Last week, I wrote about the woeful power play streak the New Jersey Devils were on. They went on a 1-for-21 run since the beginning of the new year with no goals since their first game in 2016. It was worse than a seven game scoreless streak. It was seven games of the power play doing very little on offense; there was little reason to think they would score as they would fail to get set up in most of those situations. Tuesday night against Calgary only extended the run of horrid power plays. When would it end?
The answer: Thursday night against Ottawa. In a five-goal first period, the New Jersey Devils scored their first 5-on-4 power play goal since their last game against Ottawa and then scored a second. The second power play goal was my favorite among the five scored that night. Everyone had a hand in that power play goal, Kyle Palmieri's shot was beautiful, and it showed off how the 1-3-1 formation really can be effective. That night, thanks to some encouragement from a reader on Twitter, I said I'd break it down today. Yet, I cannot fully ignore the first one. Not only did it break a streak, it also showed how New Jersey's power play can be effective. Plus, it was the first of what could be many NHL goals by Joseph Blandisi. Therefore, I'm going to break down both of them.
For those unaware, I break down goals by taking screen shots from video of the goals themselves. The videos are by NHL.com. The not-so-good cropping, text boxes, arrows, and other shapes are by me using Microsoft Paint.
The First Power Play Goal - The Streak Snapper
The Devils On Ice: #8 David Schlemko, #16 Jacob Josefson, #19 Travis Zajac, #21 Kyle Palmieri, #64 Joseph Blandisi
The Senators On Ice: #5 Cody Ceci, #74 Mark Borowiecki, #27 Curtis Lazar, #44 Jean-Gabriel Pageau
The Video Used: Here.
Travis Zajac won the faceoff to start the power play.
Schlemko is the back one in the 1-3-1 formation. You can see most of the Devils in the formation. Josefson is off screen for now; he passed it back to Schlemko. Zajac is in the middle of a box, Palmieri is opposite to Josefson, Blandisi is in front of the goalie as the front one in the 1-3-1. Already it appears Ottawa is in trouble. Schlemko has the puck, he's looking to distribute it, and Palmieri is wide open at that far circle. Schlemko will pass it to Palmieri. A potential one-timer could happen here and given Palmieri's shot, that's not something Ottawa should allow.
However, Schlemko delayed a bit and that allowed Ottawa to be a bit more aggressive. Palmieri got the pass just fine, but he's got Lazar in his way. Shooting between the side boards and the dot isn't usually a good idea as it's a tough angle to beat a goalie from. Especially above the dot. Lazar isn't going to make it easy, but Palmieri will try to set Josefson up for a one-timer of his own. And if he does get the pass through - which is helped by Lazar having his stick up and stretched wide - Josefson can blast one at Craig Anderson and possible score. The two Senators defensemen are too busy with Zajac and Blandisi to worry about Josefson. Unfortunately for Josefson, he won't score here.
Let's switch views to the back camera shot in the video to go over what happened with the shot.
Anderson made the save on Josefson but because he had to push across the crease to make the save, he's not at all in a good position. He stopped the shot, but the puck is still loose in the crease. Anderson is in a precarious situation. Especially with Blandisi in front. He's going to poke at the puck in the hopes of getting it past Anderson's right. It really doesn't help that Borowiecki isn't boxing out Blandisi. While he'll make contact with the rookie, the rookie is going to jam at it first.
Impressively, Anderson is able to get on his knees and get his stick on the puck. Blandisi did poke at it but Anderson will paddle it away immediately. He has no choice but to just get it away; anywhere but the back of the net. With Palmieri charging in, Anderson pretty much saves a sure goal for him by doing this.
