Hockey Tactics

Alain Vigneault’s 1-3-1 power play system succeeding

Photo: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images North America
Photo: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images North America

It’s no secret, the biggest problem the Rangers have had the last several seasons is the lack of a respectable power play. Not since the 2009-10 season have the Blueshirts finished in the top half of the league in PP conversions, and not since the 1998-99 season have the Rangers had a top 5 power play. Although it’s still a bit early to call our current power play elite, or even a team strength, you have to like what assistant coach Scott Arniel has done with the man advantage in the early goings.

To date, the Rangers have converted on 20% of their power plays, good for 13th in the league. The boys are doing all the right things on the advantage like player movement, puck movement, setting screens, and getting pucks on net from all areas of the ice. If they can keep it up, I can see this power play being really good for the first time in a very long time.


Interestingly enough, Arniel is running a 1-3-1 power play system (shown above). This is the same setup Sully had implemented during a hot streak late last season when they converted at a 27% efficiency rate. Of course, they couldn’t maintain that success and the PP went south again during the playoffs. Fast-forward to this season and the 1-3-1 is working again and it’s proving to be the right power play formation for this group.

For those of you unfamiliar with the 1-3-1, it’s one of the newer formations that came out of Europe, but became popular in the NHL after Guy Boucher had success implementing it in Tampa Bay. Note that this is different than Boucher’s 1-3-1 neutral zone trap. Anyway, what’s unique about this setup is you can quarterback it from the point, at either half boards, or below the goal line. Most other power plays distribute the puck from one general area of the ice, so this setup gives you several different looks.

The other thing I like about the 1-3-1 is there are essentially four triangles within this formation to pass around and take one-timer shots. With that many options you can really get creative with coming up with a variety of plays within this structure and keep the defenses guessing.

Other common power play systems like the umbrella, the 1-2-2, the spread, etc. rely on more basic plays built around point shots, screens, cycling, and crashing the net. All are sound strategies, but with more options in the 1-3-1, it’s a tough system to defend against. Right Islanders?

The only negative with this system is there’s only one player patrolling the point, so you really need someone who is calm under fire and comfortable handling the puck with high pressure. A threat of turnovers at the blueline keeps a lot of teams, especially ones who lack great speed, from utilizing this system. It’s just too risky. In my opinion, although we lack an elite PP QB, I’ll gladly take a higher PP conversion rate in exchange for Hank having to stop the occasional shorthanded rush.

The other thing to keep an eye on is personnel. The best power plays usually have 2-3 right-handed shots. Lately we’ve had zero to one right-handed shot out there. Eventually that’s going to have to balance out because a lefty on the left side of the ice doesn’t have an inside shooting lane. Girardi isn’t that guy. Cally’s more of a slot guy. Stepan is really your lone right handed option.

In the end, good systems are just part of the success and obviously the players need to execute. So far this season we’ve been doing exactly that and it’s helping Arniel keep some of these units together and not changing combinations or systems at the first sign of trouble. Hopefully the Rangers can continue to build upon this success and show us they can convert against the league’s top teams.

For more on hockey systems, or if you missed my breakdown of AV’s system at even strength, or Tortorella’s systems, feel free to click these links.

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  • This is proof positive that if a problem exists, address it, correct it, and move on.

    With the same talent as last year, we now have an assistant coach who knows what the hell he is doing, corrected it, and the rest is history!

    • I think Torts could have hired an additional Assosiate coach to help the PP but this 1-3-1 Sully used last year worked well. He just isn’t a people person. Otherwise he did a good job with the D while there.

      • Overall I’m just happy to see it clicking again. We’ve been one of the best 5-on-5 hockey clubs in the league the last several years, but the PP imo was what kept us from going the distance. Will be interesting to see how we do against the Ducks and Pens. Those teams won’t sit back and give us time.

        • Suit! What are your feelings on Moulson? His availability and the price. Without a top flight defenseman to QB the PP do you think he’d be a welcome addition to AV’s strategies? I think he’s looking through the Rangers lineup for that player and he’s already situated in NY for some time now. I would think he’s on the block now and only carries a 3.1 cap hit. A move the GM should make sooner than later. I think if the Rangers have trouble against a good Ducks or Pens team. He should inquire. The Sabres just want picks and prospects for their rebuild.

