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For most NHL teams their power play lines consist of three forwards and two defensemen, just as though they were playing five on five. Some teams that are deeper with star forwards, such as the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins, have gone to a formation that has four forwards and a single defenseman in hopes of creating more scoring opportunities.
The question in the modern day NHL is, ‘if four forwards are better, would five forwards be best?’.
Pulling the goalie on a 5 on 3 to create a 6 on 3 is a great example of how most coaches are too afraid to put only forwards on the ice because it leaves them more susceptible to being scored on. However the New York Rangers (coached by John Tortorella) deployed the tactic in a recent preseason game, with some success.
With Marian Gaborik, Ryan Callahan and Brian Boyle as forwards and Brad Richards and Wojtek Wolski on the point, the Rangers went 1-5 on the power play, but could have easily converted on more. Both Richards and Gaborik said after the game that they thought the concept was a success despite being in its early stages.
Of course not every team is going to deploy a five forward attack, as many teams have defensemen who are the quarterback of their power play. A few examples of those are Mark Streit of the New York Islanders and Mike Green of the Capitals.
The biggest worry that comes with deploying this formation is that it will give up more shorthanded goals. The important thing to keep in mind is that in most shorthanded situations the goal is a result of a breakaway, often times because of a soft pass at the blue line. This would cement the argument that a defensemen’s defensive skill is wasted on the power play, and that in reality his lack of offensive skill may be hurting his team.
In a sport where converting on a single power play can mean winning that game, teams may start to get a bit more creative in who they send out on those man-up opportunities. If the Rangers deploy the five forward power play and find success early in the season, certainly other teams will take notice.
Chris has written for various blogs about various teams, including the New York Jets and New York Islanders. He is currently a junior at the University of Maryland, where he is studying the dying field of print journalism.