Mike Lantry, 1972
[Ed-S: Gee golly willickers this guy knows his hockey. Bump Elliott'd]
I know it's not about Trey Burke... but Brian suggested I post it Monday night:
Hockey Special Teams 1: Power Play Basics
Brian recently asked me “What’s wrong with Michigan’s powerplay?” Since that is a complicated answer, I’ll answer it in a 3 part Diary. This one focuses on the Power Play, the next will be on the penalty kill, and once I’ve explained those basics I’ll dive into Michigan’s specifics. There are many situations that can lead to a power play during a hockey game:
First, my hockey resume: I’ve been playing hockey for 20 years. I tried out for the club team at Michigan and was told I was the 2nd best goalie trying out, but they were only taking 1 that year (they might have told that to all the goalies). I played on Sunday nights at the Cube from 2006-2009, so if you played in that student league you probably played against me. I’ve done some coaching since graduation but had to take a break from that when I changed jobs. OK, enough about that. There are plenty of better hockey minds on the board (JimLahey comes to mind) who will hopefully chime in and add to what I’ve put together here.
All powerplays have 3 parts:
1. Establish possession in the offensive zone
3. Profit! Er. Score.
In this Diary I’m mainly going to focus on #2. In my diary on the penalty kill I’ll talk more about #1 (and how to stop it). The obvious advantage of a powerplay is that you have an extra man. The objective becomes taking advantage of that extra man and getting him a scoring change in space. It comes down to spacing and angles. Forgive the Word Art, but a basic offensive zone powerplay formation is the “Umbrella”
In this formation you have 3 players high in the zone, with one in the middle. This formation works best if the man on the left circle is a right-handed shot and the man on the right circle is a left-handed shot as seen here:
Right now the wing players are on their “opposite” sides, which allows them to be open to a pass from the middle and one-time the puck right away. We used to teach our “Quarterback” – the player at the top of the umbrella – to shoot it right away the first time he got it and establish himself as a threat. You make the PK commit to the middle player and he’ll have options on either side. In the above frame against Western, the WMU penalty killer approaching the puck is doing so after challenging the QB up top.
If you’ve got 5 minutes, this video does a good job of breaking down the Umbrella:
In the frame above, Michigan actually ran a different set off an umbrella look that lead to a goal. Rather than just cycling the puck among the top 3 guys, Michigan flipped the puck low and took advantage of what Western gave us. The same principles apply here though – get a scoring chance to a guy in space.
Another powerplay set up I learned as the “Swedish” play. This works well if you want to have 2 defensemen on the ice for the powerplay (like Red does) and you don’t want to have them switch sides (right D man is on the right side)
Again, forgive the word art. This set up lulls the defenders to sleep and sets up a quick one timer for one of your defensemen. The play starts at the top middle with a right handed defenseman. The puck should move between the top 3 players for a while until the play starts. The top defenseman passes to his partner, who passes down the wall, who passes to the man in the corner – who should be a lefty in this case. As the puck works around to the corner a few things can happen depending on what the defense gives you. The player in the corner can drive the puck to the net, look for the man directly in front of the net, or drive hard around the net and find the crashing defenseman for a one-timer. This works because the puck has been busy rotating on the right for a while, and your top left penalty killer can be caught sleeping when the defenseman crashes. Again, creates a scoring chance in space.
Those are 2 basic powerplay set ups. Now for some general powerplay non-bullets:
You have to establish possession in the offensive zone
I mentioned this above, but that is really where Michigan struggled this year. This isn’t nearly as easy as it sounds, as I’ll try to show you in the upcoming “Penalty Kill” diary. It’s a lot like breaking a press in basketball. There are a lot of different neutral zone kills, and the offsides rule really helps the defenders out.
The powerplay is a lot like football plays – constraints are huge
This will come into view with the “Penalty Kill” diary, but depending on what the offense is doing, the defense does something and vice versa. There are ways to break kills, kills designed to stop specific powerplays, etc.
Powerplays can be very mental and high pressure situations
You're supposed to score, you can press, you can play tight, and you can fail. Especially if a powerplay is struggling. Like THJ - when he was in his slump, everyone knew it, when he was open for a 3 he should make it, and stuff like that can become a self fulfilling prophecy. That's the mental part. The physical is more akin to the red zone or goal line football. Everything gets turned up a notch. Again, you're supposed to score and the defense turns it up too. Every little mistake gets jumped on - if you don't have a perfect clean pass the D pounces and you have to try to gain the zone again. As an aside, Michigan’s PK was dominant against Ohio State in Cleveland, we were on every loose puck.
A 5-on-3 is a goal one way or the other. Everything mental I just mentioned about a normal powerplay is turned up to 11. A goal is scored, either by the offensive team or by the team that shut down the 5-on-3. The momentum swing and huge boost is as good as a goal, and I am not exaggerating. Many teams will run their normal powerplay, just condensed. So rather than the umbrella being near the top of the zone, your middle guy is even with the top of the circles and your wings are closer to the dots.
