As coaches, we have used a variety of power play formations including, but not limited to, the overload, spread, and umbrella. But in today’s game, the most popular formation we see is the 1-3-1.
Known for it’s various scoring options, the 1-3-1 is giving some of the NHL’s top penalty killing units fits. The 1-3-1 started to surface shortly after 2012-13 lockout-shortened season.
During the lockout many coaches took advantage of their free time and studied the European game, specifically with regards to the power play. In doing so, coaches came back after the lockout with a new tool in their arsenal.
Even though this new formation was being implemented, it took time for coaches to figure out who fit where. Combine this with the time it took players to understand their roles and options and we didn’t see a major jump in power play success.
In the three years following the 2012-13 lockout, there was an average of just six teams per season with a power play percentage over 20%. But from 2015-16 to 2017-18, there was an average of 15 teams per year with a power play percentage north of 20%.
Now, many things can contribute to this climb in power play success, including the improved overall skill level of NHL players. Another thing to note is the time coaching staffs spend studying special teams – both their own power play and opposition’s penalty kill. This information is readily available to players both during and after games.
Three teams who are continuously at the top of the NHL power play rankings are the Tampa Lightning, Winnipeg Jets, and Washington Capitals.
All three teams’ top power play units use the 1-3-1, with much of it based around the fact that they have terrific shooters in Steven Stamkos, Patrik Laine, and Alex Ovechkin. All three teams also have elite-level passers in Nikita Kucherov, Blake Wheeler, and Nicklas Backstrom.
But the one position that has started to be appreciated and is critical in the success of the 1-3-1 is the position of the ‘bumper.’ For the Lightning, Jets, and Capitals, that role is played by Brayden Point, Mark Scheifele, and T.J. Oshie, respectively. All are elite players in their own right, but they are the cream of the crop when it comes to the bumper role on the 1-3-1.
This role is more complicated than that of a player who pops out for a one-timer on his off-hand. The bumper is the key to a team’s success in sustaining IZO possession and opening up other options.
The hockey IQ required to play the bumper position is extremely high. With so many potential roles in a two-minute power play, you’re best to put one of your smartest and most selfless players in that position.
With the support of video from the first round of the 2019 Stanley Cup playoffs, I will demonstrate the various roles of the bumper and how they can affect the success of the power play.
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