ineffective Power Play is the main part of their game, causing everyone to go grey and lose their hair. Going into the BUF game, the Devils' PP had scored only once in its last 14 opportunities, a dismal conversion rate of 7.1%. Yes, during their first two PP opportunities last night in BUF, they had tremendous looks, several Grade A chances, and hit posts. Still, the PP failed to convert even after swapping Mercer for Bratt on PP1, moving Hughes to the right flank and Meier to the left flank. And, to add insult to injury, BUF scored a PPG late in the 2nd period after the Devils' two failed PP opportunities. So, when Jack scored his PPG in the 3rd period to bring the Devils within one goal, you could immediately see and feel the relief from everyone. Man, it was looking like another frustrating night for the PP. 

Let's have some fun and dive deeper into the Devils' PP since 2/6/23 and break it down into Puck Possession, Puck Retrievals, and Puck Execution.
For me, a strong PP starts with winning your OZ face-offs at a top-10 rate or better in the NHL. You immediately get puck possession, typically move right in your set formation with the puck at the top, and can blast off your first Grade A shot attempt. Right now, the Devils' face-off win% of 57.3% ranks #17. So, they are immediately chasing more pucks than I like to see off of face-offs and having to skate 200-ft after the opposition ultimately clears the puck. Yes, some will point to the Devils having an extremely high success rate of entries skating across the blue line, the 3rd highest rate; however, this is misleading as a high rate means the Devils are frequently coming back into the OZ after retrieving cleared pucks.

Furthermore, if you dig a bit deeper into these entries, the % of those controlled entries having their next play being a successful pass, shot, or scoring chance is at the 17th highest rate. So, combining their slightly below-average OZ face-off win% with their high rate of entries having low rates of successful plays along with the 16th highest OZ turnover% has led to their PP OZ Zone time being 29th in the NHL. Nowhere near good enough.

Next for me is the competitive level of a team's PP. You need to have a 5v5 mentality when attempting to outwork the PK. Everyone on the PK knows that each successful kill is enormous for a team's morale and injects energy into their entire bench. The PKers bring their work boots and lunch pails for each kill. Unfortunately, as of late, the opposition's PK has had its way with the Devils' PP in terms of being desperate for loose pucks. The Devils' OZ puck retrieval rates after SATs (#26), after rebounds (#21), and their 50/50 puck battle win% (#30) leave much to desire. Outworking a PK is a non-negotiable for having a successful PP.

Last but equally important is the overall execution of the PP's passing, shooting location, and net-front presence. The Devils' rates of passes to the slot (#23), shots from the slot (#18), and the % of their shots screened (#14) are far from the top-10 levels. Look, there's tons of skill on the PP1, but the chemistry and execution still need to be much higher for consistent success. 

Summing things up, the Devils need to start the PP by winning more face-offs and try to bring down the tempo of play just a bit before passing the puck; you don't always need to 1-touch your passes. (Meaning, don't force passes before allowing some movement to occur in hopes of drawing a PKer out of position.) After SATs, it then comes down to puck retrievals so that you can maintain higher rates of OZ zone time.

Last night's PP execution was encouraging, so hopefully, the Devils will score another PPG tonight vs. OTT to keep things rolling! 




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