A Good goalie can muck all of this up
A team’s best penalty killer is their goalie. A goalie can affect a series more than any other player in any other sport. Some nights no matter what happens you’re not scoring on a goalie. Sometimes this is awesome and Hunwick takes us far. Sometimes we run into the hot goalie and can’t do anything about it.
Powerplays can get too fancy
Just like a basketball team trying to get a pretty play on a 3-on-1 break, the powerplay can be over thought and fail. Sometimes you just need to make the smart pass, or throw the puck at the net. Dirty goals are still goals. On the powerplay often players will try to go for the beautiful pass for a seamless one-timer… when what they should have done is throw the puck at the net at crash it.
That’s it for my Powerplay Overview. I’ll try to get the penalty kill diary up within about a week, followed by a breakdown of where exactly Michigan struggles.
Have at it guys, first game has very little impact unless Michigan meets Union in the National Semi Finals.
The second game starts at 5:30 and the winner advances to face the winner of Michigan/Cornell.
Union vs MSU is on ESPNU but, www.espn3.com has all the coverage
If you're around Michigan hockey much, you know that they have by far the longest streak of NCAA Tournament bids at 22 consecutive seasons. The Daily put out another massive feature on the 1990 team, the last team to NOT make the NCAA Tournament (though they should have). Give this a read, it's worth your time.
When you take Michigan’s 22-year NCAA Tournament streak and press rewind — after you see a tiny goaltender transform back into a big one, after Brendan Morrison hands off a microphone in Cincinnati and after a tear floats back into an eye in a bar in Chicago — what you’ll see is Red Berenson hanging up a telephone.
Now press play.It was late Sunday night in March 1990. Bo had just retired, the Fab Five just months away from enrolling at Michigan, and Berenson had just finished a phone call that would decide whether his once-mighty hockey team would be relevant again after so many years.
Says later on that Red said he was going to leave Michigan if he didn't see any progess. Until then, there hadn't been any progress. Glad we kept him around.
It was loud. It was dramatic. It was legendary. It was historic.
It was the weekend Jed Ortmeyer achieved greatness. It was the weekend a mascot was ejected. It was the weekend Ron Mason coached his last game, and Ryan Miller played his last game. It was the weekend the CCHA Humanitarian of the Year almost murdered a dog. It was the weekend Denver stole Michigan’s locker room. It was the weekend the NCAA reconsidered its regional hosting policy.
It was one of the greatest sports experiences of my life. And incredibly, it was ten years ago this Friday.
You wouldn’t have expected this if you watched the first game. Ron Mason’s Spartan squad played so lifelessly against Colorado College that they forgot to even pull the goaltender (Michigan arch-nemesis Ryan Miller) until it was too late. I was preparing for a standard, slightly-louder-than normal playoff game against St. Cloud when I heard it: the chant that irrevocably signaled that the weekend would be among the most memorable in Michigan history.
“WE WANT MOLLY!”
“WE WANT MOLLY!”
“WE WANT MOLLY!”
On March 22 and 23, 2002, the six-team NCAA Hockey West Regional came to Yost Ice Arena. The teams were Denver, Minnesota, Michigan State, Michigan, Saint Cloud State, and Colorado College. The two days of hockey that those teams produced comprised the greatest weekend in the history of Yost. You can find the results in a database, and the results will tell you that Minnesota beat Colorado College and that Michigan beat Denver to advance to the Frozen Four. Those were the results.
This is the story.
The Molly Game: Yost at its Craziest
Michigan was a four seed drawn to play St. Cloud State as a 5 seed, a rematch of the West Regional final from the year before in Grand Rapids. Early pregame talk about the game surrounded St. Cloud’s inability to win in the NCAA tournament (the program didn’t win a game until 2010) and Michigan’s presumed home-ice advantage.
The conversation changed when the Michigan Daily picked up a quote from SCSU on-ice cheerleader Molly McGannon, who told the St. Cloud Times that she was treated poorly by Michigan fans in Grand Rapids. Her quotes spread all over town. “They’re horrible people,” she said. She further predicted that, on Michigan’s home ice, “They’ll be worse.”
She was right.
The initial team warmups were a normal affair, but as soon as the Michigan team left the ice and the band had concluded its pregame rendition of “The Victors,” the two sections reserved for Michigan students erupted in loud “WE WANT MOLLY!” chants. When Saint Cloud cheerleaders and the Husky mascot, Blizzard, emerged from the entrance behind the north goal, the noise became a roar.
As the cheerleaders performed their standard pregame routine of skating around in circles and waving pom-poms, the students showered them with catcalls and insults. It was loud, menacing, and for the husky mascot, infuriating. The routine ended as the Saint Cloud players took the ice from the north endzone; the students began waving and howling “Ooooooooooohhhhhhhhhh” expecting them to depart promptly. They did not understand that the cheer team procedure involved remaining on the ice almost until faceoff; following their exit, cheerleaders traditionally entered the grandstands for the hockey action during the period.
The cheerleaders would not be entering the stands at Yost.
