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Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Assistant coach focusing on boosting Jets' man advantage -- with early results

Posted: 10/8/2013 1:00 AM | Comments: 0

Last Modified: 10/8/2013 6:42 AM | Updates

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Captain Andrew Ladd battles for the puck. Attacking the competition is key to the power play.

TREVOR HAGAN / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS ARCHIVES Enlarge Image

Captain Andrew Ladd battles for the puck. Attacking the competition is key to the power play. Photo Store

Everyone involved -- players, coaches and management -- dives into something like this understanding there will never be perfection. That's as much a given in the National Hockey League as toothless grins and playoff beards.

The league's deadliest power plays, on average, score on just one of every four chances, no matter how much talent is put on the ice during any particular advantage. And yet the mismatch -- be it a one- or two-player advantage -- still offers the best opportunity to turn a loss into a win and an extended summer vacation into a post-season appearance.

And as evidence of that last fact, we give you the Winnipeg Jets -- who held the embarrassing distinction of owning the worst power play in the NHL last season while missing a playoff berth by just four points.

That, in part, explains why head coach Claude Noel assigned Pascal Vincent a little extra homework this past summer: to spend time studying the Jets' own work on the power play versus the teams that have made it an effective difference-maker.

And while it's much too early to draw any concrete conclusions, it's worth noting through three games this year, the Jets have power-play goals in all three games and have hit on three of their 13 chances (23.1 per cent).

Last season the success rate was a measly 13. 8 per cent.

So, what exactly, has changed in this albeit small sample size?

"We're trying to keep it simple," said Bryan Little. "We're not the kind of team that is going to try and make seam passes and try to pass it through guys. We try to make a couple quick passes and then shoot the puck. We don't care if it's going to be pretty or not, we just need to shoot the puck and get traffic there. That's our main focus."

"We're moving the puck a little quicker and I like our breakout," added Evander Kane. "It's quick movement and getting shots to the net and waiting to make the right plays, maybe not rushing it and just firing it from the blue-line. We're taking our time a little bit more and looking for that right shot.

"(Vincent) works really hard and he's really dedicated to the power play. As players on the power play, it makes you want to do well for him because he's such a good guy. He studies and studies and studies and he always has something for us in terms of what we need to do in terms of who we're playing."

That was part of what Vincent & Co. decided to do after their summer thesis work on the power play that included studying what the top three teams -- Washington, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia -- did with their man advantages.

"How you attack the team and the way you are going to enter the puck is a mentality that those teams at the top have that is a little bit different than just going on the power play and setting it up," Vincent explained.

"We wanted to give the players assignments on the ice. This is what you have to do, you're responsible for it. It's pretty simple, actually, but it's after studying what the other teams were doing.

"You have to adjust your plan to the players you have. What they have in Pittsburgh, Washington or Philly is not what we have here... and vice versa. So we took some of what they were doing and some of what we were doing last year and made a mix. There's still things we're doing and adjusting. It's a daily thing."

The Jets have established some firm power-play goals for this season based on the number of shots and scoring chances they generate on each chance, and their time of possession.

But again, this is a work that will forever be in progress. Even the top power plays in the league will always be tinkering with ways to up their success rate.

As for the Jets, one of the main goals was to adopt a shooter's mentality, but also not become robotic in just feeding the point for blasts from the blue-line.

"There's different areas on the ice that you want to attack, they're not passing areas, they're shooting areas," said Vincent. "We used to call it the slot, but it's a little bit bigger than that. It's about how we enter the puck and our decision-making, our rush attack.

"These are things we're always going to be working on all the time. It's always evolving."

 

ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @WFPEdTait

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 8, 2013 C1

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Updated on Tuesday, October 8, 2013 at 6:42 AM CDT: Replaces photo, changes headline

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