          • Like him, but he’s a UFA at the end of the season and will probably get a lot of coin tossed at him. Think I’d pass. Don’t think he’s a need.

          • Asking price from Buffalo in a trade would be high. Minimum of a first round pick. Tough to cough that up at the moment with the Nash uncertainty.

        • Anyone know a public place where I could print out my tickets to tonight’s Ranger game? The power is down at home.

    • I think it’s a little early for such certainty, Walt. We saw success of this system last year and then it crashed. As teams adjust, they’re going to target the point and it’s not that hard to force the PP to the outside.

      I hope the success continues, and as Bloomer noted personnel additions could be the key to sustained success, however let’s not declare our PP woes fixed yet.

      • That’s the reason one makes adjustments, which never happened over the last four years. You make the point yourself, teams will adjust to us, so we come up with a different scheem going forward!! The PP is entertaining, while before I’d take cat naps when we were on the PP!!!!!

        • My point is that the 1-3-1 isn’t necessarily the answer. We’ll see how well Arniel and co. can adjust and maintain success as oppositions adapt. That’ll be the important factor to guage.

          I agree, though, that it’s been fun to watch. Last few seasons, I’d cringe when Rangers were awarded a PP.

      • That’s true. Can’t lie about the way it’s been for several years now. I also have to agree about the personnel. Cally back tonight just popped up on my phone. Nice.

  • I think the best thing that happened to the Rangers power play was adding Brassard, MZA and John Moore to the lineup.

      • This is a must win for the Rangers. They got whipped 2 out of 3 in Caly and the Ducks just played 7 straight on the road. This is the last road game before they head home. Take what’s there and play smart. These Ducks are “ripe to be beaten” as Torts would’ve said. They also don’t want to lose tonight and have the Pens coming. Would make all the good feelings on this home stand dissapear quickly!

  • Hmmm…the Canucks power plat conversion ratio is 9.6%, 3rd worst in the NHL, and there is a whole bunch of talent on Vancouver’s 1st power play unit, at least.

    Much to my surprise, you have to say Torts/Sully just don’t have a good power play strategy.

    • Just to be fair, Canucks are also one of the best at killing penalties, not different than the Rangers record w/Tortorella as coach.

  • I like the 1-3-1. I wish AV would use it at even strength. At least situationally. Maybe with a lead in the 3rd period. The 1-3-1 is great at creating turnovers in the neutral zone. When a team is down in the 3rd period they don’t wanna defend. They want the puck and they get frustrated and take penalties. TB was great in 2010 using that Forecheck to perfection. When they got a lead, the 1-3-1 created turnovers and odd man rushes. It’s not fool proof or everyone would use it but I believe the Rangers have the slick skating defenseman and the all world goalie to pull it off Effectively.

    • The 1-3-1 is a very boring system to watch unfortunately. Very few teams, if any, use a 1-3-1 forecheck nowadays with Guy Boucher gone from Tampa.

  • I’ve been calling for the one3one for over a yr..They ran it for a good stretch last yr. then got away from it.You need skilled,creative players to ran it.Puck movement,players on the half boards moving up high then down low creating 3on2’s or 2on1’s.Like you said Suit the point can be run from any of the outer 4 positions.You have a player down in front of the goalie at times but always a player in the high slot to pass or shot.Quick passes weak side strong side one timer.Puck must move players must keep the goalie head on a swivel.Everyone should be in position to shot or pass.Suit it will work.

  • Very cool! Thanks! Articles like this are great for fans like me who don’t “see” the systems as they happen. I stopped playing hockey very young (around 11 or 12), but articles like this make more sense of the ice for me. Thanks!

    Hank definitely makes this PP system less of a liability.

  • CALLY IS BACK TONIGHT!!! ….however Miller is scratched and Mash and Pyatt in? I’m not a hockey coach, so we’ll see, but definitely seems odd to me.

    • Now media saying AV says he doesn’t know who scratch will be yet but leaning towards Miller. Also mentions the Ducks put out top PP unit while up 6-0 with six minutes left last game…read into that what you will.

      I also wonder if this is a little mental kick to JT and that he may not be scratched tonight. We shall see.

  • Puck drops b ready to play smart,tough hockey.This is not carolina.Teams should FEAR playing at MSG.This is OUR house make it happen.

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