Thursday night’s win over the Chicago Blackhawks not only helped the Carolina Hurricanes keep pace in the race for the second wild card position in the Eastern Conference, but also wonderful bit of video for the power-play unit(s) to learn from.
Sebastian Aho netted the game-winning goal after some sterling movement on and off the puck by the Canes. It wasn’t anything particularly tricky; rather, it’s the simplicity of the plays they made that provide promise going forward.
We’ll start with Elias Lindholm retrieving the puck in the corner and feeding Teuvo Teravainen with a bounce pass off the boards.
Nothing terribly special here but the Hawks’ PK formation is notable — David Kampf seems to be the lone aggressor while the remaining three Chicago players are content to stay somewhat box-like. The Canes could exploit either Kampf’s overactive tactics or the other Blackhawks’ stagnation.
Teravainen wisely walks the puck along the line, and Kampf follows.
I’ve talked about this before — walking the line (carrying the puck along the blue line) is a simple tool to buy time or change a shooting/passing angle. In this case, it forces Kampf to try to match Teravainen’s speed perfectly to stay in the shooting lane.
And again, Chicago’s PK aids the Canes. Nick Schmaltz, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook remain cemented to their spots while Kampf struggles to stay in Teravainen’s path. Jordan Staal and Aho are also left alone in front of the net. Sure, they can get to any rebounds, but the Hawks defenders are doing nothing to help goaltender J-F Berube with regard to screens/deflections.
But it’s the fact that Staal and Aho are both in front of the net in the first place that is the real key to this play. One can pop out to the bottom left corner as a passing option if need be, but with the puck up high, the more traffic in the slot, the better.
From there, Teravainen unleashes a quick shot, and Aho does the rest.
Don’t underestimate the importance of a wrist shot here — a big wind-up allows the Hawks time to prepare for a shot. The quick release from Teravainen gets the puck to the net quickly and, while not as hard, it catches Berube slightly off-guard as he peeks around Aho.
That’s not to say Berube had much of a prayer after Aho got a stick on the shot — nobody is going to be able to react to that puck shifting inches to the left and whizzing past their ear — but it affected his stance and how he played the shot, allowing extra room for the puck to find twine. And Aho...that’s a world-class deflection.
Good things happen when you create shooting lanes, get traffic in front, and put the puck on net.