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Fixing the Power Play: A Modest Proposal

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After years of having little offensive talent on their blueline the Thrashers have stockpiled skilled defensemen lately. Hainsey was added as a free agent, Schneider was acquired via a trade and Nathan Oystrick was promoted from the AHL. While these new players have improved the breakout, the power play remains a problem so far this season.

Right now the Thrashers are throwing out two units: The Kozlov line and Kovalchuk line> Each go out there and the four offensive defensemen taking a turn. Here's the problem in my view--the Kozlov line is much more effective at generating chances--but the Kovalchuk line almost always gets to start the PP and they often consume 1:30 of the 2:00. That leaves the Kozlov-White-Little combo a measly half minute to try and score.

The alternative would be to load up one super PP unit. The team could play the Kozlov-White-Little group as the forwards and ask them to continue their excellent puck possession work down low. Move Kovalchuk to the point with Schneider. In a perfect world the forwards would buzz around down low and if the PK choose to shadow Kovalchuk closely that opens up space in the slot. On the other hand if the Kozlov line draws three defenders low then you get a wide open point shot on net.

Why Schneider opposite Kovlachuk on the point? Because he shoots when the lane is there. The Thrashers defensemen are a bit too deferential to Kovalchuk and often fail to put pucks on the net when they are left wide open. Forcing the puck to Kovalchuk has been a big problem over the years. Just shoot if you're open! That's what good teams do, they don't rely on just one player to put the puck into the net. Put it on and go for loose pucks. If you consistently put it on net it will create mismatches and easy put back goals but you have to shoot early and often to get those easy put back goals.

The downside of the Super PP Unit Strategy is who is on the 2nd unit? Get creative I say. Send out Williams and Perrin and use Enstrom as a winger on the half boards and put Oystrick and Hainsey on the points. At this point it might time to try something different to shake things up.