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 season. During the lockout many of the coaches took advantage of their free time and studied the European game specifically the power play. In doing so, coaches came back after the lockout with a new tool in their arsenal. Even though coaches were implementing this new formation, it took time for the coaches to figure out who fit where. Combine this with, the players understanding their roles and options, we didn’t see a major jump in power play success.
To put things in perspective, in the three years following the lockout, there were a total of 18 teams with a power play percentage over 20%. That’s an average of six per season. But, in the last three years, there have been a total of 44 teams with a power play percentage north of 20% for an average of roughly 15 teams.
Now many things can contribute to this climb in power play success including the overall skill level of the NHL. One thing of 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 player’s both during and after the games.
Three teams who are continuously at the top of the NHL power play rankings are Tampa, Winnipeg and Washington. All three teams top power play units use the 1-3-1. Much of it is based around the fact that all three have terrific shooters in Stamkos, Laine and Ovechkin. Not to mention, all three have elite level passers in Kucherov, Wheeler and 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”. On the teams listed above, those players are Brayden Point, Mark Scheifele and T.J. Oshie. All are elite players in their own right, but they 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. In my opinion, the bumper is the key to a team’s success in sustaining IZO possession and opening up other options.
With the support of video from the 1st round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, I will try to demonstrate the various roles of the bumper and how they can affect the success of the power play.