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Jim Hulton and The Florida Panthers Power Play

The Florida Panthers are coming off of a beautiful 3-0 win over the Washington Capitals on Thursday night. Tonight they take on the Nashville Predators as this team tries to obtain a four-game win streak…something they haven’t done in quite a while.

As exciting as the Panther’s little win streak here has been, particularly the Washington game, the team is struggling to score on the power play. In 27 games this season the team has had 95 power play opportunities, during those 95 chances however they have scored only 8 power play goals for a impressively low 8.4% conversion rate. They’ve also allowed 3 shorthanded goals during those sessions.

Though the team has scored 57 goals this season 5 on 5 the reality is that without scoring during the man-advantage the team will continue to struggle to breath under the overwhelming tide of the Southeastern Division. Being in a division that contains Steven Stamkos, Alex Ovechkin and Eric Staal means that the Panthers will need to put up some serious goal scoring this season just to keep up! The Panthers do possess one amazingly good statistic, their penalty kill rate of 84.9% is good for 9th in the NHL and 2nd in our division. Defense however, though it is important, is not going to score goals to win games for this team.

One of the people responsible for our power play is Jim Hulton one of the assistant coaches to Pete DeBoer. Hulton began his coaching career as an assistant coach with the Kingston Voyageurs in 1994 after spending time with various junior teams he was hired by the Florida Panthers on July 9, 2008. But ever since his hiring over three seasons the Panthers have possessed only a 13.7% conversion rate on the power play earning 712 power play opportunities and scoring 103 goals.

Now there are different ways to go about a power play. Your power play strategy depends on what kind of personnel you have. If you’ve got a lot of skilled players, you can work the puck around on the perimeter and then bring it in. If you don’t, you usually throw a guy in front and get pucks on the net. Sounds pretty basic. But like everything else in hockey, you have to get the details right. A good coach pays attention to each element of his power play. That includes his formation in the offensive zone, choice of players, faceoffs, breakout patterns, and decisions about the point men, among other things.

Obviously our current Panthers team does not possess many skilled forwards so we must work with more physical grinding forwards. It seems that our system is to overrun the slot with forwards and outnumber penalty killers down low. This setup creates problems on defense because it frees up point players to abandon the blueline and come in for one-timers and also pinch the puck back into the zone. If a penalty killer moves to defend a point player, then it opens up someone in the slot who can score at the post on a backdoor play. This system is known as the 2-1-2 system. But it hasn’t seemed to be working for this team.

I don’t claim to have a solution for this team but I will say that every time I watch us on the power play it seems ineffective because of the dump and chase method employed by the team.  Many times the puck carrier will dump the puck into the zone almost immediately after passing the redline and then proceed to chase after it. This method seems flawed to me when being employed in a power play situation, in even strength play it can be effective but when you need to posses the puck the puck carrier need to bring the puck in full force and set up in the zone. Otherwise it’s too easy for the penalty killer to simply ice the puck before the forechecker gets to him.

Whatever the solution the Panthers need to look up and realize that what they are doing is not working and change is need to bring success to this team!

Go Panthers!

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