Now, before I continue, notice all of the bodies in the area. The Devils are aggressive with four out of their five skaters in the area. Not that two of them can do anything, but a 1-3-1 can lead to looks like this as the three can get down low in a hurry. Notice that all four Senators penalty killers are in frame as well. While Borowiecki has Blandisi taken care of, Ceci doesn't exactly have good position on Zajac, Pageau is watching, and Lazar is behind Palmieri. If the Sens are able to get to the puck that Anderson is going to knock away, then a clearance is likely since no one is really up enough to threaten a counter attack. The bad news is that they won't due in part to where Anderson puts the puck and how the Senators are positioned here.
Anderson just put the puck towards the right circle, evading a charging Palmieri. Lazar went with Palmieri, so Zajac is able to break away from Ceci and get this puck. The back one in the 1-3-1 is just, well, in the back like he's supposed to. So Zajac is going to feed Schlemko the puck and he'll decide the next action amid this chaos.
That action is to take a slapshot. Schlemko did not one-time this puck, which allowed Palmieri to get out of the crease and the other Devils to get away from the crease. As it turns out, the Sens are just all over and at Schlemko's mercy. Pageau makes a token effort to throw off Schlemko, but he's far enough back to see where he needs to put it. He saw Blandisi open in a brief pocket so Schlemko is going to fire it towards the left post.
And then it happened. Blandisi was free for the deflection, he got a piece of the shot, and it knocked the puck just away from Anderson's left pad for the goal. Blandisi scored his first NHL goal, the Devils went up 1-0, and they scored their first power play goal in eight games. The Devils were set up in their formation, everyone played a role, and they succeeded for multiple achievements.
Now let's look at the second power play goal, my favorite from the game:
The Second Power Play Goal - The Streak Snapper
The Devils On Ice: Same personnel as the first one.
The Senators On Ice: #5 Cody Ceci, #74 Mark Borowiecki, #9 Milan Michalek, #93 Mika Zibanejad
The Video Used: Here.
Before the video began, Zajac won the offensive zone faceoff, the team got into position, the puck was moved, Blandisi went for another deflection that missed, Schlemko missed a little later, and then they settled down. Schlemko set up Palmieri for a one-timer from the right circle and above the dot. He missed. Schlemko was able to keep the puck in play. Here's what happened:
After Schlemko kept the puck from crossing the blueline, he passed it to Josefson. While Zajac is in between three Senators, Josefson will make a pass to him to give him some space. This will force Zibanejad to move towards Zajac. The center knows this, so he's going to pass it back to Josefson to continue developing the play.
Unfortunately, Zajac misses Josefson with the pass. Fortunately, the puck bounces towards the corner and Blandisi, who was behind the goal line, was in a good position to retrieve it. Ceci is going pressure him. Knowing that Josefson was the intended target, Ceci is going to move to cut Blandisi off from passing it back and force him to go to his left. Notice Ceci's defensive partner watching this develop at the far post. The plan is clear: Ceci will force Blandisi to go towards Borowiecki, where he can attempt to make a play at the goal.
Blandisi may be a rookie but he's smart enough to make this play instead. As Borowiecki comes around the goal, Blandisi is going to knock the puck behind him. This means he temporarily takes two defensemen with him in the hopes a teammate can take the puck to keep it moving. In this case, it's on Josefson to get this puck. Zibanejad may be at the near-side dot, but he sees this and will act accordingly.
The puck went along the boards and behind the referee. This is to Zibanejad's advantage. While Josefson got to the puck first, he's limited in what he can do. Unfortunately for Zibanejad, Josefson is a pretty clever player in his own right. With Zibanejad away, Zajac is open and Josefson will use him to get out of trouble with another back pass.
Zajac hesitated a little with the puck, but that's A-OK. As Zibanejad turned around, he gets the puck away. Like for the first goal, he knows Schlemko is open to make the next decision. Like the first goal, note the position of all of the Senators. The two defensemen, Ceci and Borowiecki, are down low. Zibanejad is in between Zajac and Josefson. Michalek is just hanging out in the slot. This means Schlemko and the goalscorer are open.
Again, Schlemko and Palmieri are open. Really open. So much so that Schlemko is not going to immediately throw the puck to Palmieri for a one-timer.
