Barn Talk: Where did the Power-Play go?

Leafs have a Power-Play??

The Leafs power-play (PP) has been somewhat of an enigma. We have seen spurts of total domination as fans feel like they are on top of the mountain when they go 3 for 4. It truly is a spectacle to be seen when the Leafs own this area of the game. Unfortunately, we also see the Leafs fluctuate from seemingly being able to score at will to being absolutely stalwart for games on end. Such inconsistencies in their game leaves fans frustrated, scratching their heads wondering what’s going on. 


When it’s clicking, all’s good.


  The 1-3-1 is a high risk high; high reward system. And, Oh Boy!! When this team is clicking, they reap all the rewards. The 1-3-1 feels automatic each time the opposition takes a penalty. The reason this system has worked so well is because up until recently, most team’s penalty kill (PK) looked like a box as depicted below.




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   The Leafs aggressive 1-3-1 system uses 1 defenseman quarterbacking the play at the middle of the blue line, while utilizing 2 forwards by each faceoff dot, another is in front of the net and the other placed in between the hash marks. The hashmark forward is your bumper player whose job is to receive the pass from either the defenseman or outside wingers and “bump” it back to the wingers or defenseman. The forward in front of the net is providing a goalie screen while attempting tip-ins or collecting rebounds. The two side wingers provide shots to the net or will pinch in towards the box, which will open up the bumper forward or defenseman for a quality shot.


Options for creating scoring chances are plentiful and a big reason for why the 1-3-1 can be successful.


Both the bad and ugly


Competition breeds competitiveness. And with this competitiveness fosters a desire to be the best. The 1-3-1 formation started to make its appearance roughly five years ago after seeing its staggering success at the Junior level. NHL teams began to adopt this system in hopes of gaining an advantage, and it worked.


   This dynamic lasted up until around two years ago when teams consciously began trying to defend the aggressive system. This is when they figured out all they had to do was turn or invert their PK box into a diamond. This placed two players aligned down the middle taking away the bumper and front net presence of the PP while the other two players lined up in the cross-seam. This inverted box, or diamond, literally took away everything that made the 1-3-1 effective. 

   The fact that other teams in the league became aware of the 1-3-1 formation may help explain why the players, and Leafs Nation both, scratch their heads when the team goes 0-12 on the PP. This PK is exactly how to defend the 1-3-1, regardless of the team or names on the back of the jerseys.



   The top tier teams in the league all have one thing in common, they adapt. Considering the amount of talent and hockey IQ on this Leafs roster, it would not be too far-fetched to coach two PP systems. This way, they could adapt their strategy depending on the opponents PK style. They already have a system that picks apart a box so why not have another to dismantle the the box when it’s inverted?

   An Overload system will unmask the inverted box. It’s meant to load up one side of the ice. The player below the goal line will draw the defenders attention away from other players. The man against the boards will work the puck between the defenseman and player down low. Opportunity will present itself with the middle defenseman saging into the slot area and the player in front of the net. This creates a 2 on 1 in the slot exposinging the lone defenseman.


  It’s important to have a simple system like the Overload ready to go. To have the Overload ready for deployment in the event that opposing teams adapt to the Leafs PP would be a gamechanger for this otherwise offensive juggernaut. Overload is designed to dismantle the inverted box. If the Leafs adopt this system to their toolbox they will own the PP once again and have the opposition scratching their heads instead of scratching their own. 

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