Michigan took the ice and began its customary counter-clockwise warmup skate. Star defenseman Mike Komisarek noticed that two cheerleaders were standing in formation on Michigan’s half of center-ice, and as he skated around he very deliberately lowered his stick and tapped the back of the girl’s skates, nearly causing her to fall. After “The Victors” concluded students resumed taunting the cheer team, whose members were now so psychologically shattered that they could only exchange terrified glances at each other.
During player introductions the cheerleaders continued to be jeered on the ice, occasionally interrupted by the introduction of players. When each Michigan player was introduced, the mascot would skate up to them and take fake-swings at their heads with his hockey stick while spewing taunts. He was not being ironic.
Following introductions, the cheerleaders finally left the ice to a muffled C-YA chant as the teams huddled around their respective goals. The Husky, however, refused to leave, and a linesman eventually had to corral him and physically escort him to the north exit, behind the goal Michigan was huddled around.
That’s when the mascot speared defenseman Brandon Rogers.
And that was when backup goaltender Kevin O’Malley, who was named CCHA Humanitarian of the Year just the week before, launched himself toward the exit. He went fully airborne, blasted straight through the linesman, and attacked the mascot just inside the door. It was total chaos.
Then the actual game started.
It was a good one; Michigan charged to a 3-1 lead in an electric first period, chasing Husky goalie Dean Weasler. Enigmatic freshman winger Milan Gajic scored the goal of his life, a behind-the-back spin-pass to himself behind the goal followed by a gliding skate out front and a roofed shot. But the moment everyone remembers was this one, perhaps the best hit in Michigan history, served by the peerless Jed Ortmeyer.
St. Cloud crept back into the game, trailing only 3-2 in the third, but star forward Mark Hartigan missed a wide-open net after deking past Josh Blackburn. St. Cloud could not recover, and Michigan won 4-2.
It was time for Michigan to play #1 seed Denver.
The Denver Game: Yost at its Loudest.
Michigan’s new locker room, still a sparkling part of the facility, was much nicer than the other three locker rooms available for regional competitors. In the week leading up to Regionals, Denver made a stink about this and Michigan was ordered to vacate its locker room and allow top seed Denver to use it.
After the game, Red Berenson said, “Maybe they shouldn’t have taken our locker room away.”
This game doesn’t get the legendary treatment of the game the day before, but it was my favorite part of the weekend and one of the best sporting events I have ever witnessed. Many fans who were there say that it was the loudest they’ve ever heard Yost Arena; the only game that comes close was the ’98 regional game against North Dakota.
It was a wonderful game. That ’02 Denver team was terrific, and they played a defensive, checking style very similar to the MSU teams of the era. Goalie Wade Dubielewicz was a dominant player, and after their WCHA title many favored them to win the national title.
After a scoreless first period the teams traded five goals in the second. Michigan seemed to be in good shape up 2-1 until Mike Komisarek attempted to kill a penalty by grabbing the puck and throwing it 150 feet down the ice; the resulting 5-on-3 allowed Denver to tie the game, and they took a 3-2 lead a short time later.
Denver never gave away third period leads--they were 28-1 when leading after two. The crowd was nervous, or at least subdued; I was terrified. This was it, the season on the line, needing a goal against an impenetrable team.
Eric Werner tied the game 4:47 into the period. The crowd was back. Raucous “Go! Blue!” chants traded sides. Every hit was cheered, every shot exhorted. Michigan took control of play, but as the clock ticked down overtime seemed certain.
Jed Ortmeyer did not come to Michigan as an exceptional offensive talent, and NHL scouts never drooled over his physical attributes. He had the face of a teddy bear. There were always players on Michigan who were more imposing, players who were better skilled. But Ortmeyer was a remarkable leader and a tireless worker. And he lived for these moments.
With less than two minutes left, Mike Cammalleri fed him the puck in the neutral zone...
(Look closely for the Michigan player who pulls the net off its moorings to allow the rest of the team to pile on top of Ortmeyer. Red trains smart players.)
Ortmeyer’s goal blew the place up. I’ve attended UM-OSU football games at both venues; I’ve been to games at Texas A&M and LSU; I’ve been to Red Wing playoff games; but I’ve never been in a place like that. The audio on the recording simply does not convey how ear-bleedingly loud Yost was. The Denver players couldn’t look away from the crowd--they were beaten, it was over, and they knew it.
Often forgotten, the officials stopped the game for ten minutes to deal with a timekeeping problem. The crowd roared unceasingly throughout the stoppage. When retiring rink announcer Glenn Williams gave his celebratory “You’re Welcome!” to the students, they went nuts. When Eric Nystrom flipped a puck from center ice into the open net, the place went bonkers again.
At the conclusion of the game, after the handshakes, Ortmeyer organized an improptu fan salute, before it was a regular procedure. The players gathered in the center circle and faced outward, grins on their faces, and raised their sticks in the air. The crowd gave one last, deafening cheer. Triumph.
What a weekend.
Bipolar thread! :-( Go! :-)