Colorado Avalanche: Recipe for the Power Play

Dec 21, 2015; Denver, CO, USA; Colorado Avalanche left wing Gabriel Landeskog (92) during the second period against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 21, 2015; Denver, CO, USA; Colorado Avalanche left wing Gabriel Landeskog (92) during the second period against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports /

The Colorado Avalanche have fluctuated wildly this season with the power play. As they get power play opportunities in upcoming games, they need to follow a recipe for success.

Despite being one of the most offensively-gifted teams, the Colorado Avalanche can struggle on the power play. Indeed, the Avalanche finished 29th in the NHL — that’s second to last — for the 2014-15 season. Likewise, at points in this season the team has been around 23rd in the league.

Right now the Avalanche are hovering around sixth for power play conversion. That’s a healthy climb, and also a decent position to be in. However, this is still a team that couldn’t score in two tries against the Tampa Bay Lightning and blew a 5-on-3 advantage against the Chicago Blackhawks.

Yet this was also a team that got a ridiculous power play goals against the San Jose Sharks.

Scoring goals in hockey by nature is going to be inconsistent, and power play goals even more so. After all, you never know when the officials are going to actually call a penalty and give you a power play. That said, Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog has a definite recipe for a successful power play, as he related during a post-practice presser.

Shooting Mentality

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I’ve made this joke before, but I’m going to share it again — sometimes during the power play the Colorado Avalanche pass the puck around like it’s a plate of cookies at a garden party. I’ve been sitting in Pepsi Center, and I’ll hear a tot behind me yell with exasperation beyond her years, “Just shoot it!”

Now, there’s something to be said for picking your spot and shooting smart instead of often. However, when the team has the man advantage, it makes sense to at least get some pucks on net to see what can happen.

Indeed, Gabriel Landeskog remarked, “Any successful power play needs to have a shooting mentality. Especially for our power play.”

He further pointed out that the Colorado Avalanche have defensemen Erik Johnson, Francois Beauchemin and Tyson Barrie plus winger Jarome Iginla, who are “all good shooters.” That’s not even mentioning the likes of forwards Matt Duchene, Nathan MacKinnon and, of course, Landeskog himself — all accounted pretty good shooters.

It should come as no surprise, then, that Landeskog feels “putting pucks at the net” combined with traffic can only help the Avalanche power play.

Here’s a nice power play goal by Johnson — a player who loves to shoot, especially with the man advantage:

Landeskog makes another good point about having a shooting mentality on the power play:

"“Usually off of shots there’s going to be rebounds, there’s going to be scrambles in front of the net, and then you can loosen up the penalty killing unit.”"

That is the point — try to loosen up the penalty kill unit, tire them out so they could let in a goal.

MORE FROM MILE HIGH STICKING: Analysis of Gabriel Landeskog’s GWG

Keep Moving

While too much passing can be death, the last thing the Colorado Avalanche wants to do is stand around with the puck. In addition to keeping the puck moving, the players should keep their feet moving as well.

Indeed, Landeskog talks about how important movement is to the power play, adding the unit needs to ensure there’s “a couple guys who interchange positions.”

On the flip side, Landeskog cautions against stick handling too much because it slows down the game:

"“You’ve got to be moving. And then all of a sudden seams open up, and you can get some cross-ice passes, and everything opens up.”"

Here’s a nice example of the Colorado Avalanche implementing that philosophy:

Thinking Game

It’s no secret the Colorado Avalanche is a mental team. I’m worried that years of being on a bad team have made some of the players choke at key moments. (Though he hasn’t said that directly, Matt Duchene has remarked that he dwells on things too much.) Occasionally, the team can also be undisciplined.

This shows with the man advantage. Even though Colorado prefers a run and gun game, they always try to set up on the power play. Now, I know you’re supposed to, but their power play becomes unglued if they can’t manage to set up. Yet look at this beauty of a run and gun power play goal by Nathan MacKinnon:

Beyond that, Gabriel Landeskog also thinks the Avalanche simply need to not “overwork things, try not to over-pass in certain situations.”

Next: Patrick Roy in Net Again

Scoring goals on the power play should be a cake walk with the amount of offensive talent the Colorado Avalanche have. They seem to have a pretty good handle on it for the moment — hopefully they get a lot of chances to implement their philosophy.