The delay allowed Schlemko to go towards the middle and then pass it across to Palmieri. He's firing the puck from above the dot and, again, he's wide open. Here's a shot from the back camera in the video which really shows it.
The Senators' positioning is just getting exposed here. Michalek came out to challenge Schlemko, but he was far too late to make up that much ground. Zibanejad dropped behind him to prevent a pass to the slot, which wasn't going to happen since A) it wasn't open to begin with and B) Palmieri was clearly in position to unload a powerful one-timer. The two Senators defensemen are out but not in a position to really do much but react to what's happening. Borowiecki makes an effort to go for a block but he's far too late. Besides, Palmieri is aiming for the top corner as Anderson is down ahead of the shot. Blandisi moved towards the middle to make sure he's not in Palmieri's way for the shot - and to get around to the middle in case there's another rebound.
There won't be a rebound.
Just another power play goal.
You know what you didn't see on either goal? A zone entry. Zajac won both offensive faceoffs. That's nice in that the Devils had possession right after the power play begin. The important part is that the Devils never lost the puck. If they missed the net, they were able to be the first to recover it. The passes with each other were mostly on point. For the one that missed, Zajac to Josefson in the previous breakdown, the puck was still put into a position where the Devils could get it. During the Devils' awful power play run that I detailed last week, there were some offensive zone faceoff wins. Then the Devils lost possession and then struggled to gain the other team's zone with the puck to get set up. Again, it was good that Zajac won the draw to start both power plays. What the team did with the puck afterwards was far more important for keeping the power play going.
This is where the return of Jacob Josefson helped. Josefson's last game was the December 26 game against Detroit. Since then, he was out with a bone bruise on his foot. It's not entirely coincidental that his return yielded some power play success. He's been a regular along the sideboards, with his passing being an asset to keep the power play going on offense. He didn't get an assist on either of these goals, but he played a role in both goals happening as seen in both breakdowns. The recovery from injuries has helped in general. The ascendency of Blandisi plus the return of others (e.g. Cammalleri) led to a unit like this from forming at all. It's Josefson, Schlemko, and a regular offensive line at even strength. That's a power play worthy unit and all five executed very well.
I cannot stress enough how crucial the team's execution was on both power plays and again on their first power play - another goal - against Winnipeg on Saturday. All five players knew what their role would be. All five players moved within that role. They made good decisions with the puck and they were able to make the passes with those decisions. It wasn't just Josefson making good passes at the sideboards. It was Zajac making good reads from the middle. It was Palmieri choosing smartly when to blast a one-timer and when not to do so. It was Blandisi in front, playing with the proverbial grit. It was especially Schlemko being used as a safety valve and creating both goals. The 1-3-1 formation was utilized as well as we've seen it this season, and Ottawa suffered for it greatly. It goes back to execution and possession making it possible.
That's what needs to happen going forward for the power play (and possibly at even strength as well). They're not going to win every faceoff and be able to keep every puck in play on every opportunity going forward. Therefore, the Devils need to make the effort to maintain possession after they attempt a zone entry and make a good decision initially to allow the team to get set up. When they get an entry and lose the puck immediately or fail to make one at all, then the Devils just waste time and opportunity to attack while up a man. We saw that on the second power play against Winnipeg on Saturday. Once they can get into a 1-3-1 and move the puck around, then the Devils can absolutely threaten. The team's power play scoreless streak is thankfully over. They just have to do that more often to prevent another one.
The Devils snapped their power-play-goalless streak and did so in impressive fashion. I think these breakdowns show that. What do you think? What impressed you about both of these goals? What can the Devils learn from these successful plays so they can have more of them? I'll still try to look at the zone entries of that streak to highlight what I think the issue is; but at least the streak is dead for now. Please leave your answers and other thoughts about these two power play goals and the breakdowns of them in the comments. Thank you for reading.