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Manning the Point

Friday, 10.12.2007 / 10:39 AM CT / Features
By Kevin Wilson  - Nashville Predators
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Manning the Point
Known as the “power play quarterback,” the player at the point in man-advantage situations has a role that expands far beyond possessing a powerful slap shot and knowing when to use it, though they are important aspects to the position.

“There is a lot that goes into being an effective point-man on the power play – vision, passing ability, and being able to read a play and make split-second decisions are just some of them,” Predators Associate Coach Brent Peterson said. “A lot of it comes back to instincts.”

With the departure of long-time point man Kimmo Timonen to Philadelphia, the Predators have experimented with a number of different defensemen on the point so far. While Marek Zidlicky has been a mainstay at the position the past few seasons, Dan Hamhuis, Ryan Suter and Shea Weber are all getting the opportunity to show their offensive skills in 2007-08.

Hamhuis has been utilized on the man-advantage unit the past two seasons with Team Canada at the International Ice Hockey Federation World Championships, but is being used regularly in the position in Nashville for the first time this season. The Smithers, B.C., native said the instantaneous decisions that the position demands many times comes back to hockey sense and anticipation.

“Many times, you don’t really have time to think,” he said. “You practice it a lot to develop muscle-memory, then when you see a certain situation you are programmed to make those plays. Just the preparation we do in practice, and mentally before the game gets us ready for the decisions.”

The most obvious of situations can come countless times during the course of a penalty-plagued season, and it many times leads to disapproval by the thousands in attendance – pass or shoot?

“If there are people screening and taking away the goalie’s eyes, nine times out of 10 I will shoot it,” said Suter, who has become even more of a mainstay at the point with Weber going down to injury.
“If there is no one in front I’ll look for a better play, like over to Arnie (Jason Arnott) for the one-timer because he will probably have people in front of him. It is just reading, looking for the right play, and setting other guys up, that is my mindset.”

Suter emphasized that while it may look as if there is a wide-open shot to be had from the point, therein lies the problem. He said if there is no one challenging the point man, and no one is in front serving as a screen, the goaltender will have no problem seeing the puck, and making the stop. Hamhuis agrees that reading those holes and lanes comes only from experience, in addition to the ability to adapt to constantly changing scenarios.

Among those adaptations includes ones made necessary by the rule alterations that occurred prior to the 2005-06 season, such as the expansion of each offensive zone by four feet. This enabled power play units to spread the opposition out more, increasing the frequency of cross-ice passes. The blue line being further from the goal also made the need for traffic in front that much more imperative.

“Shooting the puck from the point three years ago compared to shooting it now is a good three feet, and you can definitely tell,” Suter said. “It took some time to get used to the longer shot, but there is definitely more room to make plays.”

The responsibility of the quarterback goes beyond just being an offensively gifted blue liner – being the last man back means that if a penalty killer gets by, he is home free for a breakaway. This can also factor into the shoot or pass decision.

“If a shot or pass you make gets blocked, there is a chance for a breakaway the other way,” Hamhuis said. “Because of this, we watch the opposition’s penalty kill to see if they have any tendencies, either coming after you or laying back.”

Scouting the opposition in the video room is important part to implementing any game plan, especially on the power play. The system doesn’t change, but what plays will be available can differ from game to game based on how the four, and sometimes three-man squad trying to kill the time off sets up in the zone.

“Sometimes they will be forcing the pass and be hard on you, and it is expected if you watched them,” Suter said. “You can also set up different plays for different teams, and get a heads up on any plays they might try.”

Units also frequently watch themselves on tape to see how they should or could have reacted differently in different situations. Sometimes there is no criticism involved, it is just simply getting a feel for how things are functioning. This is usually done the day after the game when it is fresh in the players’ minds.

Despite all the practice and preparation a unit puts in, whether it is clicking or slumping, Peterson said the success of the power play comes down to one thing.

“You can watch all the video you want and practice for as long as you want, but ultimately during a game, it all comes down to execution.”




1 z - DAL 82 50 23 9 267 230 109
2 x - STL 82 49 24 9 224 201 107
3 x - CHI 82 47 26 9 235 209 103
4 y - ANA 82 46 25 11 218 192 103
5 x - LAK 82 48 28 6 225 195 102
6 x - SJS 82 46 30 6 241 210 98
7 x - NSH 82 41 27 14 228 215 96
8 x - MIN 82 38 33 11 216 206 87
9 COL 82 39 39 4 216 240 82
10 ARI 82 35 39 8 209 245 78
11 WPG 82 35 39 8 215 239 78
12 CGY 82 35 40 7 231 260 77
13 VAN 82 31 38 13 191 243 75
14 EDM 82 31 43 8 203 245 70


F. Forsberg 82 33 31 1 64
R. Josi 81 14 47 -3 61
J. Neal 82 31 27 27 58
S. Weber 78 20 31 -7 51
M. Ribeiro 81 7 43 11 50
C. Smith 82 21 16 4 37
M. Ekholm 82 8 27 14 35
R. Johansen 42 8 26 10 34
R. Ellis 79 10 22 13 32
C. Jarnkrok 81 16 14 1 30
P. Rinne 34 21 10 .908 2.48
C. Hutton 7 5 4 .918 2.33